Guide to Logo File Formats
Designing a logo graphically with the any standard design program is quite easy for a novice, but having a logo that’s technically ready for print, web, and a variety of other uses requires skill and knowledge. Only by having a basic understanding of logo file formats can someone, either a designer or the do-it-yourself client, manage brand assets effectively. This article explains the various logo file formats, their technical applications and the differences between vector and pixel-based logo files.
You should have 2 types of formats of your new (or old) logo design. You should have access to both a vector based version (these should have one of these the file extensions EPS, AI, CDR and in the case of Flash animation, either FLA or SWF) and a pixel based version (these can vary wildly in size and resolution but the most common versions will feature the extensions JPG, GIF, PNG and in the case of Adobe Photoshop, PS). These formats have a variety of uses, and knowing which one is which will save you hours of unnecessary grief when it comes to working with designers and printers, as well as creating your own ‘do it yourself’ advertising and internal documents. In order to understand how to effectively use your logo, we’ll need to introduce you to the two different file formats that are used by practically every application you’ll ever use in your marketing, advertising and promotional efforts.
Vector based images SHOULD be the starting point of any professional logo design process. These file formats are created by high-end drawing software such as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw and are the industry standard for any graphic design project. What are vector based images? Simply put, they’re incredibly small, scalable and editable images that allow designers unlimited freedom when it comes to logo design and illustration. Vector files usually feature the file extensions:
- SVG and/or
- SWF (used in Flash animations).
Bitmap (Pixel-Based) Raster Images
When your nifty new logo is designed, you’ll want to use it in a variety of sizes, some small, some large. Shouldn’t be a problem – as long as you have a vector version to work with. Because vector based files are based on mathematical equations, they can be used at any size. Vector file formats always output at the highest resolution of the device you’re using to print with, so you’ll always be assured of the best reproduction quality available.
Bitmap images and sizing issues.
While vector based versions of your logo can be enlarged without any image degradation, bitmap images must be used at the same size (or smaller) than the original ‘source’ file. If you attempt to enlarge a pixel based image, it will pixelate (the actual pixels that make up the image will become visible). In practical terms, this will lead to your logo appearing ‘blurry’, dirty or fuzzy. Because they are created using tightly packed pixels, these images (JPG, PNG, TIF, BMP) must be in the resolution of the output device that they’re being used on. On a monitor that equates to 72 dpi (Pixels or Dots Per Inch), but in offset printing that requirement balloons to a minimum of 266 dpi. What’s the problem? Well, pixel based images should not be enlarged as the pixels will be visible. Simply changing the print resolution of a72 dpi image to a 266 dpi image will not address this problem – you’ll still end up with a bad effect.
Overview of Logo File Formats
.TIFF raster files
TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format. This type of graphics file can also be compressed, meaning that it has been calculated down to contain only vital information. Like an EPS file, a TIFF file can also be moved into almost any other application. However, a TIFF file cannot be enlarged without loss of resolution; it can only be reduced.
- TIFF is a widely supported format, especially between Macintosh computers and Windows-based computers.
- Optional compression is supported.
- The extensible format supports many optional features.
- TIFF is not supported by Web browsers.
- Extensibility results in many different types of TIFF pictures. Not all TIFF files are compatible with all programs that support the baseline TIFF standard.
.JPEG raster files
This graphics file is compressed and can open into almost any other application. JPG files are typically used for on-screen purposes such as on Web sites or within email messages; this is because the files are small. They are not ideal for printing and cannot be resized or edited too often without significant loss of image quality.
- Superior compression is supported for photographic artwork or realistic artwork.
- Variable compression allows control of the file size.
- Interlacing (for Progressive JPEG files) is supported.
- JPEG is a widely supported Internet standard.
- Lossy compression degrades the original picture data.
- When you edit and resave JPEG files, JPEG compounds the degradation of the original picture data. This degradation is cumulative.
- JPEG is not suitable for simpler pictures that contain few colors, broad areas of similar color, or stark differences in brightness.
.BMP raster files
Windows bitmaps store a single raster image in any color depth, from black-and-white to 24-bit color. The Windows bitmap file format is compatible with other Microsoft Windows programs. It does not support file compression and is not suitable for Web pages.
Overall, the disadvantages of the Windows bitmap file format outweigh the advantages. For images of photographic quality, use a PNG file, a JPEG file, or a TIFF file. BMP files are suitable for wallpaper in Windows.
- BMP supports 1-bit through 24-bit color depth.
- The BMP format is widely compatible with existing Windows programs, especially older programs.
- BMP does not support compression, which results in very large files.
- BMP files are not supported by Web browsers.
.GIF raster files
These are used in the same way as JPG files but are compressed even more, making them ideal for graphics with solid colour; because of their high compression, these files should not technically be used for graphics with gradients (such as photographs). This file type supports animation and is often used for web banner artwork.
- GIF is a widely supported Internet standard.
- Lossless compression and transparency are supported.
- Animated GIFs are prevalent and easy to create with many GIF animation programs.
- GIF supports only a 256-color palette; therefore, detailed pictures and photo-realistic images lose color information and look paletted.
- Lossless compression is inferior to the JPEG format or the PNG format, in most cases.
- GIF supports limited transparency and no semitransparent effects or faded effects, such as those that are provided by alpha channel transparency.
.PNG raster files
This is an extensible file format for the lossless, portable, well-compressed storage of raster images. PNG provides a patent-free replacement for GIF and can also replace many common uses of TIFF. Indexed-color, grayscale, and truecolor images are supported, plus an optional alpha channel for transparency. Sample depths range from 1 to 16 bits per component (up to 48bit images for RGB, or 64bit for RGBA). This is our preferred raster format, unless the image is a photograph.
- PNG supports high-level lossless compression.
- PNG supports alpha channel transparency.
- PNG supports gamma correction.
- PNG supports interlacing.
- PNG is supported by more recent Web browsers.
- Older browsers and programs may not support PNG files.
- As an Internet file format, PNG provides less compression than the lossy compression of JPEG.
- As an Internet file format, PNG offers no support for multi-image files or animated files. The GIF format supports multi-image files and animated files.
.AI (Adobe® Illustrator™) vector files
AI is an Adobe Illustrator file, one of the most widely used graphic design programs in the world. Usually a file with the tag AI is an original design file, meaning that this is the file originally used for developing your logo design. AI files can generally only be opened successfully using the Adobe Illustrator program and cannot be generally brought into other applications.
.EPS vector files
EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. It can contain both vector and bitmap data. PostScript is the universal language used by computer printers as well as professional printers. If the file contains only vectors it can easily be reduced or enlarged without loss of resolution and is the best file to give to a professional printer for reproducing your logo on the printed page.
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