Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular tools among graphic designers and creative professionals today. Alongside Photoshop, Illustrator acts as a versatile and powerful platform for designing and editing vector-based artwork. Illustrator relies on a unique memory management system which doesn't require users to directly integrate external media into a project for more rapid processing. Instead, images can be "linked" from a third-party source and used when needed. That being said, working in Illustrator to embed images will ensure that your files can be loaded on other computers without having logistical issues.
Understanding Linking vs. Embedding
The terms "linking" and "embedding" are used to describe two fundamentally different methods of accessing media content within an Illustrator workspace. While each method allows for full functionality while executing tasks within the workspace, they also carry their own fair share of unique attributes.
When a user links an image to an Illustrator file, they are essentially dictating to the program the specific path by which Illustrator can find the image file on the computer in question. The image itself is not located within the Illustrator file. This method of referencing and accessing content helps significantly reduce the memory footprint of Illustrator files and allows them to be shared with a higher degree of portability.
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That being said, issues may arise when an Illustrator file featuring linked images is opened on a different device. Given the fact that the links are specific to the computer on which they were made, it is quite likely that the images will fail to load on the new device.
Embedding and File Management
This dilemma is resolved through the process of embedding. When an image file is embedded into an Illustrator workspace, the actual image is now located with the project directory. As could be imagined, this significantly increases the size of the Illustrator file. However, it also dramatically expands the flexibility and functionality of the Illustrator file itself. Users can take this file to a different hardware device and still have access to their media content.
In situations where there is extensive file sharing between collaborators, an embedded file can help streamline the workflow, reducing the clutter associated with downloading an extensive number of external image files and relinking them within a document.
Using Illustrator to Import Images and Embed Them
If you are ready to embed an image in Illustrator, open your desired workspace and access the Links panel. From here, select the specific image file which you would like to embed in the document. After you have located the file, press the "Embed Image" in the menu. Once this is complete, a small icon should appear next to the file which designates that the image has been embedded in the document.
Keep in mind that images which will be embedded in the document have technically already been linked. So, if you would like to change a linked image to an embedded image in Illustrator, simply press the Embed button at this point. You can repeatedly switch images back and forth between linked and embedded status using the strategies provided here.