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An Introduction To Logo Formats

The two main types of files you’ll need

At the end of the design process, you’re going to receive many different files of  your brand new logo. Understanding these formats can be crucial, especially for the do it yourselfer. This is particularly true when you begin to apply your logo in various forms of reproduction. Designers and design firms can vary significantly in which kinds of files they supply, and even in which method they utilize to create your logo.

“A vector can be thought of as a shape made up of rubber bands that are wrapped around nails (vector points) pushed into a peg board.”

Armed with a little knowledge, you can avoid unnecessary charges, both in production and reproduction, or avoid working with a design house that will supply the wrong files completely. We’ve put together a digital files primer, a File Format Survival Guide if you will, so that you’ll know which files are useful, which formats are difficult to reproduce, and which are completely useless.

“A pixel based (raster) image is made up from a grid of different colored squares that when viewed from a distance form the image details.”

Vector & Pixel based images. You’ll need both.

For all intents and purposes you should have 2 types of formats of your logo. You should have access to both a vector based version (these should have one of these the file extensions .eps, .svg, .ai, .cdr and in the case of Flash animation, either .fla or .swf) and a pixel based version (these can vary wildly in size and resolution but the most common versions will feature the extensions .jpg, .gif, .png and in the case of Adobe Photoshop, .ps). In order to understand how to effectively use your logo, we’ll need to introduce you to the two different file formats that are used by practically every application you’ll ever use in your marketing, advertising and promotional efforts.

Vector Based Formats

Vector images can be enlarged without any appreciable image degradation.

Unlimited resolution, adaptability & scalability.

The first, and most important format you’ll need is a vector version, a file format that many of you may not be familiar with (though every logo you see will, or should, have started life as a vector.) This is the default format of professional design software as well as the choice of format for most print applications. A vector based image is the raw source file of your logo, created out of outlined shapes, which can be filled with accurate color through the Pantone Matching System. Here’s what a vector based file looks like:


A vector can be thought of as a shape made up of rubber bands that are wrapped around nails (vector points) pushed into a peg board. If the nails (or in this case points) are moved, the shape will change. This simple concept allows designers to be able to edit artwork. Vector files are also resolution independent, meaning that they are scalable to any size without quality loss. Vector based logos can be printed as black & white grayscale or linear, spot color OR four color process depending on your requirements (and the number of colors in your logo.) If you don’t have a vector version of your logo, at some point you’re going to have to get one. Once again, you can identity vector formats by their file extensions:

.EPS, .CDR (Corel Draw,) .SVG and .AI (Adobe Illustrator.)

Other vector based formats can be tagged as .SWF, but is artwork specifically intended for Flash animation. As confusing as it may sound, .PDFs can be vector based, BUT they can also contain bitmap images too.

Pixel (Bitmap or Raster) Based Formats

Pixel based logos (bitmap or raster images) start to break up after only a slight increase in size.

Primarily for website use, limited scalability (size reduction only.)

The second logo format is a pixel, bitmap or ‘raster’ version – one that you’re probably more familiar with. It is the default format of practically every image on the web, as well as the format used in your own digital images those taken by your camera. A pixel based image is made up from a grid of different colored squares that when viewed from a distance form the image details. Here’s what that translates to in terms of a logo:


Bitmap logo closeup

Pixel based images can be black & white bitmaps, CMYK logos or feature RGB color palettes. Pixel based images are resolution dependent and must be prepared specifically for the usage planned. A 72 ppi (dots or pixels per inch) pixel based image can be used in electronic media (web) while a 266 (or higher) dpi image is required for print. Due to the number of colors required to create images (even logos that appear to be spot color) most pixel based images will require four color process printing, rather than the more accurate spot color printing. You can identify pixel based formats by the extensions:

.GIF .JPG, .TIF, .PNG and .PS (Adobe Photoshop). In order to maintain consistency in the use of your logo, these images should be created directly from the vector version of your logo.

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Logo Design Help Center

A collection of helpful and informative tutorials for designers, do-it-yourselfers and anyone interested in branding their company.


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Learn more about logos, design & branding:

"A complete soups-to-nuts logo design how-to from our archives. Everything you need to know about starting and finishing a logo design project – from selecting the type of logo for your market, to selecting typography, colors & taglines, it’s all here.." Logo Design Road Maps

Building a logo step-by-step

"The difference between rasterization and vectorization, Why rasterizing a logo image is a snap and with few exceptions, vectorizing one isn’t..." Rasterizing vs. Vectorizing

Changing logo file formats

"Having a vector version of your logo is an absolute must, but what if you only have a small, bitmap version? Just run it through Adobe Illustrator’s “image trace” right? Maybe. Maybe not.." Converting a logo to vector

Working with bitmaps

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