I have been curious about why so many journals only accept EPS for vector graphs rather than PDF.

It is indeed weird because these journals have to convert EPS figures to PDF anyway. Adobe also suggests to use PDF instead of EPS.

For me, EPS is much hard to view and process than PDF. Does EPS makes a journal editor's life easier? Why?

In addition, as far as I understand, PDF is an open standard format that is free to anyone (relative sure), while EPS is copyrighted by Adobe (not very sure).

  • 2
    @Alexandros: No, PDF employs vector graphics. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 26 '15 at 19:00
  • 5
    @Alexandros As far as I know, each of EPS and PDF can contain both raster and vector graphics. After all, you can convert in both directions between the two... – Federico Poloni Feb 26 '15 at 19:25
  • 5
    Its actually the other way around. PDF is a very 'closed' format ( try and find some documentation on the PDF format. ) while EPS is significantly more open. Unfortunately PS and EPS were originally designed for the purposes of being a common language for printers (the only difference between PS and EPS is the PS requires page size & orientation data, while EPS does not. PDF in addition to this can also contain a lot of 'extensions' (you can do forms, embed javascript, encrypt or 'lock') and many of these features can actually made documents more difficult for publishers to process and handle – Damian Nikodem Feb 28 '15 at 0:47
  • Related read: a description of the two formats on Adobe's website. – Federico Poloni Feb 28 '15 at 8:14
  • 4
    @DamianNikodem No, the OP is right, PDF is a standard ISO-32000, whereas Postscript is ‘only’ an Adobe standard. Also, PDF is by design simpler than PS: it's a page-description system, rather than a full-scale programming language. Now, PDF started off as an Adobe-only thing, and since it's a binary format, it seems less approachable, and is still a little less well-supported. The extensions you mention are formally extensions, but using the well-defined extensions mechanism in the standard. Hence PDF/A. – Norman Gray Mar 31 '15 at 20:37

The eps format used to be the only possibility for including graphics in (La)TeX. Now the more modern alternative is using pdflatex, which also supports other more common graphic formats natively (such as pdf).

Most journals have outdated LaTeX processing pipelines, so they are still using eps. (And, frankly, they have little incentive to get more modern, since they are in a strong oligopoly position.)

  • 1
    This is really bad. However, the recently newly established journals stick to EPS as well. E.g. PLOS Series etc. That is really puzzling. – Changwang Zhang Feb 26 '15 at 17:30
  • 22
    @Leo I might have an excessively cynical view towards journals, but when I read To ensure consistent quality and a smooth production workflow, our systems restrict figure file type to TIFF and EPS. See our Figure Instructions for information on how to convert different file formats to TIFF or EPS. in their FAQ, I mentally translate it to Our time is more valuable than yours, so you should be the one doing the conversion into our preferred image formats. – Federico Poloni Feb 26 '15 at 17:48
  • 2
    I am puzzled by these statements as well. I have tried various software Ghostscript, Adobe Acrobat, Inkscape, etc, to convert my PDF figure to EPS, and all run into issues because I have complex fonts. In the end, I have to give up and convert PDF to TIFF, that saves time for the editor, but the vector figures will never be published. – Changwang Zhang Feb 26 '15 at 17:54
  • 1
    @Leo, what prevents you from creating eps figures in the first place? – Cape Code Feb 26 '15 at 19:59
  • 3
    @CapeCode I feel EPS is very difficult to view and process, not as easy as PDF as least. EPS also lacks transparency, etc. – Changwang Zhang Feb 26 '15 at 20:02

The most probable reason is that many publishers use Adobe products (such as InDesign) in their production and these used to rely heavily on EPS. This might change in the future as PDF becomes more popular.

Also, EPS is an open format, which means any graphing or vector graphics program (like Inkscape) have options to save artwork and plots in EPS. Not to mention Matlab and the like.


Eps is a format designed specifically for printing. All publishing companies have eps and ps editing capacity .

  • 1
    Given that most article are now seen on screen, or printed by not-maximal-quality lab printers, this argument seems outdated to me. – Benoît Kloeckner Feb 27 '15 at 9:03
  • 2
    Encapsulated Postscript and Postscript are both actually extremely capable formats. and they are significantly easier to handle from a software standard than PDF is (for example PDF allows for extrensions/plugins, and alows for embedded javascript code. the Postscript family does not contain any of that additional complexity.) – Damian Nikodem Feb 28 '15 at 0:50
  • good point, should be in your answer rather in a comment (note that I commented only about what you did write, not about all other arguments in favor of eps there could be). – Benoît Kloeckner Feb 28 '15 at 10:31
  • @BenoîtKloeckner yeah I probably should elaborate on my answer a little bit but I am on iPad at the moment so it's easier to write comments than it is to edit an answer . – Damian Nikodem Feb 28 '15 at 13:13
  • PostScript could contain embedded JavaScript, in the sense that since it's Turing-complete you could implement a JavaScript interpreter in PostScript and include it in your document. EPS is deliberately neutered to prevent this kind of potentially resource-hungry cleverness. – Peter Taylor Oct 8 '19 at 16:32

EPS is a vector format, which means it's a mathematical description of the graph or diagram. This can be edited automatically, for example a script can change all the colours in the graph to shades of gray. EPS figures can be scaled to any size without loss of resolution.

PDF can include vector graphics, in the EPS or other formats, but it can also include raster images, which can not so easily be edited by scripts, and is problematic to scale to different sizes. If the submitter submits a PDF graph, which might display and print beautifully on their computer, it might be either a raster image or a vector image, and the publisher has no way to tell without opening the PDF.

Most authors don't know if the software they use produce vector-based or raster-based PDF images. For all they know their PDF of a beautiful graph might be an embedded Flash image. It will print beautifully, but it will not fit into the publisher's workflow.

The only way for a publisher to ensure they get a vector image is to require a vector format. In future they might switch to SVG or a more modern vector format, but for the moment EPS is still widely supported.

In summary: while PDF is a perfectly good format to submit to printers, it can easily cause problems to editors (and their technical staff), so for the moment they demand EPS.

  • 3
    This argument seems completely voided by the fact that image converters are easily available. For instance, I can use Photoshop, or write convert grumpy.jpg grumpy.eps in my Linux box, or use an online service, and convert any .jpg image to .eps. This will produce an eps with no better quality than the original image file, but I imagine that the average person who has no idea what a "raster image" is will just use one of these tools and completely miss the point. – Federico Poloni Oct 6 '19 at 9:51
  • @FedericoPoloni. Absolutely, the average user can and will do such things. But decent graphing software that exports EPS will export vector graphics (hopefully) and not raster images, whereas one can only guess at what "print to PDF" will produce. I guess publishers, like the rest of us, live in hope. (In my experience journals do accept raster images, as JPG, PNG and TIFF, specifying DPI, etc, but the question is about EPS vs PDF.) – Niel Malan Oct 6 '19 at 14:20
  • 2
    It turns out that my decent (i.e. expensive) graphics software does not export vector images by default when creating EPS files. So our poor publisher is no better off by asking me for an EPS format instead of PNG. – Niel Malan Oct 8 '19 at 15:26
  • PDF, EPS and SVG are all "metafile" formats. They can all contain vector graphics, they can also all contain embedded bitmaps. What they actually contain depends on the software used to produce them. – Peter Green Oct 9 '19 at 15:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.