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I'm working with a printing shop that prints stickers and cuts the sticker outline using a laser rather than a die. They insist I have to provide them with an .AI file. Since this is not out a feature in Affinity Designer, I followed instructions I found to export as PDF and then rename the extension from .PDF to .AI.

The shop claims my two layers (1. layer of image, and 2. layer of die cut) are not two layers but a single image when they open it on Adobe Illustrator. The solution, according to them, is that I should buy AI. 🙄

What's going on and what should I do?

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Alternatively, Photopea might be able to open your Affinity file and convert it to an AI file, which (if it works) might preserve more information.

-- Walt

Desktop:  Windows 11 Home, version 21H2 (22000.613) 64GB memory, AMD Ryzen 9 5900 12-Core @ 3.00 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 
Laptop:  Windows 10 Home, version 21H2 (19044.1706) 32GB memory, Intel Core i7-10750H @ 2.60GHz, Intel UHD Graphics Comet Lake GT2 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU.
        Affinity Photo 1.10.6 (.1665) and 2.0.0 / Affinity Designer 1.10.6 (.1665)  and 2.0.0 / Affinity Publisher 1.10.6 (.1665)  and 2.0.0
iPad Pro M1, 12.9", iPadOS 16.1.1, Apple Pencil 2, Magic Keyboard

      Affinity Photo 1.10.6 and 2.0.2 / Affinity Designer 1.10.6 and 2.0.2 / Affinity Publisher 2.0.2

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It may depend on the pdf version and/or if rasterizing items is happening.
This can occur with FX and some blendmodes and other not supported options.
A pdf layer is only the (vector)Layer in affinity(with capital L) see;
https://affinity.help/designer/English.lproj/pages/Layers/createLayers.html
Maybe posting an example afdesign file?

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37 minutes ago, walt.farrell said:

Alternatively, Photopea might be able to open your Affinity file and convert it to an AI file, which (if it works) might preserve more information.

Photopea can open APh & Ai files, but not yet export/generate  Ai files!

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.5 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.5 ◆ OSX El Capitan

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32 minutes ago, v_kyr said:

Photopea can open APh & Ai files, but not yet export/generate  Ai files!

It doesn't open pdf files though and also not renamed pdf(to .ai) files exported from Af~programs.
It will show an actual eps format error message.
 

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17 minutes ago, N.P.M. said:

It doesn't open pdf files though and also not renamed pdf(to .ai) files exported from Af~programs.
It will show an actual eps format error message.
You could, like said, try out the afdesign file but i doubt it will work as it seems to create an eps based file.

Related to Photopea, I wrote above APh, not PDF nor ADe didn't I?

test1.jpg.b53525aab8f693200910a112162d2f33.jpg

test2.jpg.fa272cd0f0cd0d5efc139bc9808971c5.jpg

 

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.5 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.5 ◆ OSX El Capitan

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No need to be so testy, I'll edit my comment about the afdesign file.
The pdf and .ai comments are for the OP to know that it will not work with those filetypes.

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14 minutes ago, N.P.M. said:

No need to be so testy, I'll edit my comment about the afdesign file.
The pdf and .ai comments are for the OP to know that it will not work with those filetypes.

Ah Ok, so that was meant for the OP.

Well it's the common overall problem with proprietary, officially unspecified file formats (like Ai, Affinity ... etc.), they are difficult to handle by any third party software, mostly just via some reverse-engineering.

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.5 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.5 ◆ OSX El Capitan

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4 hours ago, N.P.M. said:

But the question remains whether the OP simply exported to a rasterised version pdf or that the layers are true vectors in Layers

The OP has to tell, or show an example file (in case he doesn't know).

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.5 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.5 ◆ OSX El Capitan

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If the print shop does not really need to open the PDF in Illustrator, they could possibly do printing from a PDF that has the printable and non-printable parts separated as so called "PDF layers" (or OCG layers = optional content group). Affinity Publisher and Designer can export their native layers (layers that have "(Layer)" appended to the layer name), as PDF layers when creating a PDF (the option is by default selected when exporting using "PDF (for export)" preset), but can be checked separately from the "More" options page when exporting to PDF. 

