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The Mysterious Vector File

August 27, 2015

eps-vector-designerAnd why do I need one?

As a designer working with non-design people for more than 20 years, I have to say the most “mysterious” and misunderstood element of graphic design is the vector file, also known as an EPS file.  What is it; why does it matter; and if I can’t open it then it must be broken!

What is a vector file? As a geek type who loves this stuff, I could go into passionate detail about how a vector file is made up of mathematical points, lines and curves and is a completely different approach to creating artwork when compared to raster graphics. (Raster graphics are dot matrix pixels and those are files like jpg, gif, png, and tif created in painting and photo softwares.) But if you are reading this post, it’s likely because you want to know this: A vector file is the highest resolution artwork file for best printing. It never looks grainy, pixelated or blurry – because it’s not made up of grains and pixels.

Why does a vector file matter to me? It’s the highest resolution file, yet is still a manageable file size. Yep, it’s so important I’m saying it a second time. Let’s say you envision your logo enlarged on billboards or want to print your brand on plastic shopping bags… that’s when your production company will ask for your vector logo. Usually we are talking logos, but more complex illustrations can be vector too. Because it’s made up of lines and curves (not pixels) it can infinitely enlarge without changing appearance. Remember when you enlarged that photo and it got blurry? Yeah, a vector file won’t do that.

If I can’t open it, then the file must be broken. As a designer, I’ve tried to explain this answer since the early ’90’s when I first discovered Adobe software. Typical computers and devices don’t have the right application to view an EPS file. Unless you have Adobe Illustrator installed (or similar) then the file probably looks blank or broken when you click to open it. That doesn’t mean it’s broken. It just means that you aren’t a designer or production artist. And that’s okay. It’s also why I send a jpeg file in conjunction with a vector, to avoid the panicked message, “I can’t open my file.”

Note: There are other vector file types such as AI, PDF and SVG. However, most production companies I’ve worked with request an EPS file for vector. Undoubtedly they find themselves explaining vector files to customers way more often than I do. Sticking with the most predominant EPS file keeps things simple.

How do I get a vector file? Be sure to ask your designer if you are getting your logo in vector. It’s best to have that clarified up front. Vector files can easily be converted to jpeg, png, pdf, tif, and more. But jpegs cannot be converted to vectors. Well… not without a good artist and more design charges!

Do you have a question about vector files? Ask it now.



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