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Understanding Graphic Formats for SB Owners

So, you’re getting t-shirts printed up with your company logo. The printer asks you to deliver your logo in an “outlined vector format.” Huh? Now you don’t have the luxury of your own graphic designer, nor do you have tech savvy offspring – what do you do? It is likely that at some point your career, you will have to deal with graphic files in one way or another, so it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with some basic knowledge. In this post we’ll cover the basics, in plain English, of graphic formats and appropriate usage.

Most graphic file formats fall under one of two categories: raster or vector.

Raster

When you think of raster graphics, think of photographs. Photos are made up of thousands to millions of pixels, or tiny dots of color, that optically blend to form a detailed image. In good quality images, you should not be able to see pixels. However, when zooming in or blowing up the image, you may start to see them which results in an undesirable effect called “pixilation.”

Common formats:

JPG/JPEG, PNG, TIF, GIF,

Pro Tip: PNGs, TIFs and GIFs support transparency, meaning your graphic could be a “cut out” or an obscure shape and placed on a non-white background, rather than enclosed in a square or rectangle like a JPG.

Vector

As opposed to pixels, vector graphics are made up of points and paths rendered by a computer using mathematical formulas. What’s important to know about vector graphics is that they are scalable to the infinite. Meaning, these images will NEVER become pixelated or lose quality no matter how large or small you make them. Neat right? So why aren’t vector formats used for everything? Unfortunately vector graphics will never have as much detail as a raster image utilizing pixels, like a photograph for example. When you think of vector graphics think of images with blocks of solid color, like cartoons, logos, or signage.

Common formats:

EPS, AI, SVG, PDF (PDFs can contain both raster and vector graphics)

Pro-tip: For most jobs, like printing a logo on a t-shirt for example, professional printers will ask for EPS files. Without the fancy design software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, you probably won’t be able to view these types of files on your machine. However, it is crucial that you possess an EPS or AI version of your company logo.

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