using-logo-file-formats

When design clients receive an array of brand assets – logo files in various formats – their usage and application can be quite confusing. Many technical guides on our site, and around the web are jargon rich, far too complicated for the casual user. Accordingly, here are the most common questions we get asked about using logo files – answered in plain terms.

Whenever you engage our shop, another design firm or a designer to create your new logo, you’ll eventually take receipt of the finalized design in various files and formats, all with different names and file extensions (the three letters after the dot in the name.) You don’t really want to know all the complex minutia of what file does what – you probably only want to know how to use these files in your day-to-day activities (though if you want a more thorough explanation, see our DIY Client Guide on File Formats.) Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions we’ve been asked by clients over the years, particularly dealing with how to employ their new logo art in an office environment.

Q: I’m confused about all these files. What do they do?

A: You should (must!) receive two types of logo files from your designer. The first are vector files with the extensions .EPS, .PDF and maybe .AI (Adobe Illustrator.)vector-images There’s also going to be pixel based bitmap (or raster) versions and they’ll have the file extensions .JPG, .PNG, and probably a .BMP or two (these will be larger file sizes than the .JPG or .PNG.)bitmap-raster-imagesThere should (must!) be a variety of these files – they’ll probably be in various pixel widths as these images are fixed (you can’t really edit them, nor can you enlarge them beyond 100% of their original size.) A takeaway for the casual user – the vector files are the formats you’ll give to vendors and suppliers whenever they print goods – brochures, stationery, T-shirts, mugs, etc. The bitmap (raster) versions are the ones you’ll be using in your day-to-day activities like email signatures, adding to business documents created in Microsoft Word, Excel and the like.

“Vector files are the formats you’ll give to vendors and suppliers whenever they print goods – brochures, stationery, T-shirts, mugs, etc. The bitmap (raster) versions are the ones you’ll be using in your day-to-day activities like email signatures, adding to business documents created in Microsoft Word, Excel and the like.”

You’ll always need a vector version to create (or have created) new bitmap versions but you probably won’t use them too much. Keep them safe though! They are vital and the vector files are what you’ll edit (or have edited) if you ever need to change colors, typography or any other fundamental aspect of your logo.

That’s pretty well all you need to know.

Q: I need my logo to have a transparent background for a website?

A: First, you’ll need to use a pixel-based image file, NOT a vector version (.EPS, .AI or .PDF.) In practical terms, the only bitmap image format that can feature a transparent background is a .PNG There are some exceptions – .GIF images can have a transparent background too, but this format is lossy – degrades the original image – and the PNG format produces a much higher quality image, usually without appreciable file size increase (other than .GIF animations, the .GIF format has been largely rendered obsolete for these very reasons.) Other bitmap image formats either can’t be transparent – .JPGs require a solid background – or aren’t suitable for internet or website usage – .BMPs for example.

Q: Which files do I use for Microsoft Word or other software?

A: Most modern office software like Microsoft Word can handle all bitmap image formats (with the exception of Adobe Photoshop files – you’ll recognize them by the .PS file extension.) Results will vary depending on the color space the original image was saved in, the type of format and the size and resolution. Some versions of office software have difficulty dealing with .PNGs with transparent backgrounds (try assigning the image a white background or “turning off” the transparent background entirely.) The optimum format for Microsoft office software still seems to be .BMPs but .JPGs are perfectly acceptable.

Q: Which files do I use for my website?

A: You can use either the .JPG or .PNG format for your website. In terms of a logo, the .PNG format is preferable as it can feature a transparent background – your logo can “sit” on any color background or even on a photograph. .JPGs are preferable if your logo contains a lot of blends or gradients as they can “band” in a .PNG format (but keep in mind, a .JPG image cannot feature a transparency.)

Q: Which files do I use for Twitter or my Facebook page?

A: Pretty much the same answer applies here as did the previous one about websites, but with some caveats about size, resolution and aspect ratio. If you want more detail of that, we have a full throttled feature on using your logo on social media.

Q: I only have a small JPG version. Can I make it bigger in my software?

A: As the resolution of a bitmap image is fixed, you cannot increase the image size beyond 100% of the original image size without severe quality degradation. In order to increase the image size, you’ll need to have one created from scratch, using a vector file as a “source” to save a pristine image at a larger 100% size. If you don’t have access to a vector version of your logo, you’re going to need to get one rendered. A vector version of your logo is a necessity for any professional brand identity management.

Q: Can I increase the .JPG (.BMP or .PNG) image size in my office software?

