If you’re a brand manager or business owner with a new design in your hands, you may find yourself scouring Google to learn which file types to use for which purpose. Why do my presentation images look blurry? What’s vector art? What file does my printer need?” Worry not—here’s a little cheat sheet on image files so you can pass the baton efficiently.
To understand image file types, there are some terms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with:
RGB is a color model that stands for “Red/Green/Blue” referring to the three primary colors on any electronic system. Images made in an RGB format are specifically made for electronic viewing and should not be printed. RGB is an additive color model; meaning that Red, Green, and Blue light are added to each other to create a vast array of colors viewable on your electronic device.
CMYK is a color model that stands for “Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black” referring to the four industry-standard printer inks. Files formatted for CMYK are made specifically for print. You will notice that files made for print may not have the same vibrancy as an RGB—this is because CMYK is a subtractive color model; meaning that the more colors you subtract from a CMYK image, the lighter it will become. This, therefore, limits the array of colors that can be used. However, “Pantone Colors” or “spot colors” are inks specifically added to CMYK printing to produce a more impactful, consistent color.
Raster images are images comprised of pixels. Raster images should not be blown up any bigger than their intended size, or the image will start to lose its quality. Adobe Photoshop is a primarily raster-based program.
Vector images use polygons to create points and nodes that reside on a specific position on an X and Y-axis. This enables clean, crisp lines that can be blown up to any size while maintaining their sharpness. Adobe Illustrator is a primarily vector-based program.
That’s it, production masters! Now, you’re onto image files!
What it means: Joint Photographic Experts Group
What it’s for: Websites, social media posts and overall digital
The JPEG a file well-suited for quick, digital viewing. It discards fine details in an image to sustain a small file size. JPEGs are quite versatile, as they can be saved in both High and Lo Resolution, and as CMYK or RGB. However, since JPEGs are raster images, a Low Res JPEG file will show multicolored blocks called “artifacts” that can blur an image.
The DePersico Creative standard for JPEGs is Low Resolution with a max size of 2000 pixels.
What it means: Portable Document Format”
What it’s for: Digital viewing and printing (if specified)
PDF is an image file independently invented by Adobe. Like JPEGs, they can be made at a High or Low Resolution/CMYK or RGB with a wide range of versatility from on-screen viewing all the way to final print. A PDF created in Illustrator has the potential to remain editable if it is saved accordingly. PDFs are perfect for legible text and viewing for print.
The DePersico Creative standard for PDFs is created as a High Resolution image while maintaining a low file size.
What it means: “Portable Network Graphics”
What it’s for: Presentations and websites
PNG is a raster file format that is created specifically in RGB. PNG files can be formatted to have transparent backgrounds, making them perfect for presentations and websites.
What it means: Photoshop Document
What it’s for: Printing at a specified size
PSDs are created from Photoshop and can maintain all of the settings and layers that were set up by an artist, making it fully editable in its most native state. This can be any resolution and for both CMYK and RGB.
What it means: Adobe Illustrator
What it’s for: Printing final art
AI files are similar to PSDs in that it is a native file to Adobe Illustrator. Printers typically request AI files because they are fully layered, and editable—including text. An AI file contains every vector path and specific color that a printer will need to print the sharpest form of your design.
What it means: Encapsulated Postscript
What it’s for: Printing or high-quality screen viewing
An EPS is typically created for placement in a Postscript document, though it can be previewed as a Low Res file. Like PNGs, EPS files can be saved with a transparent background, but the transparency isn’t reflected in an image preview. EPS files can contain vector images, text, graphics and are typically sent as High Res files. This makes EPS files perfectly acceptable (and sometimes preferred) for print if saved as CMYK.
What it means: Tag Image File Format
What it’s for: Printing
TIFF files are raster images that can be layered and editable just like a PSD file (though we prefer to send flattened TIFFs). TIFF is a very rarely-utilized format, as it is not often requested by printers and is usually too large in size for web. However, they can be made to be High Resolution and for both CMYK and RGB, if needed.
What it means: Scalable Vector Graphics
What it’s for: Digital, particularly web design
SVG files are the digital equivalent of the AI print vector format, which allows for a graphic to be scaled large or small without degrading in quality.
Now you can avoid the file frenzy and the lost time that comes with it. Check out the rest of our blog or the case studies on our website and stay tuned for more tidbits on everything food branding and design!