As a graphic designer for a printing company, nearly every day on the job I get asked, “What kind of file should I send you for my order?” Understandably, artwork files can be pretty overwhelming since there are so many varieties. But basically all those files pretty much boil down into two categories, raster and vector.
A raster file is an image that is made up of tiny little squares called pixels. The pixels blend together to form an image. Photograph files from your digital camera are raster files. Some raster file types include JPG, TIFF and Photoshop files (PSD). Raster images are often very dynamic and eye catching. The downside to them is that they can take up a lot of file space and the resolution is limited to that of the original file. The resolution of these files is often a problem when someone needs to enlarge their image. You can end up with those nasty looking jagged “stair-step” edges if the image doesn’t have a high enough resolution. A general rule that I use when printing raster images is the file at full-size should be around 100 dpi to get a good quality print.
Resolution problems won’t plague you when using vector files. Vector files can be enlarged and reduced to whatever size you need without compromising their quality. Vector files are images made of points and lines that can be easily manipulated–changing the shape or color of an object within seconds. Because of their crisp and clean appearance, vector files are often used for company logos and brands. Vector file sizes are generally quite a bit smaller than their raster counterparts. Some of the common file extensions for vector images are Adobe Illustrator files (AI) or EPS files.
Each file serves its own purpose in the printing industry. If you ever have any questions or need help with your files when sending artwork, we are here to help.