But if the print shop really insists on having an .AI and separate layers for the image and vector, the only solution I know that really works, without needing to use Illustrator, is to place the image and vectors in separate Layer layers in Designer/Publisher, and exporting to PDF using the option that export Layers and then open that file in CorelDRAW or Xara and export to .AI. Just renaming a PDF to .AI does not work because Illustrator flattens all PDF layers: it only retains the hierarchy of native Illustrator layers. CorelDRAW and Xara retain hierarchy of PDF layers up to first level, and can then also export these layers in .AI format so that Illustrator reads them.

Xara for some reason converts a CMYK document to RGB but if that is not a problem, and the fact that this app is Windows only, this might be a kind of a solution (perpetual license around USD50). CorelDRAW is also available for macOS, and perpetual license is available, but the app is expensive both when purchasing a perpetual license, and when subscribed, so this is hardly an alternative to getting Illustrator.

That CorelDRAW can truly write and read .AI (to some extent at least) is probably based on some kind of agreement between Corel and Adobe to share their proprietary file formats (both importing and exporting). Xara is probably just hacking away what it can, and at times this may be helpful, but it is not always robust.

One possibility might also be placing the image and vectors in separate layers and export to SVG. This means that RGB only is supported, but the job could at least be opened in Illustrator as organized to two layer-kind of groups (not actual layers, though) so that the image and vectors are in separate containers from each other. But while this could be a technically valid solution, it of course is not the same as what was initially required by the print shop.

You might possibly resolve the problem also by changing the print shop to someone more flexible and pragmatically oriented one...

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CorelDRAW also has a 15 day free trial and Illustrator a 7 day free trial...

2 hours ago, lacerto said:

You might possibly resolve the problem also by changing the print shop to someone more flexible and pragmatically oriented one...

Exactly...

Affinity Designer 2.0.0 (.52), Affinity Photo 2.0.0 (.307), Affinity Publisher 2.0.0 (.1604) | Affinity Designer 1.7.3, Affinity Photo 1.7.3
MacBook Pro 16GB, macOS Monterey 12.6.1

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On 10/2/2022 at 12:02 AM, v_kyr said:

The OP has to tell, or show an example file (in case he doesn't know).

So I am not able to see the file, as they open it over there at the shop (and frankly, I do not see why this shop insists on taking AI files and not EPS or SVG).

I can show the PDF/AI file here, no issue, see attached. As far as I can tell, Affinity Designer is able to open the AI in two layers.

 


 

cream cheese garlic single die-cut.ai

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43 minutes ago, andmocychmen said:

As far as I can tell, Affinity Designer is able to open the AI in two layers.

In Affinity Designer the concepts of objects, layers and groups are pretty confusing. What you have in that AI file is one layer with two objects.

If you want to export a PDF with two layers from Affinity Designer, you have to do something like this:

image.png.d7281ee19548303f1919d7ba8cba5a87.png

Unfortunately Illustrator will not read the layers from a PDF.

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14 hours ago, andmocychmen said:

So I am not able to see the file, as they open it over there at the shop

The file you attached is a PDF created from Affinity Designer and renamed as .AI. It did not have objects in "Layer" layers, but even if it did, it would not work.

Here is the same file after opening it in Designer and placed in "Layer" layers and exported so that "Layers" are included:

cream cheese garlic single die-cut_exported_as_pdf_w_ocg_layers.pdf

When you open it back in Designer, layers are shown (much like in the original .afdesign file, but only up to one level):

what_ad_sees.jpg.ef75d250d9bf76615b026ce75b52e611.jpg

But this is what Illustrator sees (even if you rename the file as .AI):

what_ai_sees.jpg.e48c63f396603920c0abcba5f7359667.jpg

This is what Adobe Acrobat Pro or a good PDF reader like PDF/X-Change sees:

what_pdfreader_sees.jpg.bcafb4d947e6b68b30bd4745474ddf84.jpg

...and this could be used by the print shop to print the file unless they really need to open it in Illustrator to do some preparations.

As was shown, Illustrator does not read in PDF layers but flattens them (see "1 Layer" status text in the Layers panel above). Illustrator only reads in native Illustrator layers (also when it itself saves OCG layers in its PDF export).

