Whether you are a business owner, a creative freelancer, or in need of new branding, you will require a logo. The details of logo development are more complex than meets the eye, and the incorrect file type or resolution can leave your logo a blurry, unusable mess.
Vector Logo vs. Raster Logo Vs. JPEG – Why does the format matter? Vectors will hands-down be the best file type for logo design; however, you will likely require a rasterized logo as well for digital compatibility and web optimization. JPEGs are a type of Raster logo.
Managing your brand brings all sorts of challenges that can become confusing when you are gambling with file types. Put your best foot forward and avoid all of the expensive reprints on your blurry merchandise, unreadable logo design, and impending failure in your digital marketing strategy. Use this comprehensive guide to understand the ins and outs of file types, why it matters, as well as our ultimate expertise on logo design and making a great logo!
Vector Logo vs. Raster Logo vs. JPEG- Why Does it Matter
Don’t feel bad for being initially overwhelmed. Training in graphic and marketing production takes years of education to gain the necessary expertise to avoid rookie mistakes.
As a fundamental overview of what this guide will encompass in detail, here is a look at the essential highlights:
|What is it?||A file type that is more adaptable to change, ideal for a logo design||A file type that is more detailed but less scalable, ideal for web||A type of Raster File|
|Why is it Used for?||Logos|
Photography & Screen icons
|Advantages||The best for logos|
More compatible because those without graphic design software can still access, download, and transfer raster files
|Disadvantages||Not as detailed as Raster|
Not as compatible and transferable for everyone to download
|Blurry for text|
Blurry when enlarged
Larger file size
What you should understand about each is that:
You will need Vector files for:
- Your proper logo
- Large-scale printing
- Small-scale printing
- Any text clarity (will be blurrier as a raster, especially if you attempt to enlarge it)
- Sending to your graphic designers, printers, and those that create merchandise or products with your logo on it
- Professionals that will have graphics-related software downloaded (therefore, able to access your vector file; whereas non-graphic professionals may not have the software to download your Vector)
- Overall marketing and branding with a high-quality logo type (vector being your best option)
You will need Raster files for:
- Your digital logo
- Your website
- All digital platforms including social media and any paid for promotion
- The highest form of detail
- General compatibility and transferability (with JPEG being the most commonly sent file).
Since JPEGs are a form of raster file, they will matter and be needed for the same reasons listed.
The Important Points
Before we dive into the details that create each of these file types, it is essential to understand some beginning foundation. The key takeaways to absorb are:
- Vectors are scalable lines, while rasters are pixelated dots.
- If you want the most professional look, you will need both file types. This will assist your brand in successfully creating a logo that is optimized for both print and digital formats.
- Regarding file transferring, a person that does not own graphic software such as Adobe Illustrator could download a raster file; however, a person that does not own the correct graphic software could not download a vector.
- You can tell if a file is a raster by zooming in on it and seeing jagged pixels – which is why a raster will not be the best choice for logos.
- You can still print and use digital branding with Vector alone.
- You can create raster files through vector files.
If You Had to Choose One?
When asked which file is the best, an expert will tell you without a doubt – Vector. There is a reason it is selected by professionals and not accessible to those that do not own graphic design software.
The main cases of what you will see happen are either:
- If someone works with you on a casual level and they do not possess any prior knowledge of the graphic design industry, they will likely send you a copy of their logo as a raster (not even realizing it).
- If you are working with printers, designers, creative vendors, or developers, they will send you a vector file (while realizing it with intention, knowing that vectors are the best file type).
If only creating one form of logo, you will need the vector file as this is the best type for a logo design.
We recommend creating both a vector and a rasterized image to have the proper file types for all of your versatile reproduction methods.
Although Vector is the best, you will still need both because:
- The world is digital.
- You will need a digitally-optimized logo for your website, social accounts, and easy compatibility.
- Not everyone you send it to will have Adobe Illustrator, meaning if it’s only Vector, they can’t access it.
Nevertheless, if you are being forced to select a single file type, the Vector is 100% the direction you must follow for success. When dealing in the world of external printing vendors and professionals, vectors will be the standard.
