File Preparation

File Preparation

So say you want to have your logo put on a great big sign.  Good, you came to the right place!  Here are some helpful tips that can help you get that accomplished at the highest possible quality and save you money in design time.

The first thing is to explain the difference between vector and raster graphics.

Raster graphics are basically pictures.  They are made up of thousands of small squares called pixels.  The resolution of an image is determined by pixels per inch (ppi or dpi).  The more pixels per inch, the higher the resolution of the image.

Now, most raster graphics have the resolution optimized for whatever application they were originally intended.

For example, that nice clean looking logo on your website will not work on a sign, as it was designed to be only a couple inches big.

When a raster image is scaled up, it loses quality.  The amount of pixels per inch stay the same as the image gets bigger, so those little square pixels get bigger too, creating a fuzz.

A program like Photoshop can cut down on that by inventing new pixels to fill the void, but it will never be 100% quality. (If you’re lucky, you might get around 65%)

Raster images are not the preferred method and usually require one of our designers to recreate or optimize them to work in a large format, which will cost you money.

Helpful Reference
Raster images have these file extensions: (.jpg .bmp .png .gif .tif .psd)

What about vector graphics?

Vector graphics are just plain awesome!  Vector graphics use a mathematical equation that doesn’t rely on pixel resolution.  At any size, they are 100% quality!  They work by using a series of points and lines, much like a game of connect the dots (but with a lot more dots and more complex lines than you would probably remember).  Graphic designers use vector-based programs like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw close to 100% of the time to make graphics with the highest possible quality.

Because almost all graphics are initially drawn up in a vector-based program, there is a good possibility that whoever designed your logo has either given you the vector file and/or has one saved on their computer.  The problem that most people have with finding those particular files is that you can’t open or view them without a program like Adobe Illustrator, which you probably don’t have.

Here are some of the most common vector file formats
(.ai .eps .cdr .pdf)
*Note .pdf files don’t always have the vector lines as it is a universal file format.

Now that you know all of this about vector and raster images…. How should the files be prepared? Obviously having vector files is the absolute preferred method (.ai .eps .cdr .pdf). If you do have raster images though, there are still ways to make it work. A raster file (preferably .jpg .tif .psd) that is 150-300 ppi at 50-100% actual size will usually get the job done.

And with the magic that our graphic designers can usually pull, a roughly 5in x 5in 300ppi raster file can be converted to vector format via image tracing reasonably quick as well.

General rule of thumb:
Right clicking an image off of a website and doing a “save as” WILL NOT WORK.

The last thing that will need to be taken care of is color. Pantone colors (PMS) are the preferred colors. We have ways to match up the standard Pantone library to the output on our printer so that what you order and what you receive are one in the same. If you don’t have a Pantone color picked out, our printer prints in CMYK inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).

If this is all too confusing and you aren’t sure how to check what colors have been used, if a file is going to work or if you just need someone to walk you through what to do, please feel free to ask, and we will be happy to help you out!