If I had a dollar every time a wrong logo file was supplied to us, then I could retire early. Over the years, most business owners and some marketing staff have had some difficulty knowing which logo file formats to supply to us. Here’s the typical scenario. In general, most of you will have a folder full of logo files that you will search in when your T-shirt printer asks for your logo in ‘vector’ format. Then you will ask yourselves, What’s vector format? Do you have that? Should you just send the same file you sent to your web developer?
To alleviate this confusion, I have outlined below some handy hints on which logo file formats you will need for all of your different projects.
RASTER AND VECTOR FILES
Your logo design will be used in different situations. Be it large or small, black or white, print or the web. You will need to keep a number of different file formats, each intended for a different purpose, so it’s important to know what files you’re sending and why.
There are two main categories of design files: Raster and Vector graphics. See our previous posts about this here >
A vector file is scalable to any size without any loss of quality, because it’s made up from mathematically precise points. Vector files are the type you will require to get anything professionally printed, or if you need design work carried out by another designer, for example; brochures, leaflets, exhibition stands, vehicle printing, pens etc.
Vector files are intended for printing and can be saved in CMYK colour mode. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, which are the 4 colours used to make up the colours in a full colour printed page. There’s also special inks that can be used in some instances, such as Pantone (PMS) colours, which are individually pre-formulated coloured inks.
If you could use only one file type, it would be a vector file format, as this can be converted to any other file types with the correct design software.
Vector file types have a file extension of .ai .eps or .pdf.
Best for print & signage
The Adobe Illustrator (AI) file is the original, editable, working file. As opposed to the open standard formats, AI is a proprietary file format by Adobe. Unless the file is saved with PDF compatibility, you can only view an AI with the appropriate Adobe software. That said, apparel printers particularly like receiving artwork in this format. AI is editable, scalable, and transparent. An EPS file can do anything an AI can do, but, as Adobe expands ease of transfer within its software programs, AIs are becoming more viable as a logo format.
Portable Document Format
High resolution version for print, signage or digital
PDF format is becoming widely favoured by most designers as it can be universally viewed on any computer with Adobe Acrobat (or another PDF viewer). It’s also possible to preserve illustrator-editing capabilities when saving in this format, meaning it can be opened and modified in the same way an Adobe Illustrator file can. As the full name implies, Adobe didn’t develop the PDF as an image file format. But it’s become a popular way to transfer logos due to its vector format and transparency. We often use PDFs when showing logo drafts because just about any device still running in 2017 can read a PDF. While EPS and AI files require specialised design software, PDFs were intended to be viewable regardless of software, hardware, or operating system. We don’t deliver final logos as PDF files, but if it’s the only format you have of your logo, a professional designer can use that for most print and digital applications.
Best for print & signage
To get an EPS file you save your Adobe Illustrator file as an EPS. EPS file types are now a little outdated because in InDesign, Adobe has made it easy to place native Illustrator and Photoshop files into a document. EPS is our favourite logo file format for print. Developed by Adobe in the mid-1980s, it’s transparent, scalable, and editable if you have the right software. It also has unlimited colour capacity. We do a little office jig when a client has an EPS of their logo because it saves us redrawing the logo file or because we don’t have to use a white background to place the logo on. With a PNG for digital applications and an EPS for print, you can do anything you’d ever need to with your brand’s logo.
When using vector logo files, it’s also important to know various colour formats, which I have detailed below:
Full Colour (CMYK) – This is the file for standard 4 colour printing. If you ask your designer for only one of these variants, ensure it’s this version.
Pantone Colour – Pantone is a universally understood colour coding system that’s used by designers and print companies. The problem with CMYK printing is that from print run to print run, there will be slight colour differences. This is because 4 separate inks are being used to build up the colour. With Pantone however, a single ink is generally used, meaning the colours will match exactly in all instances.
Single Colour (Black & White) – For when a single colour version of the logo is needed, such as a frosted vinyl for glass windows or single colour document printing.
White – A white version of the logo is used on coloured backgrounds, or on dark images where good contrast is needed.
Transparency – A few image files have transparent backgrounds. This is useful when placing your logo on background colours other than white. Transparency is generally shown with grey and white checks, it is the universally accepted way to display something that is by definition see through.
Raster files are made of small squares called pixels, which means that as you increase the size of your image they tend to become blocky, or appear to be blurred. This is the reason why a logo should be created in a vector format. Raster files are intended for computer use, so are provided in RGB colour mode. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, which are the colours used to make up all the colours you see on your screen. Black is the absence of light.
Raster file types have a file extension of .JPEG or .PNG (there are other raster-based image types, such as .GIF, .BMP and .TIFF, but for logo design, these two types should be sufficient).
.JPG or .JPEG
Joint Photographic Experts Group
Best for digital
Jpeg’s are most commonly seen online. This is because jpeg offers very good compression without overly degrading the image, meaning the image is very small in file size, so will load quickly. The .jpg, or .jpeg, is the most used image file format. It was designed by photographers for use with photographs and photo-like images, so works best for smooth transitions between colours. JPGs are useful when a small file size is crucial, like in your email signature or for websites.
Portable Network Graphics
Best for digital
PNG images are lossless, which mean they do not lose quality during editing and allows for transparency. PNG was developed to avoid a lawsuit regarding the licensing of GIF technology back in 1994. While it generally has a larger file size than a JPG, compresses further when storing images containing text, line art, and areas of solid colour. Transparency is most useful in web applications and the lossless data compression results in cleaner, sharper images. That said, PNGs are raster files so you’ll see pixels if you try to increase the image size. PNG also doesn’t support colour spaces for print.
OTHER FILE FORMATS
As you dig through your logo files, you may find some older or less common file extensions.
A PSD is a raw Photoshop file that hasn’t been exported into a final, more usable format. While it’s editable, the file can’t be scaled up beyond the original pixel dimensions assigned.
An SVG is another vector graphic form that is picking up new interest for web uses but has limited mobile support.
GIF, pronounced by the original developer as “JIFF,” has lossless data compression but limited colours. Today GIFs are most known for the short animated clips that overrun your Facebook page.
TIFF or TIF files are raster graphics that were developed for scanners. They can hold a lot of information for a flat image, but aren’t scalable.
BMPs or Bitmaps are raster images that are uncompressed.
With so many different formats out there it may be tough to know what you need for your logo. Before embarking on a logo design or a redesign, talk to your designer to make sure you know exactly which formats you’ll receive and how they can be used. To get the most of your logo or branding, ask your designer to include a ‘logo usage guide or brand standards guide’ to help with usage consistency in the future.
For more info on branding consistency and frequency, see our previous post about this topic here >