It might sound shallow, but it is reality. If your art as a company (Logo, Business Card, Food Truck, T-Shirt Cannon, whatever you present to the world) looks good, you will be taken seriously. Attention to detail and quality are what separate the legitimate organizations from the enthused hobbyists. As Director of Graphics and Communications for Nonprofit Resources, I make it my duty to make sure our clients look as established and professional as they can be. So, to help the educate and alleviate some communication issues, I am presenting this non-complete but still helpful guide to preparing files for your designers/printers to make you look professional and “real” as possible.
At the core of the “which file” conversation is the difference between vector graphics and raster. Raster files are made of pixels, and were the standard for many years for just about everything. They were the standard because there wasn’t really anything else, but don’t worry, that’s not the case anymore! Today if it is print, web or whatever, vector is the immediate go to. The best quality to these types of files is you can scale them to whatever size you need, and they will never lose their clarity. If you have a very small raster file, you won’t be able to put that sucker on a billboard. It’ll look like 7 blobs of blurry color. But with vectors, you can put it on an aeroplane or a business card with no trouble and it will look the same.
Vector files are primarily made in programs like Adobe Illustrator and the file ends in .ai or .eps suffixes. If you’re not sure if your file is vector, try zooming in really close to it. if you see it start to get blurry, or pixelated, you have a raster and need to re save it as a different file type. If you cannot create a vector file, the next best option is a high quality .png with a transparent background.
Raster graphics are still acceptable in some printing methods and sometimes on the web, but as technology progresses and monitors become more and more High Definition, vectors are taking over. Leaving the world crisp, clean and free of blurry edges.
Alright, basics down. Now, what’s good to print?
PDF. ALWAYS USE A PDF IF YOU MAKE A THING.
Pdf files are the industry standard for printing, or even just presenting a document electronically. They hold all your fonts, your pictures, everything together in one neat package and it will make your designers and printers very happy. The picture above links to an incredibly helpful article by Design Resources detailing the differences with different printing options. Here’s the gist; If you want to look good, use a .pdf or .eps, don’t use a .jpg. Never use a .jpg to print. In almost any program you are in (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Word, Excel, etc.) there will most likely be a save to .pdf option.
A little thing like saving a file differently can mean more respect and more interest in your business or cause. And from where I’m sitting, that seems pretty worth it.
By: Garrett Chappell
Director of Graphics and Communications
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