This is how CorelDRAW opens the file (PDF layers are opened as CorelDRAW layers):

what_corel_sees.jpg.3f4ef8fa7260dc2acee77a5f1c4765c1.jpg

...and when Corel exports this as an .AI file:

cream cheese garlic single die-cut_from_corel.ai

...this is what Illustrator sees (note "2 Layers" in the status bar text of Layers panel):

what_ai_sees_in_corel_ai_export.jpg.d0975cd8cb2034c86f9016078902c2c6.jpg

...but this is what Affinity Designer sees when it opens this file:

what_ad_sees_in_corel_ai_export.jpg.5af01cebfe8c516af86abd946caa3ee8.jpg

So, we have come a full circle demonstrating that Adobe Illustrator native layers are totally different from so called PDF layers (or "OCG layers"), and that native AI layers can be imported and exported only by a few apps other than Illustrator.

 

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On 10/1/2022 at 10:22 AM, andmocychmen said:

The solution, according to them, is that I should buy AI. 

Of course on the flip side, the print shop should invest in the Affinity suite which would be a tiny investment for them but it perhaps also highlights the need for the Serif PR and Marketing machine to expand the reach and industry credibility for their software suite so it becomes another industry standard in the print world and software that all print shops use alongside Adobe's software... Maybe Serif need to be talking with the main players in the print industry to push adoption.

Affinity Designer 2.0.0 (.52), Affinity Photo 2.0.0 (.307), Affinity Publisher 2.0.0 (.1604) | Affinity Designer 1.7.3, Affinity Photo 1.7.3
MacBook Pro 16GB, macOS Monterey 12.6.1

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Nowadays, any professional printer that isn't stuck in 1995 should be able to use PDF files for printing. Asking for source files for final output was the reason why some companies like Quark (in the old days) and then Adobe became monopolies. Those days are gone. PDF has set us free. Take your business to a modern print shop.

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3 hours ago, Hangman said:

Serif PR and Marketing machine to expand the reach and industry credibility for their software suite so it becomes another industry standard in the print world and software that all print shops use alongside Adobe's software... Maybe Serif need to be talking with the main players in the print industry to push adoption.

I think that the major problem for Serif is that their PDF output is not standard. PDF passthrough is a complete mess (resulting in prematurely rasterized output) and I can understand that print shops do not want this headache when they need to deliver and the PDFs they are offered are not what they are supposed to be (and what their creators believe they are), and opening these files does not support full editability of content in a similar organized way a PDF, AI or Illustrator EPS file by Adobe does (each containing native AI content). It is not about marketing -- I think Serif is loud and proud enough in that department. It is about the technology, and there Affinity apps simply do not always deliver.

But it is of course frustrating if print shops have these kinds of categorical requirements since many print jobs (for something like e.g. laser cutting) could perfectly well be delivered as PDF files.

But here is an example of Affinity Publisher created PDF/X-4:

pdfcompatibility_pdfx4.pdf

Many print shops might ask/require their customers to deliver a print job using this standard which in theory should be the most flexible there is. Then I bet they do not want to get anything like this, and explain why the printed output does not have the top quality that was expected. The example has placed PDFs using versions 1.3, 1.4. PDF/X-1a:2001 v.1.3, PDF/X-1a:2003 v.1.4 (non-standard but version Affinity apps use), PDF/X-3 v.1.3, PDF/X-3:2003 v1.4 (non-standard but version Affinity apps use), and PDF/X-4, and four out of seven placed files are rasterized.  There is a lot that is incompatible with Affinity supported PDF/X-4 (not to mention lower version standards), how do you suppose print shops would voluntarily learn compatibility rules that are completely proprietary in industry that tries to save time and guarantee quality by dealing with standards? It requires a lot from print shop personnel to learn the quirks of Affinity apps and achieve expertise that is readily available when working with Adobe apps.

For comparison, here is the same file produced from InDesign:

pdfcompatibility_pdfx4_id.pdf

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You have a digital watch it broke and you go to a watchmaker and want it repaired for good money.
The guy at the counter says we don't have the tools for that, goodbye.
I'll guess you'll be p**** d
Now go to a good shop and get it repaired no matter where it came from.
So don't blame the watch or the customer but blame the shop who didn't invest in the proper tools.
 

N.P.M. ==  Non Participating Member.

