5 different file types and their uses

August 10, 2010

As a designer, I often have to work with many different types of file formats. Because I spend most of my days lost in a world of graphics and applications, I often forget that all of these different types of file formats can be quite overwhelming and confusing for some of my clients who may have little to no computer experience. Every now and then, I receive a flustered phone call from one of my clients exclaiming that they don’t understand the difference between different file formats or that they don’t know which file format to supply to their printer.

I want to take a few minutes today to clear up some of this confusion. Here is a short explanation of the file formats that we use at Pixellogo as well as their most common uses. If you would like to see some of our logo designs that are available for purchase at Pixellogo.com, please click here.


PSD_IconPSD files are files that are created with Adobe Photoshop. In order to open a PSD file, you need to have a copy of Adobe Photoshop installed on your computer. PSD files are raster files. Raster files are made up of pixels which are small squares of information (for a more extensive explanation as to what raster files are, click here). Raster files such as PSD files are great because they allow for the creation of complex images with layers, shading, gradients as well as other variations. PSD files do however come with their limitations. For one, raster files do not resize well without a loss in the quality of the image. For example, if you create a logo design as a PSD which you later want to enlarge, unfortunately it will look grainy and distorted at this larger size. You can create logo designs as PSD files however, if you intend to print your logo in many different sizes or if your logo design has many sharp edges, it is better to create your logo design in vector format (I will explain vectors in just a moment). Furthermore, if you are going to use embroidery, it is best not to use a PSD file. Embroidering an image based on a PSD file could result in jagged edges. Finally, small text does not print well from PSD files. Vector files are much better suited for printing logos or business cards with small text.


AI_IconAI files are files that are created with Adobe Illustrator. In order to open an AI file, you need a copy of Adobe Illustrator installed on your computer. AI files are vector files which are mathematics-based. Each vector file is made up of a series of small points that combine together to make lines and images. Vector files are much better for printing logo designs because vector files can be scaled up and down in size with no loss of quality to the image. Vector files are also better for business cards because small text prints more clearly from this format. AI files can be saved as PDFs which are excellent for printing.


jpeg_iconJPEGs are primarily used for photographs and it is one of the most common formats for images on the Internet. JPEG is also the most common format saved by digital cameras. JPEGs are raster images and thus, like PSD files, they are good when printing photos however, some things do not print well from JPEGs. For example, a logo designed with sharp lines may not print well from a JPEG because the logo design's sharp edges may appear jagged. JPEGs also don’t work well for images with text, large blocks of color or simple shapes. JPEG can’t be used for images with transparency and JPEGs degrade if they are repeatedly edited and saved.


eps-iconEPS files are vector files that can be opened with Adobe Illustrator or any other vector editing software. Both graphic designers and printers use this excellent and efficient file format. EPS files can be scaled up and down in size without any loss of quality. EPS files can contain clipping paths and they are great for printing logo designs as well as business cards.


pdf-iconPDFs have evolved a lot over the past decade. Now considered the best universal file format, PDFs are excellent for printing. PDF files combine vector graphics, raster graphics and text into one file. Fonts, images, layout and graphics are all embeded within one PDF file no matter which specific application was used to create the document. Gone are the days of having to deliver a file to the printers with all of its source files attached. Because everything is embedded in a PDF, printers now only need to deal with one file therefore eliminating many errors that have resulted from printing in the past. PDFs are fantastic for printing business cards and logo designs. PDF files can be easily printed, shared and viewed using any PDF viewer like Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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