Understanding Artwork File Types

  • Aug 20, 2021

You’ve decided to get some branded merchandise and your Promotional Consultant asks for your logo files.  For many, this is where the panic starts. 

“Can you use the image on my email signature?”

“No, we’ll need a vector file.” 

And then they launch into the alphabet soup of file types which can cause your eyes to glaze over and head to hurt.

So, how do you know what type of file we are looking for and why does it have to be a particular kind of file?  For artwork, the files fall into two categories:  raster and vector files.

Raster Files

If you’re not in graphic design or printing, the most common artwork files you have worked with are raster files.  Essentially, the file is created with many bits or pixels of information.  The raster file type most are familiar with is jpg (or jpeg).  You may also have a png file.  This file is very similar to a jpg but is a higher quality image and supports transparent backgrounds (so you can layer the image on something and not have a coloured box around it). 

Vector Files

The most common vector file types would be eps, cdr, ai or svg.  Chances are, if you can’t open it, it’s the right file type as these are designed to be opened with graphic software.  This type of file is needed because the images can be resized without losing their quality.  It is also able to be edited and broken apart to the basic elements. Sometimes, if you have a pdf file, the image may be vectored – try zooming in and see if it degrades.

“Why can’t you use my jpg?”

Unfortunately, for 95% of what is done in the promotional industry, raster files don’t work for a few reasons.  The main problem with these files is that they can’t be resized without degrading.  You’ll notice with these files that as you zoom in, the object gets fuzzy or pixelated (you actually start seeing the dots as boxes).  

It also doesn’t work because the items within the file are not separated into their individual elements.  Imagine a table filled with items behind glass – this is your raster file.  If you try to move or change an item on the table, you can’t because the glass blocks your path.  Now, remove the glass – this is your vector file.  You can now touch individual objects and change them. 

This is required for different types of processes, whether it’s creating screens for screen printing, cutting vinyl or engraving, they need to be able to “read” the outlines of each object and identify each separate colour.

No, you can’t just save as…

Although we’ve identified file types that are likely vector files, it doesn’t mean that if you have an eps file that what is contained in the file is vectored.  If you take a jpg file and save it as an eps file, it does not become vectored.  (Trust us.  You have not found the work around.)

If you do not have a vectored file, one can be created.  Depending on the complexity of your artwork, graphic software can sometimes do this quite easily.  For more intricate or complicated logos, a graphic designer may have to recreate the file in vector format.  Your Promotional Consultant can help you with this and there will likely be a fee associated with vectoring your file.

Chances are, when your logo was created, it was done in graphic design software as a vector file so you can often reach out to the creator of your logo.  Because you probably couldn’t open the file, you may not have kept it or they may not have originally provided it.  If you’ve done any signage or printing, the company that produced these items may be able to provide you with a file that would work.

If you work for a large company, reaching out to your communications, marketing or public relations department could be helpful.  They will likely also provide you with your branding guidelines which will include all of the rules for the use of the logo.

The good news is that once you have the correct file, subsequent orders will be easy and your Promotional Consultant will keep it on file for you.