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Understanding File Types

April 7, 2021

We are sure you’ve seen those designer memes, you know something like this one poking fun at clients asking questions about file types. The truth is designers get questions such as these all the time! Dealing with file types is something we deal with every day. Today, we are focusing this blog post on understanding file types, formats, and how/when to use them. Knowing file types/formats can really come in handy when working with designers, printers, and many other vendors. We hope you enjoy this blog post about understanding file types.

Raster Graphics vs. Vector Graphics

Digital graphics files come in two main forms: raster and vector.

Vector graphics are created from lines and curves (what we call paths) rather than pixels. These are great for designing logos and fonts. Why do you ask? Because no matter how much you increase the image, it never becomes pixelated. Basically, you will always have smooth lines—ALWAYS. This is one of the reasons why creating logos in Canva, are a big no-no, because they are indeed raster file, not vector files (among other things!).

A raster graphic is a file/image created from thousands of pixels. You can spot them easily if you have the ability to zoom in. If it’s a raster image, it probably appears unsmooth and blocky (pixelated!).

Pixelation is the word to describe an image that has been resized to the point pixels have become visible.


You will often hear hi-resolution and low resolution. What the heck does this mean? Resolution is the file quality of the artwork or design. Hi-resolution (hi-res)(300 dpi) is ideal for magazines, print design, and high-quality prints. Low-resolution (lo-res)(75 dpi) is ideal for online and screen use (not print) typically ideal for your website. Just think, lo-res, less loading time.

Raster File Types

.JPG | Joint photographic experts group

Typically used for high-quality photography and low resolution online use. Will lose quality if scaled over its pixel width. JPG’s do not support transparency (seeing an image behind it), not recommended for print use, unless it is hi-res. 

.PNG | Portable network graphics

Designed for graphics/images on the internet and NOT for print, supports transparency (to see graphics behind it), used best for text, graphics, and online use to create a crisper look for websites/etc.Cannot be scaled over its pixel width as well. 

.PSD | photoshop program file (adobe)

Used for editing photos, graphics, and web design. Stores an image with support for most imaging options including layers with masks, transparency, text, actions, filters, etc. They cannot be scaled over their pixel width and is purely for editing, NOT for printing or vector images (your logo images).

.GIF | Graphics interchange format

People joke about the pronunciation all the time JIFF, GIFF, let me set the record straight the pronunciation is GIFF (spelled GIF)! They are specifically for online use, colors, reducing the number of colors to 256, and can be ideal for animation as an image. Also allows for reduced file size and supports transparency. Similar to .PNG but even lower quality. 

Vector File Types

.EPS | Encapsulated postscript file

Used for logos and illustrations as a vector. Can be scaled to any size without losing any quality (print material/poster), supports transparency, and is best for large format printing like signs/etc.

.PDF | portable document format 

Used as a way to share documents without losing the design or quality. A digital version of a hardcopy, generally used for emailing and sharing. Elements and illustrations can be pull from PDF files if they are saved properly. Similar to .EPS files. Lots of printers prefer this file because it can also be scaled without losing resolution. 

.AI | illustrator file (adobe)

Developed for representing a single-page vector-based drawing in either the EPS or PDF formats. They are layered files ideal for illustrations and graphic design. Used within a design for editing capabilities. This is how your designers design for you. 

Understanding File Types

That it y’all! Designers get questions such as these all the time! We hope that this post arms you will the tools you need to succeed in dealing with different file types. Found this eye-opening?! Share with someone you think might need to understand file types.

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