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Which format of picture to use for online template?

I have a good one here for you chaps.

I have 50 or 60 icons at about 18x6 mm, they are all AI files. They go into an online template, the user goes into the front-end, picks her icons, organises them on the page, and then receives her printed page in the post. The AI file is incompatible with the system, so they are converted.

Originally all these icons were output as PNG - but since they were RGB the colour matching was off and looked terrible.

I switched them to TIFFs, but the icons have rounded corners so need transparency - the TIFF's left little white borders around the icons (they print onto a black page) where the transparency didn't quite line up.

So I converted them all to PDFs - but the file size is now too big for the IT people to preview, as each one is about 200kb.

So where do I go now? Do I mash the PDFs down to the right size and hope the compression is invisible? Is there a more stable way of getting the TIFFs out of the AI file? Is there a way of making a PNG print properly?

Any ideas?
Thing is, if you're using TIFF, then the file size will surely be large anyway?. Otherwise I'd have suggested duplicating portions of your background on a separate layer, and overlaying the icons on top, so that the background colour(s) blend seamlessly.

Alternatively, you could make a clipping path around the icons and create a photoshop EPS, but again, I fail to see how you'd keep it under 200kb.

Even if you used cmyk gifs or pngs and adjust everything, you're going to be stuck with a client's limitations.

Just out of interest, what is the file size limit? There are various means of compression, but I doubt you'd come close to what you're after. Unless I'm missing something (it is Friday:icon_tongue_smilie:).
Thanks for replying.

You are right about the tiffs being big, when I checked on them they were around 150KB. Since IT never moaned about them, I can only assume that their system automatically shrank them, which seems unlikely, or that it processed them faster - or more likely they just didn't notice.

I don't know what their filesize limit is, but the low res preview they were knocking out were 32MB, which presumably slowed down their flow a lot.

In the end I batched all the AIs to HR PDFs, then batched them all out of Acrobat as Postscripts, then Distilled them to about 60KB using, oddly enough, the High Quality Print setting, which seemed to lost some of the overhead while keeping the compression quite light. Fingers crossed for this fix.