What are the different file types and how do I know which to send
An important part of a great finished product is sending the correct type of file to your printing partner. Know that a good printing partner will guide you through this process and help you to achieve the very best results. Here is a breakdown of some file types and the images they work best with.
Typically JPG is not the best choice because it is a compressed. It can work in extremely large formats, but it’s more of a last resort. Example: if you are not able to upload a banner of 300mb for print, you might need to use a JPG that will compress it to 15mb.
PNG is good but is in an RGB* color mode which is not the best format to send to an offset printer or one that requires a CMYK** color mode. Your printer may refuse your files and ask you to convert it to CMYK color mode or they may convert it for you. Conversion could give a different final result than you want. There are some digital printing machines that handle RGB if your printer happens to use one.
*RGB color uses red, green and blue to produce an array of colors. **CMYK uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black to produce various colors.
TIFF is a safe choice for almost any type of printing and color mode. The downside is the files are large. The upside is that it is highly compatible with almost any software that can open pictures. It is the type of file created in Photoshop.
PSD is also a file created in Photoshop and is generally a good choice, however, there are some issues with compatibility when sharing files.
EPS may be another good option, but potentially may not work depending on your personal printer. They are convenient for publishing with software that can handle large files.
PDF files are highly compatible with most printers and do not disrupt quality when compressed. However, they take a long time to save in Photoshop. The printer will typically want PDFs, and a good printer will have the latest kit to handle the latest PDFs. There are many different types of PDF, so ask your printer which version they prefer. Some printers will have an issue with certain versions.
So how does all that information break down? Basically, there are two different types of images: vector and bitmap.
- A vector image uses geometrical formulas to present images
- They are images that an illustrator would send
- Best quality – EPS or PDF file
- Lesser quality – TIFFs and JPG. They will have to be converted to pixels and even at 300dpi they do not convert well to the finished product
- Also referred to as raster graphics, bitmap images are made up of a pattern of dots
- Best quality – TIFF and PSD
- Lesser quality – JPG normally loses quality, but, when saved, takes up less space on your computer
A very high-quality JPG is typically not much different than a TIFF or PSD, depending on the image you are saving
TIFF or PSD cannot create detail where there isn’t any. JPG can remove detail when needed
Ultimately, communication with your printer is the best option. Ask them how they like to receive their files and how best you can work together to achieve the best quality finished product.