A VERY Basic Guide to Raster & Vector Files

As a designer it is not only my job to create awesome, functional and effective work for my clients, but it is also my job to educate others on what I do. I frequently come across issues when it comes to file types with clients.

The client-designer communication usually goes something like this:

Designer: Hey client! Could you send me your logo for use on your super cool billboard?
Client: Sure! I’ve emailed you the file.
Designer: Thanks, but could you send me an eps or higher resolution file? This one is too small.
Client: Sure! Here you go.
Designer: This logo is no better than the last file you sent me. In fact, is it the same file you sent the first time?
Client: [Scowls] I don’t understand the problem. The logo looks fine on my screen!

Sound familiar? Frustrated? Confused? Let me explain.


 RASTER: Raster images are made up of pixels (little squares). Raster images cannot be scaled up in size because they will look pixelated. You know the look – you’re picture, or logo, appears all choppy with rough square edges. Not a good look, nor is it professional. The larger the size of a file, the better the quality of the image because there are more of those tiny pixels making up the image. This is why a photo you take with your iPhone can’t be used on a billboard. Your iPhone doesn’t take photos with enough resolution, or pixels, to create a crisp image at a large scale. Great for Instagram, not for your double-page spread ad in a magazine. However, you can choose a setting on your digital camera to take high quality photos. It may warn you about file size, but that’s okay. All it means is memory may fill up a little faster. You can always switch it on and off. Large photos from clients are a designer’s dream, plus they make you look good.

Examples of raster files: jpeg, gif, tiff and png


VECTOR: Vector images are not made of pixels. Instead, vectors are points connected by lines of various shapes filled with colour. If you think of a square with four points, the computer “connects the dots,” or four points, to create the shape. Therefore, no matter how large or small you make the square, the computer can redraw the square and looses no quality. Woah, right? Technology these days… Vector files are best used for digital illustrations, typography and logos. Nobody wants their company’s logo to be pixelated, so join the pro-vector logo club. I know you’re thinking, “what do I do with my jpeg logo files?” Jpeg logo files do have their place, for example uploading your logo to the web, so you don’t need to disregard them completely.

Examples of vector files: eps or ai


So what is the best file to provide? For logos: an EPS! For photos: a LARGE high-resolution raster file like a jpeg.  This would make a designer very happy. And maybe they will send you cookies…

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