Your logo is one of your most important business assets.
It will be used everywhere.
As such, it’s important your logo is designed in a digital format that can be easily used anywhere and and at any size—without worrying if it will print crisp and clean.
What’s the best logo file format for professional printing?
A vector-based EPS.
And what’s the worst logo file format for professional printing?
A low-resolution, pixel-based format such as GIF, PNG, or JPG.
Before we discuss the different file formats, it’s important to have a basic understanding and difference between high-resolution and low-resolution.
What is low-resolution vs. high-resolution?
Images on a computer screen are made up of tiny squares called Pixels. Most computer screens and mobile devices only display 72-96 pixels per inch (ppi). It’s great for images displayed on a screen because the small file size makes them display faster. These types of images are called “low-resolution”.
On the other hand, images used for professional quality printing like business cards, magazines, brochures, etc. require a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi). Because physically printed items are created using circular dots. These types of images are called “high-resolution”.
PPI vs. DPI clarified.
Although PPI and DPI have different meanings, they’re commonly, and incorrectly, swapped. The reason is because when a high-resolution image is displayed on a computer screen it’s being displayed using Pixels. But if the same image is physically printed, it’s done with dots. So a 300
ppi image then becomes a 300 dpi image.
For a more extensive information about PPI vs. DPI, read this article.
Common logo design file formats
Now that you understand resolution, let me explain the most common logo file formats, what they mean, and how they’re most commonly used.
What is a vector based EPS file?
Vector based Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) files are more-or-less self-contained because they are based on a mathematical algorithm. Which means they can be infinitely scaled to any size without loss in clarity. No matter what size it’s printed, it will always be clear and sharp. This means your logo designer doesn’t have to worry about where, or at what size, it is used.
.EPS is the most common file format for logos to be created because a vector EPS file can be placed over other colors (or images) allowing the background to show through and the logo to blend into the design.
What is an GIF file?
Graphics Interchangeable Format (GIF) is a bitmap image format. Its color pallet is limited to 256 colors which can be a good choice for some website images because of its small file size and high compressions, but it’s a poor choice for high-resolution printing because it doesn’t contain enough information (ppi) to print clearly and the images can’t be scaled larger than it’s original size without pixelating.
What is an PNG file?
Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is a rastor graphics file format. It was originally created to replace GIF files because PNG files can include more colors than GIF (up to 16 million) and offers a variety of transparency options.
Like GIF, PNG files are designed for transferring images on the Internet, but not for professional-quality print graphics because it does not support four-color (CMYK) printing.
What is an JPG file?
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG and also known as JPG) is also a pixel-based format. It relies on individual pixels to display the image clearly. JPGs are most oftenly used for photographs with smooth variations of tone and color.
The most confusing thing about JPG images is that they can be both low-resolution and high-resolution depending on how they are created.
Without confusing things, just know that the biggest difference between a JPG logo file and a vector logo file is that a JPG can not have a transparent background. Which means the logo will have a permanent white background.
And because it is resolution dependent (can only be used up to 100% of its actual size), the larger the image is scaled, the more the image quality deteriorates.
I’m sure you’ve seen this before. When you’ve tried to increase the size of a low-resolution image and it get blurry and the edges get “jaggies”.
What should you do if your logo was created in pixel-based format such as GIF, PNG, or JPG?
If you hired a professional logo designer, this shouldn’t be an issue because they would have been trained to create logo’s in a vector format – because that’s the industry standard.
However, if the logo designer you hired (or perhaps a non-professional designer within your organization) designed and sent you a logo in one of the pixel based formats mentioned above (including TIFF or BMP), you have a couple options.
Option 1: Your first option is to simply ask your logo designer to give you a logo in a vector-based format. Just make sure they don’t try to charge you extra because, as I mentioned above, this should have been done by default. If this becomes an issue move on to option 2.
Option 2: Your second option is to have your logo redrawn into a vector image format. This generally involves tracing the logo in software such as Adobe Illustrator, cleaning up the details, and replacing any text. For more complex logo images, it may require digitally redrawing the logo by hand or a combination of tracing and redrawing. The end result will be a pristine recreation of your logo in a scalable vector format. Here’s a sample of a logo redrawn into vector format.
What if I also need a logo in a format such as GIF, PNG, or JPG to use on a website or as a part of an email signature?
Here’s the secret some logo designers don’t want you to know – and even why some designers don’t want to give you a logo in a vector based file.
Once a graphic is in vector format, that vector file can be used to create ANY other file format, and at any size. Essentially, it’s one way some unscrupulous designers keep you on the hook to paying them over and over agin to create something you could probably do yourself after watching a YouTube video. That said, one of the other questions I get asked a lot is;
What other file formats should your logo designer provide you with?
Whether you do it yourself or pay a designer a little extra for the speed of convenience, it’s a smart move to have full suite of logo file formats and sizes on-hand for use across all media.
The most common file formats your logo should be available in are; .AI (Adobe Illustrator), .EPS, .GIF, and .JPG
Also make sure the logo is available in full-color (CMYK), 1-color (greyscale), 1-color (Black and White, and Web-safe colors.