Award-Winning Minted Artists Share 3 Tips for Making a Good Illustrator File Great

Written by Kelly Schmidt, Sarah Baumgardner, and Carolyn Doogan

After announcing that Kelly Schmidt won the first Minted File Prep Award during Minted’s 10th Anniversary Awards at Camp Minted 2018, a number of fellow Minted artists wanted to know: What exactly makes a good file great?

Thanks for asking, BTW. Kelly and File Prep Award nominees Sarah Baumgardner and Carolyn Doogan of Baumbirdy were happy to share their top file prep tips for customizable stationery and art products, using Adobe Illustrator. The twist? We asked them to mention tips that weren’t already surfaced in the Top 10 File Prep Tips for Minted Artists post (psst psst: another good resource).

Here are Kelly and Baumbirdy’s top tips for making Minted files great. Armed with these best practices, you’ll be better prepared to submit organized files that allow Minted’s Production Team to launch products to the site as quickly as possible.  —Minted Artist Relations Team

The Best File Prep Award was one of 11 accolades that we announced at Camp Minted 2018. Click to read more in “Minted’s 10th Anniversary Community Awards Recognize Artist Leadership.”

1. Complete your first colorway before starting other colorways

Baumbirdy: Double- and triple-check that all design, type, foil, and photos are in their appropriate layers and that text spacing, leading, kerning, and sizing all look good—and save. Then, give yourself some space from the first colorway. Walk away from it for a bit, come back and give it a fresh look to see if you are happy with everything added to the design. Make sure all your ducks are in row in the first colorway, which will save many frustrating hours in going back and making changes to, sometimes, six colorways!

Kelly Schmidt: Each file in each colorway must be exactly the same—as in, the order of the elements in each layer from front to back, the details in each file, etc. I learned this the hard way after using Minted’s Custom Self-Launch tool in 2016, and having issues with my files where one colorway would look wrong. I often noticed mistakes after I’d finished my various colorways; I would go back to fix the errors in each individual file, and inadvertently made edits that were causing glitches, such as the items on the background layer were no longer in the same order because I brought something to the front, or sent something to the back in one file only. I now make sure that any updates are changed exactly the same way, in all of my files, with hopes that this creates clean files for the Minted files team, that are easy to launch. 

I recommend using the Recolor tool mentioned in Tip #3 in the Top 10 File Prep Tips for Minted Artists post—it’s amazing and saves so much time.

2. Format your customizable text

Kelly Schmidt: I’ve heard some confusion from Minted artists about their files launching with changes to their text formatting. This is because the formatting was done in the Character Panel and doesn’t transfer over to the Minted online customizer. For example, if you choose All Caps from the Character Panel, your text will not maintain that setting once the files have been uploaded on the Minted site. You need to change the letters to all capital letters by:

  1. Selecting your type in Adobe Illustrator.
  2. Go to the main menu and select Type > Change Case > UPPERCASE.

The same goes for bold and italicized text—use the Font settings that are available. If the font does not have a bold or italic option, you won’t be able to display fonts that way in your design.

3. Trim patterns to fit artboard

The Problem
If there are items extending outside the edges of the artboard (even if they were inside a clipping mask and you couldn’t see them), they attach to other artboards. If you choose to save out your files from the combined templates, each individual file then has extra patterns or textures from other artboards surrounding them, which need to be deleted. This creates an extra step and also makes file sizes larger, especially if they include foil textures.

The Solution
Here’s how to trim patterns:

  1. Release your clipping mask (you can do this by going to Object > Clipping Mask > Release)
  2. Select all elements in your pattern and make a compound path. (Object > Compound Path > Make)
  3. Select the shape used for your clipping mask and the pattern.
  4. Open your pathfinder dialogue box and click “Crop.” (You may also need to use “Intersect” or “Exclude” for different types of patterns and shapes.)

This process becomes more complicated if your pattern is multicolored because you can’t make a compound path without affecting the colors. If you try to use the Pathfinder tools on multicolored patterns, you will probably get mixed results. You might lose some details or need to trim things individually, which you can do at the edges using “Minus Front” and “Minus Back.” But for simple patterns like this, it’s doable very quickly and easily, and makes your files smaller and easier to manage.

Original file using clipping masks:

Outline view showing overlapping elements:

Release clipping masks:

Trimmed using crop tool in pathfinder:

Outline view of final file with patterns trimmed:

Top 10 File Prep Tips for Minted Artists
Top 10 Tips for Preparing a Design for Minted Foiling

Kelly Schmidt is a Vancouver-based designer and artist obsessed with typography, stationery, color, pattern and textiles. Read more about Kelly in this Meet a Minted Artist interview.

Sarah Baumgardner and Carolyn Doogan are the co-founders of Baumbirdy, a Chicago design team.

Published November 1, 2018

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