Vector Logo File Types
To understand the complex world of vector file types, what you need to understand about vectors are:
- Vector files are comprised of dots that have been mathematically scaled through an algorithm of points that create the image. These make Xs and Ys on a graph.
- These points connect themselves through closely-knit lines and arcs, by which the designer can scale the image and reduce the curves (also known as paths).
- The paths can be scaled to be smaller or larger, and it will not influence or compromise the integrity of the logo design.
Vector files are created in:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe InDesign
Programs such as Adobe Photoshop are raster-based and will not be capable of producing vectors.
What are Vectors Used for?
Vectors are used for the most professional printing means. You will require a vector for:
- Your logo or insignia
- Any printed advertising
- Merchandise, products, and apparel
- Banner printing
- Magazine advertising
- Newspaper advertising
- Directory advertising (such as Yellow Pages or printed ads)
- Flyers and leaflets
- Handouts and point-of-sale advertising
- Postcards and direct mail advertising
- When you digitally need large letters
- Corporate jet logos
- Bus ads
- Even when you need high-resolution digital files (such as in Clip Art)
Types of Vector Files
You will be able to tell if the file is a vector because it’s file name will be followed by one of these initials:
To understand these in-depth:
Adobe Illustrator File (Al)
This file type is created using the software it is titled after, Adobe Illustrator. This creates a raw vector which is then able to be edited into other files, such as a raster. This will be the most commonly-used file type for professionals within the branding and marketing industry.
Encapsulated PostScript (EPS)
ESPs are ideal when you are printing large-scale projects. You can still create this within Adobe Illustrator or illustration software programs like Coral Draw.
The reason that professionals are drawn to ESPs are:
- They are small
- Do not take up large amounts of resolution, bandwidth, or computer storage
- Easily scalable
- Easily editable
- They are more compatible than Al files – able to be accessed if the receiver owns Microsoft Word
- Considered one of the most universal vectors
Portable Document Format (PDF)
As another software program developed by Adobe Creative Suite, Acrobat is the program in which you will access your PDF files.
These will not be ideal for logos because they are more like a document or sheet of paper. They are flat and most popularly utilized for logos as the designers are showing drafts, not finished products. PDFs can also be raster files, but you will select that specification as you save.
You will still want a copy of your logo on PDF because:
- It is compatible and transferrable – viewable regardless of your software, hardware, or OS
- It is a transparent version of your Vector
- Able to be used within print or digital/web capacities
Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG)
The last of our vectors, SVGs are ideal if you need a vector that is optimized for the web. These are considered highly-valuable because you can scale them easily without loss of clarity or quality.
Since they are based in XML (Extensible Markup Language; programming and coding language), this means that anyone can view them regardless of the type of browser, software, or device.
You will require an SVG for:
- Creating an app or mobile-optimized file type
- Websites, if you want a more flexible-file type compared to raster files
- Any digital means
Advantages of Vector Files
To summarize, the reasons that people require and enjoy using vectors are because they are:
- The industry standard
- Compatible with print and digital means
- More professional
- A printing service or design team will ask for it
- Vectors are capable of creating raster files
- More flexible and able to be manipulated
- More scalable
- Sharper in appearance
- Can be resized and will not become blurry or appear pixelated
- Files are smaller resolution than rasters
- Takes up less storage on your computer than a raster file; more efficient
- Use formulas instead of blocks and pixels; more curved and natural
- More options to add special effects than with a raster (stylizations such as shadows, highlights, patterns, etc.)
- Ideal for text
- Known as the ‘master-file’
- Ideal for print
Disadvantages of Vector Files
Every powerful entity has its drawbacks. Some of the reasons that vectors are not perfect for everything include:
- Not as compatible
- Not as easily transferrable to non-industry professionals
- Not as detailed (also why it takes up less storage)
- Sometimes considered the more complex and challenging option
Raster Logo File Types
You may be starting to gain a clearer image of what rasters have to offer after reading about vector fundamentals and comparing them to rasters.
As opposed to the lines and algorithms that create vectors, rasters are created using dots and pixels.
Rasters files, also known as bitmap images, are created through the use of tens of millions of pixels (tiny squares) that come together to create an image. As mentioned, if you zoom in on the picture and see little tiny grid-like patterns, you are looking at a raster file.
