How to overcome the “File too large” message in Adobe Illustrator

Have you ever tried to create a large(ish) file in Adobe Illustrator and when you export it got the message “Unable to export at this resolution. Please lower the resolution and try again.”?

In this tutorial I show you why it happens and how to overcome or fix it.

You can watch the video below, or scroll down if you prefer to read.

When you create art to upload to POD sites like Society 6 or Red Bubble, they give you a recommended size to start with. For instance, Society 6 recommends you start with a document that is 15000 x 9000 px or 9000 x 8000 px or 12000 x 12000 px at 300dpi. (They do also tell you to upload different files for different products and do provide the dimensions.) Red Bubble recommends that you start with a file that is 7632 x 6480 px.

Although creating and saving a file at these dimensions in Adobe Photoshop is no problem, when you create your art at these dimensions in Adobe Illustrator and then try to export it as a jpeg, you get the dreaded message that Illustrator is unable to export at that resolution.

I don’t know the exact reason why Illustrator does this, and I don’t think my non-mathematical brain would be able to understand the reason even if somebody did explain it to me. What I do know is that Illustrator is trying to save a much larger file.

In order to overcome this problem we need to do a little math. Let’s say you would like to create a piece that is 12000 x 12000 px when you save it, take 12000, divide it by 300, then multiply that by 72.


When you create a file that is 2880 x 2880 at 300ppi and export it as a jpeg, you should end up with a file that is 12000 x 12000 px.

In the video I reverse the math and we see that when we created the file at 12000 x 12000 px initially, Illustrator was trying to save a file that was 50000 x 50000 px – which is probably why it couldn’t save it.

It can be incredibly tedious to have to do the math for every single file that you want to create, so I create a Google Sheets document to help me. Why don’t you create one for yourself. If you would like to use mine, you can subscribe below and I’ll send you a copy.

I hope this tutorial was helpful, let me know in the comments if something was unclear. I will be back with another tutorial soon.

Enjoy creating!

Riëtte Cawthorn

Hello, I'm Riëtte, a quiet creative with odd ideas - wife to Alvin, mommy to three awesome kids and blessed child of God. I enjoy illustration, surface pattern design, lettering and calligraphy, paper crafts and crochet. Creating art and showing others how to do the things that I love makes me really happy.

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