Vector art. Constantly we’re asking you, our customers, for vector art. And more likely than not, it’s confusing to a lot of you.
I’ll try my best to explain why vector art is preferred by almost all of our suppliers.
First some definitions:
Vector – created in programs like Illustrator, Freehand, Corel Draw. Made up of points, lines and shapes (vectors). Can be scaled up or down without losing quality. Does not have resolution. Files can be .ai, .eps, .pdf, .cdr, .fh.
Raster – created in programs like Photoshop or digital cameras & scanners. Made up of pixels. Enlarging will create jagged edges and a loss of quality. Files can be .eps, .jpg, .png, .gif, .pdf, .ps.
Resolution – the measurement of quality in an image, based on the pixels or dots per inch. High resolution images are usually around 300dpi, while low resolution images are usually below 200dpi.
As you see from my definitions above, and the file types, there are some that can be either raster or vector. It all comes down to how files were created, not so much how they were saved.
If you send us a pdf file, sometimes it’s vector, sometimes it’s raster — it all depends on where it started. PDF files created from Illustrator are vector, but if they were created in Photoshop, or maybe from a computer that can save a printout as a pdf, it’s actually the same as a jpeg file.
Now, why do suppliers almost always want vector artwork? Because it’s the best file format in which to reproduce your artwork. It can be resized, colors separated and elements manipulated fairly easily. Of course, there are exceptions, such as 4C process, but in most cases, a completely vector file is the best way to get your artwork reproduced clearly.
If the only artwork you have is a Photoshop file, an image such as a jpeg, or art you’ve downloaded off a website (normally 72dpi), more than likely, it’s raster artwork. Placing this artwork inside an Illustrator file will not work. In most cases, it will have to be recreated in a vector format. (Which we can usually get done for $25 or less).
The problem with raster artwork that’s not being used as a 4C process imprint, is that it can’t be enlarged without degrading the quality of the image. If the image starts off being 72dpi, there’s even less chance of it being usable, unless it’s going to be reduced to at least a quarter of it’s original size.
Vector artwork is also much easier to manipulate. Elements can be removed or added with relative ease. The colors can be changed on each element without much problem. With raster artwork, you can’t easily select individual elements and change them.
There will be times that artwork needs to be supplied as raster, especially in cases where the imprint includes photos. In these cases, suppliers normally will need raster artwork that is at the size of the imprint area or larger, and 300dpi resolution.
Whatever it takes, we will always do our best to get your artwork to the supplier in the best format possible so that your imprint looks the best it can. With my 20+ years experience in graphics, I can help you supply us with the best artwork possible, and guide you to what will work well for your project.