EPS, AI and PDF files and Other Life Mysteries Solved

As another year comes to a close, it’s common to reflect upon our existence and the world at large. What’s the meaning of life, are we alone in the universe and what’s the difference between EPS, AI and PDF files? The first two questions are worth pondering, but in this marketing dimension, the latter inquiry is of much greater importance. Let’s take a closer look at these formats and hopefully solve at least one mystery of the world.

EPS, AI and PDF files and Other Life Mysteries Solved  |  Hue & Tone Creative

Encapsulated PostScript or EPS predates AI and PDF files. It and the other file formats can contain any combination of graphics, text and images. The different components comprising an EPS file are communicated in a programming language called PostScript that describes the objects in and the layout of a page. An EPS file internally contains this programming language which accounts for its main benefit: compatibility.


EPS has cross-platform compatibility which means it can be shared between Mac and PCs. While a EPS can be accessed on a Mac automatically, if in Windows, it requires graphic software like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape and Corel Draw to open and edit this type of file. Also, if the file is print ready, meaning no changes need to be made, an EPS file can be sent directly to a PostScript printer without compatibility issues and to most imagesetters. It’s the original file format for complex designs and is still used by graphic designers and publishing professionals currently. However, it’s been gradually supplanted by AI and to a greater extent, PDF files. Here’s why:


AI or Adobe Illustrator Artwork files are vector based graphics contained in a single page. While AI files have many of the same attributes as EPS, AI is an application-native format. This means that it is designed to be understood by the software that created it. In this case, Adobe Illustrator. AI files can still be imported by other programs like Freehand or CorelDraw, but when doing so, it omits any Adobe Illustrator-specific content it doesn’t understand. Simply put, AI file formats function most optimally in Adobe Illustrator, because they were literally made for each other. Contrarily, EPS wasn’t created for any particular application. This file type is an exchange format where the intent is for it to be openable by multiple applications. Think tailored suit vs one-size-fits-all pant. While EPS is compatible with more applications than AI, the entirety of the information contained, doesn’t always translate into the chosen application. This problem led to the creation of the PDF.


PDF or Portable Document Format is described as the successor of EPS. The PDF was the first file format that enabled a document to be shared electronically while retaining its original formatting. No matter what application is used, you’re able to transfer electronic versions of these documents anywhere, and view and print them on any machine. It allows the exact presentation and exchange of documents, independent of software, hardware, or operating system. Unlike EPS, it translates exactly no matter what. And contrary to AI, it’s not limited by its application of origin.


The file type you use should depend on the project at hand, the tools in your box and you and your team’s preferences. EPS, AI and PDF files all have their unique advantages given the context and you may find yourself using each of these throughout your work.  While there are still larger life questions we all want answered, at least this one can be crossed off the list.


Can't figure out your mess of files? Not sure what the printer is asking you for? No worries, we'll get your businesses branding back on the right track -- we specialize in branding and collateral design. Whether you need to refresh your existing brand or start from scratch, we've got your back. Contact us if you're ready to stop stressing about your visual identity.