When you start your venture in marketing your business you have many different things to consider and you want to cover all bases of advertising like a website, print, email, social media, etc. But what file format do you use for each one and how do you know if you are using the correct format right now?
There are hundreds of formats but only a few are regularly used and trusted to get the job done correctly. There is a source file, online PDF, proof PDF, print ready PDF, JPEG, PNG, GIF and EPS.
Whether you have designed something yourself or you have gotten a professional to do it for you, there will be an editable source file that are going to want to keep in a safe place. There is nothing worse than wanting to change something in a current design and the original source file has vanished; because that means that you are now going to have to start all over again.
There are many different graphic editing programs that you can use; all depends on your level of expertise and how much you are willing to spend on software. The Adobe Suite has just about everything you could need when editing graphics. There’s Adobe Photoshop (.psd) for raster (like photos) images and vector, Adobe Illustrator (.ai) for vector editing, InDesign (.indd) for publications and the list just goes on and on. Some smaller companies use CorelDraw (.cdr) because it is more cost effective for them but the common trend amongst professional designers is the Adobe Suite. There are some amateurs who use paint or paint.net and that’s still ok for online graphic use but it is not advised to use such programs for printing purposes.
As long as you still have the source file you can send it through to any graphic house or printing company and they will be able to use it, whether you want to edit it before printing or use elements from it to create something else completely. The source file would need to belong to a commonly used set of design applications that the printer company would own. If you have gotten a professional designer to design something for you (business card, email signature, letterhead, etc.) and they have sent you the source file but you cannot open it, don’t discard it. Keep it somewhere safe because it will come in handy one day.
PDF File Format
PDF’s are used for a wide variety of applications. It all depends what your requirement is and what you are going to use it for.
If you have a design made for web use, you won’t want it to be large in megabytes as it will be frustrating to the end user who now has to download your file. Imagine that they have an extremely slow connection and they have to download 25mb. You will have a negative impact on them before they have even opened the file. This is why you will use an interactive PDF which compresses images and compacts the size the most it can be reduced to without taking quality away from the actual design.
If you have ever worked with a professional graphic designer you will be familiar with the proofing process. Although every designer is different and handles the proofing process differently, most designers will send you a PDF proof to view your design in. A lot of the time it will be a low resolution compressed image contained inside a PDF. The reason designers will do this is because of the difference in file size. If they had to send you a 50mb file each time they send the design to you with amendments, you would end up using a lot of unnecessary bandwidth and you would be wasting time sitting and waiting for the file to download. You need to be careful not to send this proof PDF through to the printers because it is not a file that is fit for high quality printing.
Once you have signed off the design then your designer will send you the print ready version of the design. In this copy there will be bleed added (additional area around the design that will be cut off), the images will be at least 300dpi and the font’s will converted to vector so that the receiver does not need to have the fonts installed. This is the PDF you will send through to the printing company.
JPEG/JPG File Format
A JPEG is an image that can be used for almost anything; it can be used in print design, emails, social media, websites etc. Every image contains a certain amount of pixels and those pixels determine the size and quality of the image, the more pixels there are the bigger your image is going to be. The greatest thing about a JPEG is that it optimises the pixel data to create a smaller file size while keeping the visual quality of the image high. These compressed JPEG’s are best used for photos or pictures that do not contain text or need fine details. The crispness in a JPEG isn’t as good as in other image formats such as a PNG or GIF image, unless you save a maximum quality JPEG, but then you lose the benefit of the file format.
PNG File Format
A PNG is another image format used for other types of images. The anti-aliasing in a PNG is very good but the way a PNG compresses the pixels is more for optimised viewing than reduced file size. The best thing about a PNG that you won’t get from a JPEG is the ability to have a transparent background. If you need to place the image on top of something else but you do not want a white block around it then you will use a PNG format.
GIF File Format
A GIF combines the abilities of a JPEG and a PNG but has limited colour use. So your text aliasing will look good and your file size will be small but using a GIF format is only advised when using a small quantity of colours. Using a GIF format on a photo will reduce the quality of your photo dramatically since it can only display 256 colors.
EPS File Format
This file format is mostly used to encapsulate vectors and keep them intact while sending via email or while copying to another computer. An EPS file cannot be previewed as it is; you need to open an EPS file in a vector editing program like Adobe Illustrator. EPS and PDF are 2 formats you can use to store a vector copy of just about anything, including your logo.
At the end of it all, each format has its strengths and weaknesses. A source file and an EPS file cannot be previewed like a JPEG, PNG, GIF or PDF but they can store vectors which is not something that can be done with a JPEG, PNG or GIF. A PDF is the most universally used format for exchanging publications or advertisements due to its versatility.