The Art of Maximizing Your Branding Opportunities
By: Donna Shultz
Graphic Designer, Donna Shultz Design
You’ve hired a designer to create an invitation for an upcoming fundraiser. Or maybe you need to make a banner for your next event. Perhaps you have partnered with another organization and your logo is to be printed in an event program. No doubt you were asked for a hi-res copy of your logo.
You go to your resource file and select the one jpg you always use and send it out to all. Unfortunately, one size doesn’t fit all when providing your logo to vendors for multiple uses. Print and online usage require different types of files. And hi-res is a must for print projects.
There are basically two types of images: raster and vector.
Imagine watching Georges Seurat as he paints A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, carefully dabbing the very tip of his brush on the canvas, creating hundreds of thousands of small dots that create a “solid” image. His painting style of pointillism is like a raster image. A raster image consists of small square dots, called pixels, that make up the whole image.
If you look at Seurat’s paintings from a distance, it’s difficult to make out the individual dots. But if you look very closely, you can see them. The size and number of dots does not change as your viewing distance changes, but your ability to see the dots does. The number of pixels in an image remains the same regardless of its size – like viewing the painting close-up (an enlarged raster image) or from far away (a raster image at its normal size). So when the image is smaller, the pixels look closer together and the image looks solid. As the image is enlarged, the space between the pixels becomes more apparent and the individual pixels are more visible.
Raster images will have the file extensions jpg, png, tif, gif. Almost all web raster images are designed at 72 ppi (pixels per inch). When enlarged, the number of pixels remains the same – 72. Although the individual pixels will grow in size, so does the space between them. Images at first tend to look soft or fuzzy. The more they are enlarged, the edges become jagged.
And a jpg that has been copied or reproduced over and over again will start to develop artifacts or what appears as ghosting or a halo around the text and images. When a raster image is enlarged and printed, the fuzzy, jagged edges and any artifacts from an overproduced jpg will print as well.
Now imagine watching Edgar Degas drawing one of his many ballerinas. His hand draws a continuous flowing line. Whether you look at his drawing close-up or from a distance, it’s always one solid line. And that’s a good way to think of vector – as a drawing. When digitally reproduced, a mathematical calculation recreates the image as though it is being drawn anew and it will scale as a solid, smooth line, regardless of the size it is reproduced.
Vector images will predominately have an eps or ai file extension. These files are used exclusively in print production. Typically, they almost always have a transparent background. They can be scaled to any size and retain clean, sharp images without becoming soft, fuzzy or develop jagged edges. Vector images are always preferable when your logo might have to be enlarged for a print project, especially a poster or banner where your logo might be enlarged 500% to 1,000%. For example, you may have a logo that typically prints at three inches wide, but for a banner, you may need it to be 67 inches wide — that’s a 750% enlargement. You won’t be able to that with a raster image!
When your designer or vendor request a hi-res image, what they are hoping you send is a vector image. That way they won’t be hampered by the print production problems that arise when enlarging your logo for the intended use. That doesn’t mean they can’t use or might not ask for a jpg logo. But if they do, they will need it to be at least 300 ppi at the final print size, while large format printing (very large banners, vehicle wraps, etc.) can be 150 ppi/dpi at the final print size.
That means for a poster, where your logo needs to be 10 inches wide, the document size of your raster image also needs to be 10 inches wide as well as 300 ppi. Don’t forget that jpgs and tif raster images will create a white background in every case. If your logo is being printed over a color background or over another image, your vendor will need a vector file or a png that is designed with a transparent background.
So how can you tell if you have a high-res image of your logo? Hopefully, whomever designed your logo provided it to you in multiple file formats that are easily identified, or were organized into file folders marked as web, print, other. If not, to some degree you can go by the file extension and size.
As mentioned, raster images will have a jpg, png, tif or gif file extension. If the size of the file is under 200 kb, chances are it will be too low-res for most print purposes, especially if it needs to be enlarged. A jpg or png image that will print at six inches wide will have a file size of 300 – 1,000 kb or larger. Think of it this way: the larger the image must print, the larger the file size of the jpg or png will be.
Vector eps or ai files can be very small (20 or 30 kb) or very large (up to megabytes in size), depending on the complexity of the image. Also, if designed for print, they are probably set up in a CMYK color space. You will need software that can open and read eps and ai files. You may have these files but not necessarily be able to open them on your computer. Your vendor will be able to do so.
If you are having your logo redesigned, part of the agreement between you and the designer should be that you are provided with your logo in a mix image file formats. You will want raster images, both jpg and png, that are in several sizes and ppi for web and office productivity software use, as well as several sizes at 300 ppi for print use (generally up to 6 inches wide). You will also want vector images, and here you might want to specify the color space to be used: Pantone spot colors and CMYK, or just CMYK colors. Remember, a vector image can be resized to any size without loss of quality, so you only need one file per color space requested.
You should also ask for an SVG file of your logo. SVG (scalable vector graphic) crosses the digital and print divide: it is vector art that can be used on the web, but can also be opened in illustration software to easily convert to a print file. As the name states, it can be scaled to any size – and because it is vector, it doesn’t lose any quality when viewed on screen.
Even jpgs or pngs designed for web use can lose quality when enlarged too much. A jpg designed at 150 pixels, then enlarged 200% or 300%, will exhibit the same problems on screen as it does in print. It can look soft and fuzzy. SVG does for the web what eps and ai design files do for print, allowing the image to be enlarged without losing quality. However, your web design software or online service must be able to accommodate an SVG image. For example, at this time most email services might not be able to use an SVG image. The most likely use would be on a responsive website where the image size might change as the viewing screen size changes.
As a designer, when creating catalogs, posters, banners or program guides for organizations, I have seen it all. When I get a logo file that is 2 kb in size, yet must print six inches wide on a banner, I don’t have to open it to know I don’t have a workable file. Yes, I do have some “tricks of the trade” and software that can enlarge and clean up raster images, but only to a degree. For the most part, small 72 ppi images (mostly web images) won’t enlarge well. The most problematic images are jpgs with severe artifacts. They are next to impossible to clean up.
When asked for a hi-res copy of your logo, look and see if you have other file formats of your logo that might work better. Enlarge the image on your computer monitor so it takes up most of the screen and see how it looks. That will be a good indication of how it will look in print. If you find you have an eps or ai file that you can’t open, send it to the vendor because they should be able to view it.
If need be, go back to whomever designed your logo and ask for a vector art copy. Even if you need to pay a fee to get a vector copy of your logo, it might be worth it to always have your logo look great in print, regardless of what size it needs to be.