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Logo file formats

A look at the different types of file formats used with logos

Logo design file format closeups
At the end of the logo design process, and when you’ve finished working with your designer, you’re going to receive many different file formats of your brand new logo. Understanding these file formats can be crucial, especially for the do it yourselfer. This is particularly true when you begin to utilize your logo design in various forms of design services and reproduction. Designers and design firms can vary significantly in which kinds of file formats they supply, and even in which method they utilize to create your logo design. 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 (read broken logo & bad formats for one such example). 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 kind are completely useless. We’ll show you why logo template software is inadequate for most reproduction methods, and how a logo laden with special FX is going to cost you thousands down the road.

File formats and your logo

For all intents and purposes you should have 2 types of formats of your new (or old) logo design. You should have access to both a vector based version (these should have one of these the file extensions .eps, .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). These formats have a variety of uses, and knowing which one is which will save you hours of unnecessary grief when it comes to working with designers and printers, as well as creating your own ‘do it yourself’ advertising and internal documents. 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

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.

Vector version of a 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. 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 can are scalable to any size. 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). You can identity vector formats by their file extensions:

.EPS, .CDR (Corel Draw) and .AI (Adobe Illustrator).
Other vector based formats can be tagged as .SWF, but is artwork specifically intended for Flash animation.

Pixel (Bitmap) Based Formats

The second logo format is a pixel 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 varying colored pixels that when viewed from a distance form the overall image details.

Bitmap version of logo

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 dpi (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 much more economical (and 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 are generally created from the vector version described above. For a more detailed look at file formats and their applications see our logo design tutorial and technical library.

File formats explained. Or why you shouldn't design a logo in Photoshop

Logo design formats – Vectors & Pixels

Logo design formats explained. Video graphically illustrates the advantages of vector-based artwork over its pixel-based (raster) based counterpart and illustrates why you should (almost) never design a logo in Photoshop.
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