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Raster? Vector? What file format do I need my logo in again?

Christopher Ariñez August 10, 2011 Web Design & Development 9 Comments

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Often times a client will come to us with an existing brand. They’re looking to punch up their graphics and marketing, while keeping their well established logo and identity. No problem! We’re happy to help, but first, let’s go over some graphics basics. So, what is the best file format for logos?

 

Ensuring your logo looks its best

Depending on your familiarity with graphic file formats, this may be all news to you or just a friendly mental refresh. To ensure we can work wonders with your logo, we’ll need it in the best file format you have it in– the highest resolution available. That would be a scalable vector format.

file format: vector file vs. raster file comparisonA logo in vector format can be scaled infinitely and never lose quality. Whether it is sized to fit a business card or scaled up to display beautifully on a billboard, it will always have the same crisp quality and appearance you originally fell in love with.

Why is that? Vector graphics are actually made up of mathematical equations that dictate the proportions of all the graphical elements. When printed, the proportions are always matched, regardless of size.

Assuming you worked with a design studio for your logo, they should have supplied you with a vector file format of your logo. This could be in any of the following file formats: .eps   .pdf   .svg   .ai

But… I just have .jpg format

Vector file format is great for logos and a variety of graphical elements, but is not the only choice on the block. The alternative to vector format is a rasterized format. Raster graphics are images that have finalized, set dimensions. This is ideal for photographs.

Without getting too technical and geeky, computer graphics are all set up on a grid of tiny dots of colors called pixels. When printed, each pixel represents a tiny dot of ink that adds up to make the full image. A lower resolution image has a smaller grid of pixels. A higher resolution has a bigger grid, with many more pixels and is thus a larger image.

Resolution is often noted in “DPI”, or “dots per inch”. The more dots per inch, the better. For good print quality, 300DPI or more is recommended.

The popular .jpg format is an example of a rasterized image. Its dimensions are set to the size of that grid of pixels, and is therefore not scalable like a vector file format. The image can only be printed at the size provided (or smaller).

Vector scaled up will maintain quality and appearance
file format for logos: example of vector format logo scaled

Raster scaled up will lose quality
file format for logos: example of vector format logo scaled
Trying to scale up a raster image will result in a loss of quality. This is no good! The computer doesn’t have enough ‘visual information’ to create a larger version of the image with an accurate appearance. Therefore, it will look blurry and blocky. (Though note that making that image smaller is not a problem since the visual information is being condensed.)

Popular raster image formats include: .jpg   .bmp   .tiff   .gif   .png

So, if you’ve only got your logo in a rasterized format, track down the vector version! If none exists, then make sure your image has a very high resolution. A blurry logo should be the absolute least of your worries.

9 Comments

  • RENEE October 16, 2014

    Thanks so much for your help. I am trying to find a great logo and one company said they have vector and I had no clue. But thanks to you I am now educated on the difference. Thank you

  • George Akins May 4, 2015

    I only have a jpg file of a seal f our organization. What do I need to do to get into a vector file?

    • Chris A May 5, 2015

      Hey George,

      Your best bet would be to first find out if a vector file ever existed. Contact the original designer, or someone else in the organization who may have worked with the designer when the seal was created. If it was first created in vector, then hopefully the file exists somewhere, perhaps in an email or file archive.

      If the seal was raster from the very beginning, or you can’t find a vector file, then you’d need a designer to recreate it as vector. The designer would redraw it using vector graphic software.

      A raster file may be fine for printing if its resolution is high enough. However, you will not have the flexibilty and scalability vector provides.

  • Maria September 24, 2015

    If I request an individual to convert a .png to a vector file, what’s the best format for placing onto a 4 x 8 banner? I didn’t know the ‘vector’ was so many choices, what’s the difference? (.eps, etc.)

    • Chris A September 30, 2015

      Hey Maria,
      Great question. Different software can handle different types of files, so over the years, multiple variations of vector file formats have been created – think DVD and Blu-Ray, each offering unique qualities! I would say .svg or .eps are the gold standards, and either should work fine for any vector graphics editing software. Good luck with the banner!

  • Gail April 16, 2016

    This information was very helpful,however the artist I’d like to work with said she cannot provide a vector file. The style I want is a water color-like logo. She’ll draw the logo initially and then finish it on the computer. Is it possible for someone else convert it into a vector file? If so, how much can I expect to pay for it? Thank you.

  • Chris A April 21, 2016

    Hi Gail,

    I’m glad this info was helpful! It’s possible you may not even need a vector version of your watercolor style logo. Given the nature of that art style, keeping the watercolor as raster would help it maintain its gradation of color and line/brush quality. The important thing is to receive a high-resolution file, so it can be sized to the purposes you need it for.

    Vector formats are great, but this typically refers to fonts and computer generated imagery which is usually very graphic (solid colors, or simple gradients). If you’re combining the watercolor style with any fonts, though, those should at least be vector. For example, if the main logo is a watercolor painting, and a tagline is included in a typed font, you’d ideally want one logo file. A vector file, such as an .eps, could be created that has the watercolor included within the file as an embedded, high-resolution raster image.

    A watercolor can technically be converted to vector, likely through a combination of automated computer software, and/or meticulous re-tracing on the computer. This could take an hour if the computer’s translation is really great, or may take a couple hours if it has to be manually adjusted to get it right. Our agency typically charges $175 per hour, so what you spend will depend on who you work with.

    The extra benefits of having the watercolor as a vector, aside from being able to scale it up infinitely, is being able to place it on different color backgrounds, including transparent backgrounds. Technically, though, this can be done with a transparent raster format if the background canvas is extracted from the original artwork. It really all comes down to what you’ll ultimately need the logo for. As long as you have the original high-resolution raster file of the logo, you can always rework it later to suit any new need that comes up.

    Let me know if that makes sense and is helpful. Best of luck with the logo and the brand your creating!

  • cindy August 31, 2016

    this graphic would be more helpful if you also showed a blown up portion of the vector circle so we could see there isn’t any loss in quality.

  • Bryan Shore February 10, 2017

    Very nicely explained.. I first learned about the difference from this http://www.coreldraw.com/en/pages/raster-to-vector/ but I wasn’t sure what was best and when, and you explained it nicely :)

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