Which logo file format do you need? Find your answer here as we explain JPG, PNG, EPS, PDF, AI, and other logo file formats.
You have a Dropbox full of logo files and your shirt printer wants to know if you have one in vector format. What’s vector format? Do you have that? Should you just send the same file you sent to your web developer? Keep reading (or jump to the infographic at the bottom) to understand the most common logo file formats and their uses.
Raster vs. vector graphics
Before we dive in to the file formats let’s clear up a few common terms regarding image files. Raster graphics or rasterized image files are “flat” files. They aren’t scalable, meaning as you increase the image size you’ll start to see the individual pixels. On the other hand, vector graphics are scalable. You can increase and decrease the image size without it getting pixelated.
Some image files support transparency, specifically transparent backgrounds. This is super useful when you want to put your logo on a background color other than pure white. Sometimes, transparency is shown with gray and white checks. No one’s suggesting you use a crazy gingham backdrop for your logo. It’s just the universally accepted way to display something that is by definition see through.
Joint Photographic Experts Group
Best for web/digital
The jpg, or jpeg, is arguably the most commonly used image file format. It was designed by photographers for use with photographs and photo-like images, so it works best for images with smooth transitions between colors. As a lossy compression format it’s a poor choice for graphics with sharp contrast between pixels. You shouldn’t try to edit a JPG because you’ll lose quality every time you decompress and recompress the file. JPGs are useful when a small file size is crucial, like in your email signature.
Portable Network Graphics
Best for web/digital
PNG was developed to avoid a lawsuit regarding the licensing of GIF technology back in 1994. While it typically has a larger file size than a JPG, it can compress further when storing images containing text, line art, and areas of solid color. (Sounds like a logo to me.) The transparency is infinitely useful in web applications and the lossless data compression results in cleaner, sharper images. That said, PNGs are raster files so you’ll see pixels if you try to increase the image size. PNG also doesn’t support color spaces for print.
Best for print
EPS is our favorite logo file format for print. Developed by Adobe in the mid-1980s, it’s transparent, scalable, and editable if you have the right software. It also has unlimited color capacity. We do a little office jig when a client has an EPS of their logo because it keeps the logo file from dictating the layout of the print piece due to its size and background. With a PNG for digital applications and an EPS for print, you can do anything you’d ever need to with your brand’s logo.
Portable Document Format
Can be used for print or web/digital
As the full name implies, Adobe didn’t develop the PDF as an image file format. But it’s become a popular way to transfer logos due to its vector format and transparency. We often use PDFs when showing logo drafts because just about any device still running in 2017 can read a PDF. While EPS and AI files require specialized preview software, PDFs were intended to be viewable regardless of software, hardware, or operating system. We don’t deliver final logos as PDF files, but if it’s the only format you have of your logo, a professional designer can use that for most print and digital applications.
Adobe Illustrator Artwork
Best for print
As opposed to the open standard formats above, AI is a proprietary file format by Adobe. Unless the file is saved with PDF compatibility, you can only view an AI with the appropriate Adobe software. That said, apparel printers particularly like receiving artwork in this format. AI is editable, scalable, and transparent. An EPS file can do anything an AI can do, but, as Adobe expands ease of transfer within its software programs, AIs are becoming more viable as a logo format.
Less common logo file formats
As you dig through your logo files, you may find some older or less common file extensions. A PSD is a raw Photoshop file that hasn’t been exported into a final, more usable format. While it’s editable, the file can’t be scaled up beyond the original pixel dimensions assigned. An SVG is another vector graphic form that is picking up new interest for web uses but has limited mobile support. GIF, pronounced by the original developer as “JIFF,” has lossless data compression but limited colors. Today GIFs are most known for the short animated clips that overrun your Facebook page. TIFF or TIF files are raster graphics that were developed for scanners. They can hold a lot of information for a flat image, but aren’t scalable. BMPs or Bitmaps are raster images that are uncompressed. Read “uncompressed” as “very large file” and “out of date.”
Do you have what you need?
With so many formats out there it may be tough to know what you need for your logo. Before embarking on a logo design or redesign, talk to your designer and make sure you know exactly which formats you’ll receive and how they can be used. Also ask if you’ll only receive the basic files or if there will be a logo usage guide or brand standards, furthering the logo’s usability and enhancing your brand. If you can’t locate any vector files of your current logo, you should talk to a branding firm about recreating or redesigning your logo in a usable format.
Here’s an awesome visual representation of all the info in this blog plus some bonus details on the less common file formats. If our guide isn’t enough to satisfy your hunger for image file facts, check out Wikipedia’s super detailed reference.
Have you had trouble deciphering logo lingo? How can we help you sort through your logo files? Drop your question in the comments.