One key element in my Graphic Design/Printing business is taking a holistic approach to each client. While a client may think they will only need small format items like business cards and name badges, they may end up needing larger format products like banners or table covers in the future. For this reason, file type is extremely important.
Printers of large format items or promotional products will often request vector files. Here’s why:
Let’s start with Raster images. Popular raster file types are jpg, png, psd, tiff, bmp. Photographs are raster images. So are web graphics. As raster images are made up of pixels or dots, when enlarged, they may turn blurry or “pixelated”. Raster images are finite at the size they were created. During an enlargement, the software tries to fill in the gaps by plugging the spaces with color. This leads to false information being inserted which creates blurriness. Start out with a low resolution, small-sized raster image and you’ll never be able to enlarge substantially without an extreme decrease in quality.
Vector images, on the other hand, use a mathematical calculation to create lines and curves. Vectors can be scaled to any size without loss of image quality. This means the same graphic will look good on a business card and a billboard. Another key benefit is they have excellent editing capabilities. Eps and ai files are vectors.
Web graphics are typically 72 dpi (dots per inch). The reason web graphics cannot usually be used for print is that print graphics are generally 300 dpi. If an image is 72 dpi but large-sized, it can, at times, be converted successfully to be used in some print jobs. But, a very small graphic at 72 dpi cannot be used for most print jobs.
There may be an exception to this. In some cases, raster images may be able to be converted to vectors. This would be for graphics and not photographs and would allow the image to be used for large as well as small format printing. If given a choice, vectors are always preferable to raster images if enlargement is needed now or in the future.
Considering future needs clients may have is imperative in order to assist them in the most effective way possible.