What are Rasters Used for?
You will require a raster for:
- Guerrilla advertising
- Social media marketing
- Web advertising
- Digital advertising
- Television advertising
Types of Raster Files
You will notice that you are working with a raster file when the file name ends with the main four raster file types of:
- TIF (TIFF)
Or the few lesser-used raster types of:
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)
A JPEG is one of the most common raster images that will be sent. It is a PSD (photoshop file) that has been converted for universal compatibility and easy transferring.
When you are on the internet, most of the images you see are JPEGS.
To offer you a closer understanding of the most prominent raster file type, here are the pros and cons of JPEGS:
The Pros of JPEGS
- Most common file type on the internet
- Functional for mobile or desktop viewing
- Easy to create
- Easy to code
- Easily compressible
- Smaller file sizes than other rasters. If they are too high in resolution, the website will take a long time to load. So, the smaller the file size (without disrupting the quality) – the better!
The Cons of JPEGS
- As the file is compressed, it begins to blur
- Quickly loses its quality
- Not supportive of file transparency
- Always going to have a white or black background, like a PDF, it’s as if they are stuck to a piece of paper; they will not be the custom shape of your logo’s outline.
- Not ideal or suited for logos
Portable Network Graphics (PNG)
The main reason that you would want to utilize a PNG over a JPEG is if you need to use a file format that is supportive of transparency.
PNGs are lossless, which means they are optimal for the web and graphics. They will be quite small, so if you try to expand them with a heavy hand, you may not be able to decipher the image easily.
PNGs also offer a smaller file size that won’t take up much storage in your computer, but it is still larger than JPEG. This file type is not the most commonly used because it won’t work for printing materials; however, PNGs will function well for:
- Digital images
- Website photography
Graphic Interchange Format (GIF)
You are likely familiar with GIFs (often pronounced as a Gif or Jiff); these are the animated files that do a little dance or move for about one to three seconds.
GIFs are small files that are commonly used for entertaining social media content and moving memes. Most often, you will see these for:
- Digital advertising
- Social media advertising
- Web banners
They are not easily compressible and can quickly become blurry. GIFs are also not the most professional file type; however, they are very engaging and fun. If your approach requires a more relatable and causal-tone, GIFs can be a quick way to add movement into your ad.
If you want a logo that is digitally optimized and animated – GIF will be your go-to option.
Tagged Image Format File (TIFF)
TIF, or TIFFs, create high-quality graphics that can either be compressed or uncompressed. TIFFs will be much larger than a JPEG, and therefore, they will:
- Be able to be lossless
- Be multi-layered and have a greater depth than JPEGs
- Take up more space in your computer
- Upload on a website significantly slower than a JPEG
You will use a TIFF file for:
- Archiving intermediate files
- Keeping files open for future edits
- Easy compatibility (since non-compressible)
- Printing and publishing (Vector being superior, nonetheless)
A few tips if using a TIFF file are:
- Do not compress multiple times, as this can ruin the file
- Keep image noise low
Advantages of Raster/JPEG Files
The reasons to use a raster file include:
- More detail than a vector
- More intricate
- Very precise regarding editing (you can edit dot-by-dot if you wish)
- Optimized for digital and web capacities
- Sophisticated advertisements and illustrations will require Vector as well as raster formatting
- Compatible for those that don’t own professional graphic software (if you own Photoshop or Microsoft Office Suite, you can open a raster file in Word)
- Easily transferrable to those not within the industry
Disadvantages of Raster/JPEG Files
- Not easily scalable or stretchable
- Not as professional
- Becomes blurry, cube-like, or grainy when you try to enlarge
- Can offer ragged edges that are not aesthetically-pleasing
- Larger file size than Vector (not as simple so complicated files will take up more storage)
- Files have to load pixel-by-pixel, time-consuming
- Not as sharp or clear
- Not ideal for text
- Therefore, not as suitable for logos
Especially if your logo is text-based, avoid rasters.
But What If You Do Not Have a Vector?
What if you are new to this and did not have the right software? What if you only have the everyday raster file of your logo to go off of?
