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If you’ve ever gone to a sign shop, cresting or embroidery shop, or any design or print studio to get your marketing materials designed or printed, there’s a good chance that one of the very first questions you’ve been asked is “can you supply us with a vector version of your logo?”

Of course, you have no idea what they’re talking about. Your first instinct may be to send them a JPEG as soon as you get back to the office. Do this and you’re guaranteed to be the butt of every inside joke at the shop for the forseeable future. The question is, do you really know what you are providing?

All I have are these Corel Draw files. The guy who made them is dead now.

What is a vector file?

There are two general types of image files – raster and vector. Best defined, a raster file is an image consisting of a grid of pixels that can be compressed into different formats including GIF, PNG or JPG. So those selfies you posted to Instagram last weekend – those are raster files.

If you’ve ever tried to take a JPG image off of Facebook for example and enlarge it to fit on a poster, you’ll notice that the image becomes blurry. The problem with raster files is that when enlarged, each square within that grid also becomes enlarged and your image processing software has no idea what to do with all of that extra new space. It tries to fill it the best it can, but it’s still guessing what each new pixel should look like.

A vector file is much more complex. Vector files use a series of points, lines and various geometric equations to determine what an image looks like. A vector image can fit on the side of a pen or on the side of a blimp and keep the same quality, crispness and detail. Some file types generally associated with vector files include .ai and .eps.

printshops-rastervector

It’s quite possible that your company may not have a logo in vector format. If you’ve created your company logo yourself or purchased one from an online logo creation website, you may not necessarily have a vector logo at your disposal. If your company predates the digital age for logo design (back when everything was created through the CMYK layering process), it’s also possible that you may not have ever had a need to have a vector logo on hand. In any case if you don’t have a vector logo, be aware that doing any kind of embroidery or cresting will be pretty much impossible. I would recommend putting a small budget aside to get that bad boy converted. Anyone with a decent knowledge of imaging software should be able to convert an old raster logo over to vector for a reasonable price.

It’s also always a good idea to ask your print shop what type of formats they prefer, since every printer setup is different. Then you’ll know exactly what to hand over or you can relay the message to your designer and save a whole lot of needless back and forth and chasing down. Your print shop will thank you by taking your photo off the dart board in the lunch room.

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