Choosing the suitable "save as" file type for printing graphics.

So you’ve spent days on end producing the perfect graphical masterpiece and it is ready to be printed onto your designated/chosen product, but it is only when you receive your sample when you come to realise that the graphic quality is poor, pixelated and blurred.

Of course, there is the chance that the manufacturer does not have the qualities or correct equipment to produce such artwork, but the majority of the time, the value of final graphic quality simply comes down to the file you have sent them. 

When it comes to saving your work, you are confronted by a vast range of file types of which you can save as, and believe it or not, each one has their own qualities and characteristics which are suited for specific uses of the file.

Below are a list of common and industry standard file types:

EPS- for sending /exporting files for print
GIF- Gradually being replaced by PNG 
JPEG-Create and exchange digital photographs 
PDF-Open format and good for sharing images 
PNG-Compress without loosing image quality 
TIFF-Recommended file format (both PC/MAC)

It must be noted that not all factories accept every file type, each one deals with a specific few. One of the main causes for poor printing output is due to the file handling at the other end (factory). For example, if you are sending a jpeg file it will have already been compressed upon initial save, resulting in a slight loss of quality, which means if the receiver was to adjust the file in size and alter its measurements, then the chance of it developing how you expect is near to nothing. This is why choosing the most suitable file is vital. 

The industry standard graphic software used to create artwork is the Adobe suite; Photoshop and Illustrator. Whilst both are very similar in ways that they are used, their file types (PSD and AI) have different characteristics.

PSD files are bitmap based files. Bitmap images are constructed by a pattern of dots or pixels. Each pixel has an assigned colour. The information stored in a bitmap image ,regarding pixel location and colour, is what forms the image. Bitmap images are edited at the pixel level; in other words, the colour of any one pixel can be changed. So when scaling a PSD file, quality will not remain the same as pixels are not being added to build up the bigger picture.

AI files are vector based files. Vector graphics are constructed from mathematical functions that return a consistently scaled image when you supply it a different input size. Vector Graphics can be resized to any size without losing quality. Logos are commonly created in this format so they can easily be printed at any size needed, and maintain their quality. 

So when would a factory have to alter your image? For example, if a text logo was to be applied onto a curved surface, the length or height may have to be increased in order to appear visually identical to the initial graphic as the text has to cover a curved surface.

So from this we can clearly understand that the most ideal file type to use is an AI file. This is due to a variety of reasons, mainly due the fact that the final image size is reasonable, allowing easier transportation between designer and factory. Another reason is that super high quality graphics can be achieved but also keeping a consistent quality if the image was to be altered. So next time you are creating a file for end user use, the best option would be to create it in Photoshop Illustrator, saving the file as an AI.