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Files of Mass Confusion

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When it comes to working with a graphic designer you will come to learn that there is a plethora of file formats out in the world. You will hear terms like: JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, EPS, AI, PSD, PDF and INDD, to name a few.

You might think to yourself, “What difference does it make? It looks good on my screen, it should work for anything, right?” Wrong!

Using the proper file types can make or break your design. Say, for example, you want a 4-foot x 8-foot banner of your logo and some text. So you hop on your website, save the logo and send it to the designer. Well, unless your web developer used an extremely large and poorly optimized file for your site, it is going to look terrible blown up to that size. Why? Because it is not meant to be enlarged that much. That small little JPG (or raster file) from your website is set up for that particular purpose. In this case you would want to send your designer a vector file (EPS or AI preferably). Vector files are based on mathematical points, which can be enlarged or reduced to any size with no impact on the quality of the image.

Now you can be fooled into thinking you have a vector file, when in fact you do not. Sometimes, designers or others, who do not know what they are doing, will merely place a JPG into Illustrator, or other program, and save it as say an EPS file type. This does not magically convert a raster file to a vector file.

A breakdown of some of the typical file formats you will hear about when working with a designer:

Raster File Types (based on pixels):

  • JPG – generally photographic in nature. Meant for on screen and within layouts. Pro: Smaller file sizes Con: Loses quality every time it is saved.
  • TIFF – like a JPG, only higher quality for editing purposes. It does not suffer quality loss from compression, like a JPG would.
  • PNG – Think JPG, only it generally has a transparent background.
  • GIF – graphics for web (can be animated, much like a short video clip).
  • PSD – Photoshop file, larger files, generally consisting of multiple layers.

Vector Files (based on mathematical points):

  • AI – true illustrator file, generally unflattened and editable.
  • EPS – can be generated from multiple programs, generally flattened and less editable.


  • PDF – can be a mix of vector and raster elements, generally a final output file for print or web purposes.
  • INDD – InDesign file, designer’s original layout file for most print items.

These are merely a few of the common files types you will encounter when working with designers, there are many others out there. I did not even touch the multi-media formats, that is a whole other topic.

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