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  • Writer's pictureNovus Creative

Avoid a File Type Faux Pas

How to Select the Right File Type for Your Project

Many of us have had this awkward moment where we send a file to a colleague or designer, only to be told it’s the wrong kind. How are you supposed to know whether to send a JPEG or a PNG, an INDD or a PSD? Maybe you don’t even know what some of those abbreviations mean ...

Whatever the case may be, here’s a quick guide to a few of the file types you’re bound to come across in your business.

Understanding Raster and Vector

If you've paid $100 for a logo and it's in JPEG format, we hate to break it to ya ... but that isn't going to get you very far. Working with clients who have a logo already, this is the No. 1 challenge we run into. Every file format is either vector or raster. JPG/JPEGs and PNGs are raster images, meaning they are made up of thousands of pixels that create the image. If you try to blow up or shrink down a raster image, it will be distorted. Raster images are best with fixed dimensions, like on a printed brochure. That way they won’t look blurred or wonky.

Vectors, on the other hand, are made up using mathematical curves and paths, and therefore are better for resizing. AI, EPS, SVG, and even some PDF files are all examples of vectors. These are easier to manipulate and resize, and they can be used for a wider variety of surface areas — think shirt embroidery, vehicle wraps, and billboards. If you're having a logo designed, you'll need both vector and raster files for your business for optimal versatility.

Raster vs. Vector
(Left) Raster images are made up of tiny pixels. (Right) Vectors are made up of curves and paths.

JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Expert Group)

Let's start with what is probably the most common file type. JPEGs/JPGs are raster images, and are actually the same thing. It has what's called "lossy" compression, which means they have a lower quality and smaller file size. JPEG/JPGs are best used for the web because the file is compressed and helps with load times and web/email storage. (Think of anything you view on a screen!)

You may also receive JPEG/JPG files from a photoshoot and use them for print — which is totally fine, as long as it's a high-quality image. The difference with printing a JPEG/JPG photo that was taken with an actual camera is that you can set the image to be a higher quality than the photos you take on your phone. If you've ever tried to print a large-scale JPEG/JPG image that you took on your phone, you'll see it turns into a grainy, pixelated blur.

Best used for: Social Media, Website Photos, Print Photography

PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

PNG file types are "lossless," meaning a higher quality than a JPG, but also a larger file size. The biggest difference you'll notice with a PNG is its ability to have a transparent background. This makes it an ideal format for any graphic that isn't a perfect rectangle. It's still raster but offers a little more flexibility than a JPEG/JPG.

Best used for: Website Graphics and Icons

PDF (Portable Document Format)

When you want to share a file, but you don't want it modified, saving it as a PDF will do the trick. Almost anyone can use Adobe Reader to view a PDF file, whether it's sharing a Word document, logo concepts, or a 100-page document. Unless you have Adobe Acrobat, PDFs cannot be changed!

Best used for: Sharing Documents

PSD (Photoshop Document)

PSDs are used when saving work in Adobe Photoshop, and thanks to their multilayer features, they are quite handy! When you need to manipulate a file, a photoshop file should do the trick. Also, worth noting: These file types are raster images, and therefore prone to distortion.

Best used for: Images for Editing

AI (Adobe Illustrator Document)

Perhaps the king of vector, AIs are raw files of editable illustrations and logos. If you decide to change your company colors, having the AI file makes that super easy. Vector AI files are also scalable, which means you can blow it up on a billboard and it'll look as crisp and clear as on your computer screen. A true designer should always provide you a logo in AI (or EPS) format, in addition to the web-quality file formats.

Best used for: Logos, Illustrations, and Icons for Print

INDD (Adobe InDesign Document)

If your business puts out something that would be published or printed for a large-scale audience (such as a book or magazine), it was probably formatted in InDesign. InDesign keeps file sizes smaller by linking all the graphics and photos inside of it, rather than storing them all in the document itself. When sharing INDD files among designers and printers, it's important these files come packaged with all the links as well.

Best used for: e-Books, Magazines, and Booklets for Print

EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)

EPS file formats are typically vector and can be interchanged between different platforms, such as Illustrator and Photoshop. Along with AI, it's one of the most important formats your logo should be in if you want to use it anywhere other than a website or social media.

Best used for: Logos, Illustrations, and Icons for Print

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic)

Think of SVGs as the vector files for your website. Originally created for web publishing, using SVGs in your code allows more flexibility with your logos, icons, and even animated elements.

Best used for: Logos, Illustrations, and Animations for Web

But wait, there's more!

While these may be the most common file types you see in business, there are certainly more that you will come across. If you have questions, contact us to avoid any future file type faux pas.

Be strong and vector on! (Unless, of course, your project calls for raster.)



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