Updated: Jan 21, 2021
With so many file formats to choose from, it can be challenging to know them all. In the print industry, we stick to a small handful of files that are chosen because of their easily transferable data. We also separate all of these file formats into two categories, RASTER & VECTOR.
RASTER IMAGES aka ( Bitmap )
Raster images are designed by a grid of tiny squares called pixels. Each pixel on a grid contains a specific color formula, and over all this grid creates an image. If you zoom into a raster image you will notice how everything becomes colored squares. A high resolution raster image looks so great because it has more pixels, or better explained - more pixels per inch ( PPI ). The pixels per square inch are predetermined by the camera specs or software used to create an image.
Raster files contain a lot of pixel data, making the saved files bulky and often difficult to transfer without external hard drives or cloud storage. Raster images can have crisp quality and vivid imagery when used to scale. However, raster images do not scale well, so sending your print shop a 2in x 2in 72PPI .jpg and expecting them to print you a beautiful 8ft x 4ft banner is not going to work as easily as you may think.
Raster files are great for many reasons, they are most commonly used for photographs and computer screen displayed images, the words you are reading now are raster files and pixels. Raster images should never be used for logos because they can be easily distorted and impose a low value to your brand recognition. When necessary raster images can be converted into vector images using graphic design software.
MOST COMMON RASTER FORMATS:
.JPG - Joint Photographic Group
.PDF - Portable Document Format
.PSD - Photoshop Document
.TIFF - Tagged Image File Format
.PNG - Portable Network Graphic
Vector images are quite different, they compose visual imagery using points, lines, and curves to create shapes. Vector images are created by graphic designers using various applications and tools. Because they are generated using mathematical software and solid colored shapes, they can be scaled to any size possible without loosing resolution or image quality. When you zoom into a vector file you wont notice any pixels, you'll be looking at crispy clean shapes.
Vector files are valuable for their print consistency, manipulative formats and ability to scale. Professional logos, branding icons, and printed signs are all vector format because the files transfer easily between designers and production artists without loosing integrity or becoming distorted.
MOST COMMON VECTOR FORMATS:
.AI - Adobe Illustrator
.EPS - Encapsulated Postscript
.SVG - Scalable Vector Graphic
.PDF - If saved by a vector program
It is important to remember that raster and vector files can be converted by a graphic designer if nee