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Importing Adobe Illustrator AI Files

Flash has long supported a feature that lets you import Adobe Illustrator AI files. This is very useful, particularly because most designers use Adobe Illustrator over and above Macromedia Freehand.

The catch has always been that the import tool for Flash never really worked that well. If you selected and imported an Illustrator AI file (the native file format for Illustrator), you often found that things did not match up correctly during the import process. The only way I could successfully import a file from Illustrator into Flash and retain all the formatting was to export the file from Illustrator as an SWF Flash movie. I would then take the SWF Flash movie and import that into Flash. As you can imagine, this was quite a pain.

Finally, with Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX 2004 Professional, you now have solid import tools to handle up to Illustrator 10 (sadly, Illustrator CS is not supported, but that is something that can be fixed in the next release of Flash).

Importing Illustrator files is very easy. First, you need to create a file in Illustrator and you have to save the file as an Adobe Illustrator file.

After you have a file you can work with, open up Flash MX 2004. Create a new file and save it to your hard drive. Select File --> Import --> Import to Stage. A dialog box opens, asking you where to find the file you want to import.

By default, Flash lists all the files you can import into Flash MX 2004. As you can see from the list, there are a lot of files. To make things easier, you can select the File Selection Type drop-down list and choose All PostScript Formats, which highlights the Adobe PostScript file formats you can import. Those formats are Illustrator AI, Encapsulated PostScript EPS, PhotoShop PSD, and Acrobat PDF.

For this article, I created a simple image of a yellow flower. You can download the flower.AI file here (along with all the downloadable files for this article) and import it into Flash.

When you have selected the file and chosen the OK button, you see a window that asks you whether you want to convert the imported image to Layers, Key Frames, or Flatten. This is important. Complex illustrations can have lots of layers with a lot of information. Flattening the image forces all the layers into a single layer. This helps reduce file size, but makes modifying the image in Flash almost impossible. In this case, I normally select the default of Layers (see Figure 1).

Figure 1Figure 1 Choose Layers in the Illustrator Import window.

Illustrator also has the capability to create multiple frames, which enables Illustrator to create animation sequences for SVG and SWF movie files. If you have created an animation sequence in Illustrator, you need to select Key Frames in your import process to retain the frame information.

The final result from your imported image is a file that looks exactly like the original (see Figure 2).

Figure 2Figure 2 The imported Illustrator file looks exactly like the original.

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