How to Flatten an Image in Adobe Illustrator

Flattening an image is a simple process that you can do in just a few clicks. Technically, it means combining all layers you’ve worked on into one single image. 

Telling you from my personal experience working with Adobe Illustrator for years, it’s nice to flatten an image when you have a large design file with multiple layers. Combining them helps save your time when you save the file. 

But make sure only do it when you are 100% sure it’s the final work. Otherwise, you cannot edit the layers again once they are flattened. 

In this article, you will learn how to flatten an image in Adobe Illustrator in just a few steps. 

Ready? Let’s go! 

What Does it Mean to Flatten an Image? 

Flatten an image means combining multiple layers into one single layer, or image. It’s also called Flatten Transparency in Illustrator. 

Flattening an image can reduce file size which will make it easier for saving and transferring. It’s always good to flatten your image for printing to avoid missing fonts and layers issues.

You probably have experienced this already, when you save a file as PDF for print, but some fonts don’t look the same? Wonder why? Probably you are not using a default font. Well, flatten artwork can be a solution in this case. 

Keep in mind that once an image is flattened, you cannot edit the layers anymore. So it’s always nice to save an unflattened copy file just in case you need to make further changes to your work. 

How to Flatten an Image in Illustrator? 

Note: Screenshots below are taken from the Mac version of Adobe Illustrator 2021, Windows versions may look slightly different. 

Flattening an image in Illustrator can also be described as flattening transparency, which is a two-clicks process. Object > Flatten Transparency. I’ll show you an example. 

I have an image, text, and a shape on my Artboard, created in different layers. As you can see in the Layers panel: Shape, image, and text. 

Now, I’m going to combine everything and make it an image. 

Step 1: Use the Selection tool (V), click and drag to select all layers. 

Step 2: Go to the overhead menu, click Object > Flatten Transparency.  

Step 3: Now you’ll see a pop-up flatten transparency setting box. Change the setting accordingly. Normally I just leave it as it is. Just hit OK

Then you’ll see something like this. Everything is combined in one layer and the text is outlined, which means you cannot edit them anymore. 

Congratulations! You’ve learned how to flatten an image. 

FAQs 

How to flatten layers in illustrator? 

You can flatten layers in the Layers panel by clicking Flatten Artwork

Step 1: Go to the Layers panel and click this hidden table of content.  

Step 2: Click Flatten Artwork. You can see there’s only one layer left in the panel.

That’s it! Now you have flattened your layers. 

Does flattening an image reduce quality?

Flattening an image reduces the size of the file, not directly affecting the quality of the image. You can choose the image quality when you flatten and save the file. 

Why do I need to flatten an image?

It’s easier for you to save, export, transfer files because large files can take ages. Also, it really saves you trouble when it comes to printing, it makes sure that you don’t miss a single layer from your artwork. 

Conclusion

Flattening an image is very simple and useful. It can really save you trouble when you need to print out your artwork. Again, maybe I’m sounding like a granny, save a copy of your file before flattening it. You never know, maybe you’ll need to edit it again.  

Note that Flatten Transparency and Flatten Artwork are slightly different. 

Flatten Transparency is combining all objects (layers) into one single-layer image. Flatten Artwork is simply combining all objects into one single layer, which means you can still move around the objects within the layer. 

Good luck! 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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  • CHRIS ATHANASOPOULOS

    Thank you for the explanation about flattening images June!

    Have a great day !
    Chris 😀