Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ve had to prepare marketing materials, either for yourself or your business.
Whether it’s a brochure, poster, website, social media post, full colour catalogue or even a simple business card, one of these projects has likely made its way onto your desk, and you’ve probably had a confusing crash course in the world of JPG, EPS, and PDFs. If you’re one of the fortunate souls who hasn’t wandered down that path yet, you probably have never needed to know the difference between a TIF, PSD or PNG.
No matter which camp you fall in, it can be overwhelming. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be putting together helpful lists to help you understand some of the basics about files, formats, and colours, and when you should use each.
JPG, GIF, TIF, PNG, PSD, EPS, AI, PDF, ABC, 123? Just what the heck are all these things anyway? Why can’t this just be simple?
To understand what these are, and what they are used for, we need to first discuss the two main categories of file types: Vector and Raster. No, those aren’t character rejects from a Marvel movie. They’re the two different approaches to handling images.
Raster Image Files
Raster images are made up of a series of pixels, basically individual blocks, which are laid out to form a picture. Like a cross stitch, each small pixel makes up part of the whole complete image. Every photo you take with a digital camera, find online on the internet, or see printed on paper, is a raster image.
The size of the image is determined by just how many pixels (blocks) there are in the picture, and we convey that information by using image width and height. A common raster image size we see these days is 1920 x 1080, which is the size of the images for 1080P High-Definition televisions. We also refer to a raster image file size as its resolution, which is something we’ll discuss more next time.
The main drawback to raster images is that they have a defined size and proportion, due to the number of pixels they have. That means that images cannot be stretched or scaled up without distortion, which will end up causing the images to be blurry or unclear.
JPG (JPEG), GIF, TIF, PNG, PSD are all different types of raster image files and are usually prepared with software such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Painter.
Vector Image Files
These types of images are more adaptable than Raster images because they are made using formulas, instead of pixels. This gives them a very powerful advantage over raster images: scalability. You can resize a vector image to any size you want, small or large, without any distortion or loss of quality.
This feature of vector images makes them the ideal format for you to create your logo and brand graphics. EPS and AI files are fantastic for this purpose, and they are created using software such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Inkscape.
Once you know what type of file format you’ll be use for your project, you’ll then need to figure out what size (resolution) and colour format (CMYK, RGB, HEX, etc.) will work best. We’ll touch on those topics in our next Quick Tip.