Do not panic; you can hire a graphic professional to recreate it.
We know this is not the best news; however, this is the step we recommend taking if you want a professional logo that will grow with you for long-term usability.
You do not want to start your business solely with the raster image, only to later have to recreate it. This can lead to:
- Confusing your patrons and clients
- Ruining your brand recognition
- Lowering client retention and confusing brand loyalty
Keep it clear from the start, even if that means scratching your former concept and starting over with a file that can be vectorized!
How to Design Your Vector Logo in Adobe Illustrator
You will want to create a vector right at the beginning of your process to create a brand identity. The process to do this includes the following steps:
- Open a new file in Adobe Illustrator and save it as an AI file.
- Create a new layer, lock it because this will keep it from moving while you are working on it. Keep your base layer and shape of your logo as its own layer, separate from colors, texts, or overlay patterns. This way, you can change all of that later if you desire.
- Take the outline of your logo and save this as an EPS (before adding text to your logo):
- Select ‘Export with Transparency’
- Feel free to save a PNG at this point as well, to save the image-aspect of your logo in versatile file types before you experiment with the text.
- Check off ‘Export to Web’ function if desired for this purpose.
- Add any text and experiment with tools such as:
- Drop shadows
- Inner Glows
- Special Effects, etc.
- You can share files quickly through Dropbox or Google.
Determining the Proper Resolution
The resolution you should save your logo at will depend on what your goal for your logo is:
- If you are using it for web/digital means – You will want a resolution of 72-DPI (dots per inch) for a field or layout of about 1024×768 pixels.
- If you are using it for printing means – You will want a resolution of 300-DPI at 100% size.
The most common vector logo file types will be:
The most common raster logo file types will be:
- PNG (JPEGs will be most common for the internet; however PNGs are more popular for digital logos)
- ESP (if printing)
Transparency is related to the background. As mentioned, PDF and JPEGs are similar in the sense that they are stuck to a sheet of paper; you want a logo that can conform to its natural shape, meaning, if your logo is a triangle, you want only that triangle – not the white rectangular background attached to it.
The best file types that will support transparency are:
- Any vector type should support this
Most Popular Sizes
Additionally, consider the size at which you will require based on the finished-product you are seeking (digital or print).
Favicons (the small icon logo that is attached to each tab that you are working on using a desktop) are scalable to the most commonly used sizes of:
- 16 by 16
- 32 by 32
- 48 by 48
Horizontal orientations should be set to sizes of:
- 250 by 150
- 350 by 75
- 400 by 100
Vertical orientations should be set to sizes of:
- 160 by 160
Final Tips for Your Logo Design
Your logo may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but as the visual representation of your company, it can make or break you. There is nothing that comes off less professional than a blurry logo. Use vectors any time that you are unsure, as they will be optimal for printing so long as the resolution is set to 300+ (some designers setting this up to 1,000+ for large-scale jobs).
A few final tips to consider while designing your logo are:
- Keep it Simple – Think of the Apple logo, you can tell what it is from across the street, from far away, from up-close, on print, on an app, etc. It is recognizable! This is what you want your logo to do for you. If it is too cluttered with words, you won’t be able to scale it within the bounds of being easily recognized.
- Be Certain it is Scalable – Related to its simplicity, ask yourself if it would look good as a letterhead, as well as a billboard.
- Try Black and White – If it only looks good in color, it’s not an optimal logo. Not all printing will allow you to have color, consider this while designing your logo.
- Reflect your Niche – Your logo should give a first-time viewer an idea of what you do. If they can’t tell what the business is immediately, you will struggle to attract the right audience because they won’t know what you’re offering.
- Fonts Set a Tone – Think of Disney’s logo; it is playful and whimsical. If you are a more serious brand, allow your text and the font style you choose to reflect your brand’s personality.
- Quality Sets the Business Standard – For what you deliver to clients and for everything else that your business will do! If the client sees that you provide a blurry logo that is unreadable, they will not trust you with their business.
Your logo is how you represent your brand, so you must be careful and intentional about this. Viewers will make up their minds about the first impression in a proven tenth of a second!
If you only have less than a second to prove what your business is made of, what will you do with it?