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11 hours ago, lacerto said:

As was shown, Illustrator does not read in PDF layers but flattens them (see "1 Layer" status text in the Layers panel above). Illustrator only reads in native Illustrator layers (also when it itself saves OCG layers in its PDF export).

So there us basically no way to achieve what the shop wants from me then 😕

Also I just learned there are layers in AD. I didn't realize it was a thing since each object or group seems to be a layer anyway? So I'm not quite sure to even know the difference and/or utility of a layer as opposed to a group.

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6 minutes ago, andmocychmen said:

So there us basically no way to achieve what the shop wants from me then 😕

 

So there is no way to achieve what That shop wants. You are the customer, find a better print shop.

Mac Pro (Late 2013) Mac OS 11.7.1 
Affinity Designer 2.0.0 | Affinity Photo 2.0.0 | Affinity Publisher 2.0.0 | Beta versions as they appear.

I have never mastered color management, period, so I cannot help with that.

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9 minutes ago, andmocychmen said:

So there us basically no way to achieve what the shop wants from me then 😕

Not using the Affinity applications.

So, either use a different application, or as Old Bruce suggested, use a different print shop.

-- Walt

Desktop:  Windows 11 Home, version 21H2 (22000.613) 64GB memory, AMD Ryzen 9 5900 12-Core @ 3.00 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 
Laptop:  Windows 10 Home, version 21H2 (19044.1706) 32GB memory, Intel Core i7-10750H @ 2.60GHz, Intel UHD Graphics Comet Lake GT2 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU.
        Affinity Photo 1.10.6 (.1665) and 2.0.0 / Affinity Designer 1.10.6 (.1665)  and 2.0.0 / Affinity Publisher 1.10.6 (.1665)  and 2.0.0
iPad Pro M1, 12.9", iPadOS 16.1.1, Apple Pencil 2, Magic Keyboard

      Affinity Photo 1.10.6 and 2.0.2 / Affinity Designer 1.10.6 and 2.0.2 / Affinity Publisher 2.0.2

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On 10/4/2022 at 5:54 PM, andmocychmen said:

Also I just learned there are layers in AD. I didn't realize it was a thing since each object or group seems to be a layer anyway? So I'm not quite sure to even know the difference and/or utility of a layer as opposed to a group.

They are marginally useful in context of Affinity apps to allow separation of logical content (like curves and images, or text and images, etc.) into separate layers -- I say marginally because in Affinity apps (unlike in Adobe apps and many other) layers are not global but page / artboard specific. That means that in e.g. a book, it is not possible to use a PDF (a.k.a. "OCG") layer so that you could e.g. hide English text and show French translation just by hiding one layer and unhiding another, and the effect would show on all pages (Affinity would create layers separately for each page).

As for the naming, it is a bit confusing since Affinity apps call practically every container a "layer". In Publisher and Designer you can, in addition to object (text / shape / image / pixel) and adjustment layers additionally create containers that are called "Layer" layers (with capital L):

 image.jpeg.b3d227e77c5505605433d796e41e5ea4.jpeg

It is these containers that can subsequently be exported to PDF as "PDF (OCG) layers".

image.jpeg.ffafe2f34c38691d9a9b4a103418b760.jpeg

Note that these kinds of layers are supported only in PDF version 1.5 and later, so they are not available in PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 based exports which both use earlier versions. There is is additionally a bug (I think) that prevents selection of layers whenever PDF/X-4 method is used, as it uses PDF version 1.6 and should allow inclusion of layers.

Note too that only top level layers are exported as PDF layers so they are not useful in organizing objects in PDFs, but internally, within Affinity apps suit of course well for this purpose but so do other kinds of containers like groups. [The same restriction applies to PDF layers created by other apps that I know of, though it does not seem that OCG layers are technically limited to 1-level depth.] When exporting to SVG, multiple level layer structures are retained, though, and also imported e.g. in Illustrator so if there is need to export organized object structures to Illustrator, this is probably the only way to do it from Affinity apps (even if the exported structures are not technically layers in Illustrator but generic object containers [I have no idea if they can be converted to proper layers]). One other benefit of using Layer layers is that they allow specifying a layer color in their property page that allows marking objects on that layer with a specific selection / bounding box color.

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