A: If it’s been added at a size smaller than 100% image size you can, until it reaches 100% image size. If it’s already at 100% image size no, you can’t. Increasing any pixel based bitmap or raster image larger than 100% of its original image size will make it appear “burry” or “jagged” as the pixels become more apparent. This effect becomes more noticeable the larger you increase the image. Office software like Word does not add pixels, or change the resolution of the image when you make it bigger. You’ll need to use a larger image, or one with higher resolution. You can reduce any pixel-based bitmap image without much concern, but too small and details may become hard to recognize.

Q: Can I edit my logo if I only have a JPG version?

A: There are some exceptions – but those require a great deal of technical know-how and access to professional level design software – but generally speaking, no, it is not possible to edit your logo if you only have access to a .JPG or other bitmap format. You’ll need to have access to a vector version of your logo but even that will require some technical experience and access to Adobe Illustrator or similar. Generally speaking, bitmap files are “end results” and created from vector source files. If you need to edit your logo, it has to be done with the original vector source file, then create (or have created) new bitmap versions from that new file.

Q: Can I import vector files into Microsoft Word?

A: This question doesn’t have a binary answer. Under certain circumstances (and in some versions of Word) you can import vector files into Microsoft Word by using the “insert picture” function BUT Word will create an image file of the file and it probably will not appear as expected – certain elements of your logo may appear bolder or even a different color. This is particularly true if your logo art features Pantone spot colors. Your logo has to be in a full color version. You can insert some vector based files into Microsoft Word (or similar) using the “insert object” function – .PDFs and .EPS’s are advised – but even then, there may be some distortion and vector abstracts created in the insertion. The caveat about Pantone colors still applies. It is always advisable to use pixel based raster images with Word – .JPGs and .PNGs are sufficient, but .BMPs are best for optimum clarity. Always remember that ANY pixel based image can be no larger that 100% or less of the original image size or individual pixels will become visible and your logo will appear “fuzzy” or “blurry.”

Q: How do I use letter head art in Microsoft Word?

A: Whenever a designer delivers your stationery artwork, it will probably be in a vector based format such as .PDF, .AI or .EPS. These files are generally intended for printing by a commercial printer using an offset press (and under some circumstances, a digital output device.) These files aren’t really for creating letterhead art using common office software like Word. It’s much easier to set up your letterhead by inserting a logo (as we’ve just discussed) and typing in your contact information. If you want to use the lovely letterhead design your designer has created, then you’ll need to use a pixel-based raster version of that art, insert it as a picture, and type on top of that. While you can use a .JPG or .PNG version for this, optimum results will come from using a .BMP version. Keep in mind that the letterhead art has to be at adequate image size (no more than 100% original size) and resolution so that any typography doesn’t pixelate and become difficult to read.

Q: Can I edit vector files myself?

A: In the purest sense, anyone can edit a vector file version of their logo, similar to the theory that anyone can change a transmission using the same tools as a mechanic. Editing a vector based version of your logo requires professional level design software such as Adobe Illustrator (there are free versions of comparable software available online) or similar. This software has a a steep learning curve and requires a certain level of experience to operate. It’s highly advisable that if you require editing of your vector files, you employ the services of a design professional, or at least someone who has experience with the software and concepts related to your requirements.

Q: If I change the extension of an image file, does that make it into a vector file?

A: No. Changing a file name extension – .JPG for example – to a vector based format name – .EPS for example – will not change the contents of the original file. On certain operating system versions, if you double click on the icon of a file, it will attempt to open up the appropriate software if available on your system. Changing the file name may interfere with that procedure. A pretty safe rule of thumb here? You should never arbitrarily change the file extension (the letters after the dot) in any computer file for any reason.

Q: If I “save as” an image into a vector format does it become a vector file?

A: No. If you save a pixel based raster image – a .JPG for instance – as a vector format – .EPS for example – what will happen is the file will simply contain an embedded .JPG image. This image will not have any of the properties of a vector file, nor will it be able to be used as a typical pixel based raster image. Embedding an image inside a .PDF has no effect on its properties, nor does it make editing any easier.

Q: How can I change a vector file into a bitmap or vice versa?

A: You can’t actually “change” a vector file into a bitmap image, nor can you change a bitmap image into a vector file. If you have access to a vector file and have some knowledge of design software, you can export (or “save as”) a bitmap version using Adobe Illustrator or similar. Under certain circumstances you can convert a bitmap graphic to a vector version through automated tracing tools in design software applications, or web-based vector conversion applications, but the results are often poor quality depending on how complex your design is and the resolution of the image you’re working from (higher is always better.) Generally speaking, if you need to create a vector version of a pixel-based bitmap image, you (or a designer you utilize) will have to create it from scratch.

If you have any other questions, feel free to drop them in the comment section and we’ll try to answer them for you. Who knows, we may even add them to our new Common Questions About Using A Logo feature.