When working in the marketing world, it’s likely that you’re going to be handling images or graphical elements in one form or another, so it’s important to understand how the file formats differ. Most people are familiar with the .png and .jpg extensions as they are the most common. However, there are an abundance of other file formats that are worth looking into if you want to leverage your image handling.
Vector vs. Raster
First, let’s talk about the difference between raster and vector images.
Raster images are made up of pixels and each pixel is assigned a color. These images exist at only one size so things like scaling can reduce the quality of your images. When you’re enlarging a photo, you’re actually stretching the pixels and your software is basically filling in the image data based on the surrounding pixels. This can get really messy, so be careful not to compromise your quality! Raster images are used for photos, digital art, and web graphics.
Popular raster formats: TIFF, PNG, JPEG & GIF
Vector images are much more flexible. They are not constructed using pixels. Instead, vectors are created using formulas and are perfect for graphics that are being resized. Your vector image is usually your master file when creating your art. Because of this, you can export out to other formats (like .png or .jpg). The beauty of vector images is that they can be as small as a penny or as big as a wall mural. This is the reason that vector art is ideal for printing. It can be scaled in any way and still always remain crisp and clear!
> Now’s the time to make sure you have a vector version of your company graphics!
Popular vector formats: SVG, EPS, & PDF
High Resolution vs. Low Resolution
Now that you’ve got an understanding of how raster and vector graphics differ, let’s dive into resolution because it’s just as important! Chances are you’ve heard a designer talk about DPI or PPI. But what do those abbreviations even mean? DPI stands for “dots per inch” while PPI stands for “pixels per inch.”
I know what you’re thinking, “what the heck is the difference anyway”? They both define the general resolution of images but in very different worlds – digital and print! Many people use the terms interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the differences. Take note: DPI refers to the print output, while PPI refers to the data input of the image.
- Used by designers & photographers.
- Easy to manipulate in an image editing program
- Used for exporting/ designing for the web.
- Only raster images can be measured in PPI (remember that vector images are not made up of pixels!).
- An image with a higher PPI will be higher quality because of a greater pixel density.
- When exporting for print, the standard is 300 PPI. Setting the image at a high pixel density will best prepare the image to be printed at a much better quality in DPI.
- Determined by the physical dots of ink per inch on a printed/scanned image.
- Printers do not display color in pixels, but in layered dots consisting of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).
- DPI is not easily manipulated because every model of printer produces it’s own unique DPI based on internal settings.
- The greater the DPI, the crisper the image
- 300 DPI is the standard.
Now the fun part, let’s dive into file types!
PNG – Portable Network Graphics (.png) : raster
PNGs are perfect for web pages and online graphics but definitely not for print. These files are indeed considered “lossless” but be cautious, they are still low resolution. The biggest plus of PNG graphics is that you are able to save your artwork with a transparent background, something that is not possible with JPEGs.
JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpg) : raster
Possibly the most common file type you’ll run into. JPEGs are known for their “lossy” compression. This means that the image quality decreases as the file size decreases. JPEGs can be used for web projects and printing at a high resolution. However, it’s imperative to pay attention to size and resolution in order to produce a quality result.
TIFF – Tagged Image File (.tif) : raster
TIFFs are larger raster files that don’t compromise quality. TIFFs are “lossless.” This means that the original image data still remains no matter how many times you copy or resave the file. Great, right?
SVG – Scalable Vector Graphic (.svg) : vector
SVG files use an XML-based text format to describe the appearance of the image. Since these files are made up of text, they can be scaled without compromising quality. SVG files can be created in Adobe Illustrator so you can always open the files in this program for easy editing.
EPS – Encapsulated Postscript (.eps) : vector
EPS files are used to produce high-quality print graphics. Almost an kind of design software can create this type of file. Because of its universal format, there’s no need to stress over transferring accessible files.
PDF – Portable Document Format (.pdf) : vector
Much like EPS files, PDFs are also universal. This file type was created by Adobe with the goal of capturing rich information from any computer and making it accessible to anyone. Your high-resolution graphics can be saved in a pdf format for anyone to review (as long as they’ve downloaded the free Acrobat Reader software).
Working with image files takes a lot more background knowledge than most people think. We hope we’re able to give you a better understanding of digital file types and how to use them properly!
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