Have you got a folder full of electronic files of your logo and other branding material? Are you about to engage a designer and want to know what file formats to get your logo delivered in?
The table below aims to enable you to quickly learn when to use which file format to get the best results. It is distilled from my 15 years experience in design and print production.
For on-screen display in Powerpoint slides, web pages, or videos and animations.
Inserted into Word, Excel or Publisher; and printed on your office inkjet or laser printer.
Inserted into professional page layout software; and printed professionally.
Photos and halftone graphics
BMP, JPG, TIF, PNG
TIF, JPG, PNG
TIF, JPG, PSD, PDF
Logos, line art, and graphics with solid colours and lines
GIF, TIF, PNG
EPS, AI, PDF
RGB, CYMK, spot
CYMK or spot only
72dpi or 96dpi
150dpi to 300dpi for photographs.
300dpi for photographs.
- Animated GIFs will animate in Powerpoint when in slideshow mode. Use this sparingly though to avoid nauseating your audience.
- Use EPS files if you plan to output to an Adobe PDF file or if you have a Postscript-capable printer (look under Printer Languages in the tech specs). Otherwise use a high-resolution (300dpi or greater) TIF file. An EPS file can look jagged when inserted into Word, but it will print smoothly on a Postscript printer or when output as a PDF file.
- A halftone graphic or image has colours which blend smoothly together, or soft shadows, or blurred edges.
- It is better to use TIF than JPGs for best quality. If you had to use JPGs, make sure they have the least possible amount of compression applied. The more compression means the more image degradation.
- AI = Adobe’s Illustrator format.
- PSD = Adobe’s Photoshop format.
- PDF = Adobe’s Portable Document Format. It is not common to supply PDF files as assets to be incorporated into other page layouts. But if a PDF is all you have of a logo or an image, the designer can (usually) extract this from the PDF file.
- Colours are specified in different ways depending on what the intended purpose of the graphic file is. RGB (Red Green Blue) is for on-screen display. CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK) is for four-colour printing. Spot (commonly using the Pantone system) is for printing using specially mixed inks.
- The software that runs your office inkjet or laser printer usually does a good job of accommodating all three colour spaces automatically. But it is considered good practice to use only CMYK or spot colour images, as you may want to have the same document professionally printed later on.
- RGB images are not suitable for professional printing.
- EPS vector files aside, the generally rule is never to enlarge a bitmap image file. This will degrade the output quality. Make sure your image files are of a sufficiently large width-height dimension, at the appropriate resolution, to accommodate your anticipated needs.
Tip: Did you know you can use Word to view most of these file formats? With the exception of PSD (Photoshop), AI (Illustrator) and PDF files, all of the other files can be “opened” in Word. Simply open a new Word document, go to Insert/Picture/From file. Choose the file you want to view, and you should then be able to see it inserted into the document.
Disclaimer: These are typical applications businesses will encounter. If you are getting things printed professionally, always check with your printer. Less common file formats are not shown. If you want to know more about each file format, or technical terms like “dpi”, “vector” and “bitmap”, use Google!