Printing may seem very straightforward but the reality is there are some technical considerations to printing that are just over looked and as a result sometimes things are not printed and the highest quality they could be. File formats can be confusing and frustrating for the average person to wrap their head around. Hopefully this breakdown will help eliminate some of that confusion.
When in Doubt Use a PDF
PDF files are pretty commonplace today. It’s not important that you even understand what PDF stands for. What you need to know is that typically if you utilize this file type when printing things are usually going to be fine. With PDFs fonts tend to be crisp, colors tend to be accurate and layouts are consistent with what you saw on your screen when they are printed out. When printing documents that have bleed, meaning they have color printed all the way to the edge of the paper, a PDF file is usually the best option. You will need to know how to set a PDF document up to use bleed or instruct your graphic designer to do so.
EPS, CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator
When it comes to having your logo printed on marketing materials it’s best to have a vector file. A vector file can be considered as digital line drawings. The reason you want these type of files is because they can be resized to be larger or smaller without a loss of quality. When you try to do this with JPEG files or PNG files they can end up blurry or jagged or distorted. That is why using a file from Adobe illustrator or CorelDRAW is important. Both of these programs can produce a file called an EPS file, this file can typically be used by any professional print vendor and applied to your print materials in whatever size you might need accurately.
PNG and JPEG
Sometimes you just don’t have the native high-quality files. All you might be able to find is a Hi-Rez PNG or JPEG file. In these situations the important thing is to make sure that they’re either 150 dpi or 300 dpi. There is Not much use in printing them otherwise. These are the bare minimum in most cases forgetting quality print work. Ideally these type of files will be limited to photographs or similar artwork. For anything involving type or clean sharp lines and shapes you will want to rely on the other file formats previously mentioned. What this also means is that you want to avoid printing images that you copy and paste it from a website since these will not meet the quality requirements for good printing.
Hopefully this provide you a better understanding of print file formats and which file formats are appropriate in different situations to fit your needs. If you still have questions please feel free to reach out in the comment section and I’ll try and answer as many of them as I can.
Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer who runs his own one man Design Studio, focusing on Brand Development and Advertising. Roberto has experience in design for print, web and multimedia and has worked on out of home campaigns including billboards featured in Times Square. He is a monthly contributor to Print Media Centr’s News From The Printerverse, and a frequent participant at #PrintChat on Twitter. He is also a contributor for publications such as Print Magazine and How Design and has had work featured in Advanced Photoshop Magazine. Roberto is extremely active in social media, producing multiple YouTube videos each week to assist designers and other creative professionals through advice and tutorials.