If you run a print shop, you will receive a variety of file formats for print projects each day. Some files are sent as print ready files that do not require any additional steps before printing. There are other files that might require some tweaking and some files that contain different components that need to be assembled (like a puzzle) into something that is ready to print.

These print file formats all have different names and file extensions. In fact, there are so many extensions, such as .ai, .pdf, .eps and so on, that it is easy to get confused on which files do what in the print process.

If you are confused or concerned, no worries! We are here to help you relieve some of that confusion. We will help to educate you about file formats and share which formats are best for printing.

Vector Files Vs. Raster Files

To get started, let’s clear up some of the confusion you might have about image files. Basically, all image files can be lumped into two categories, and they are vector files and raster files. The first thing you need to know is the difference between a vector file and a raster file. 

Raster files are commonly used for editing images, graphics, and photos. Since raster files are generally larger than vector files, this means they can contain millions of pixels as well as incredibly high levels of detail. However, their large size can have a negative impact on the storage space of your device and slow down the speed in which your device loads pages on the web. Raster files can be opened in many different apps and web browsers which makes them easy to share, edit, and view. Some of the most common raster file types include .jpg, .png, .gif. 

Vector files are best for digital illustrations as well as logos and complex graphics because the resolution of vectors stays the same when these files are resized. In turn, this makes them suitable for a wide variety of printed formats. In addition, vector files are more lightweight than raster files as they only contain the mathematical formulas that comprise the design.  It should be noted that many types of vector files need specialized software to both open and edit the files. Even though vector files can present some challenges, it is possible to convert your vector files to raster files (and the other way around by converting raster files to vector files when needed). Common vector file types typically come from photo editing software such as adobe illustrator (.ai) but examples also include .svg, .eps, .emf.

Common File Types You Should be Familiar With

1. AI or .ai: Adobe Illustrator

AI files are vector files often used by print shops along with graphic designers to create graphics that might need to be resized (without any loss of image quality). For example, logos are often generated as AI files since they will be used in various sizes on multiple types of media such as business cards and billboards. AI files are proprietary which means they can only be opened and altered by Adobe Illustrator.

2. EPS or .eps: Encapsulated Postscript

EPS files are completed vector files that are ready to be used or sent to someone else for use.

For example, a vector file created in Adobe Illustrator can be saved as an .eps file. That file can then be sent to destinations as varied as a print shop, sign maker, or a company that makes promotional items. Unlike an AI file, EPS files can be opened by multiple types of image-handling software, so it is easier to share than an AI file.

3. PDF or .pdf: Portable Document Format

While EPS is more flexible than an AI file, a PDF file is more adaptable than both of them. PDF files can be opened by any software that is capable of reading PDF documents. These files can be viewed, shared, or printed with their formats locked so they will remain as they were designed.

4. PSD or .psd: Photoshop Document

PSD is a raster file created in Adobe Photoshop. PSD files are normally used by photographers, printers, and other creatives. Please note that PSD can only be opened by Adobe Photoshop.

5. JPG or .jpg: Joint Photographic Experts Group

JPGs are one of the most common image files but, as a raster file, its resolution is locked. In addition, it does not support transparent backgrounds. If the JPG was created with a resolution of 300 ppi (pixels per inch), its resolution can only be 300 ppi or less. As another example, a 72 ppi image cannot be made at a higher resolution. In other words, the best it can be is 72 ppi. At 300 ppi, a JPG is ideal for printing. At 72 ppi, it is only useful for displaying on the web or email viewing. 

6. PNG or .png: Portable Network Graphics

The PNG (.png) file format is a very popular raster file for images on the web due to its low resolution and smaller file size. (FYI: Both of these qualities lead to faster page load times.) Unlike the JPG, the PNG does support transparent backgrounds so websites can use them with varying background textures and colors. However, its lower quality means it is not typically used for printing.

If you are ready to set sail with your print project, Driftwood Printing experts can help you with both formatting and file type. Contact us today

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