Understanding the different forms of file types can be confusing, especially when it comes to vector images. When one of our customers wants to print a vinyl banner featuring their logo, we always ask them to send their logo as a vector image. Of course, the response we often receive after asking this question is, “Huh? What’s a vector image? Can’t you just take my logo from my Facebook page and make it big?”

Sure we can, but trust me when I say this—you won’t like the result.

And there’s a good reason why.

But first, you need to understand the difference between two forms of artwork: raster and vector images.

Raster images

Raster images, which are commonly saved as .jpg and .png files (among others), use tiny pixels to form a clear, complete image.

The big advantage of raster images is that they can be incredibly detailed and complex. For example, photographs are raster images. Photographs can include the smallest of details, such as a person’s laugh lines, wispy hairs, and eyelashes.

Raster images are also what you see online. When you’re looking at your friends’ photos on Facebook or Apple’s logo on the company’s homepage, for example, you’re viewing raster images. 

Unfortunately, raster images also come with a big disadvantage: once you scale (i.e. enlarge) a raster image beyond its original size, it will lose its clarity and appear pixelated.

Now let’s think back to that Facebook image of your logo you want “blown up” onto a vinyl banner. If you try to use an image from social media or your website, it’s going to be a raster image. While it might look sharp and clear on your computer screen, keep in mind its file size might only be 300 x 300 pixels. So when you try to enlarge it beyond that size to place it on a large banner, the resolution of the image will decrease.

The result? A blurry, pixelated logo on your banner.

And no one wants their logo to look like that.

The good news is, there’s a solution: vector images.

Vector images

Vector images, on the other hand, are not made of a fixed number of tiny pixels. Instead, they’re made from mathematical paths, which are lines, shapes, and points. Common file types of vector images include .EPS, .AI, and .PDF files.

 

Since they are made from mathematical formulas, vector images can be drastically increased in size without ever losing quality. Although they are not as detailed as raster images, vector images come with a big plus: they are infinitely scalable.

You can take your vector logo and place it on as large of a vinyl banner as you can imagine, and it’ll still look sharp.

 

For this reason, vector images are the preferred artwork files for print, especially when you’re printing large format products such as banners and signage.

Ask your graphic designer for vector files of your logo and keep them on hand for your print projects. If you cannot obtain vector files, then make sure you have the highest resolution version of your raster image. As long as it’s at least 300 pixels per inch for printing (or 100 pixels per inch for large format printing), your design will still look good.