Understanding the Differences Between Image File Types

JPG, PNG, PDF, AI, PSD, TIF, INDD: you have probably heard of at least one of these different image file types. But what are the differences among them all, and what is the best file type to submit to CatPrint to get the highest quality prints possible?

There are two fundamentally different types of files: VECTOR files (i.e. PDF and EPS) and RASTER files (everything else like JPG and PNG).

Vector files can contain bitmaps without any loss of information, but converting a vector into a raster image file will lose information. We will offer a brief rundown of each file type below:

JPG:

JPG is an acronym for “Joint Photographic Experts Group.” JPGs are raster image files, which are an ideal option for website images.

Why are JPGs preferred for websites? This is because when you save image files as JPGs, the process discards information that is not needed for website viewing and even many forms of printing. As a result, JPGs are generally small in terms of file size, and will load quickly on websites.

However, because the file size is smaller, there is a common misconception that JPGs should not be used for printing. If saved properly in a professional graphic design program such as Photoshop, JPGs can be used for high quality digital printing.

JPGs are a great file option if you plan to print your designs through CatPrint.

PNG:

PNG stands for “Portable Network Graphic.” PNGs are raster files like JPGs and are also commonly used for web based images. Unlike JPGs, PNGs can have transparent backgrounds and are generally higher quality, which means a larger file size. PNGs can also be saved at 300dpi for print use as well. CatPrint accepts PNG files.

PDF:

A PDF, or “Portable Document format” is a vector image file. PDFs are the standard for electronic document exchange. PDFs appear on screen as they would if they were printed. PDFs can also contain multiple pages so it is handy if you are printing a multiple page job. Printing digitally from a PDF is ideal, and it is recommended for printing with CatPrint. However, be sure that your fonts are embedded and your files are flattened before submitting.

TIF:

A “Tagged Image File” is a high quality raster image file. TIFs have no loss in quality, and as a result, often results in a large file. While CatPrint accepts TIF files, we generally consider them to be “overkill” for standard 300 DPI digital printing. Most people cannot tell the difference between a TIF or JPG when printed digitally at CatPrint.

AI:

An AI file is an “Adobe Illustrator” file which is commonly used for logo design and digital illustration.  AI files should be converted to flattened PDFs, with embedded fonts, as we cannot print from an AI file itself.

PSD:

A PSD file or “Adobe Photoshop Document”  is a file created in Photoshop which allows designers to create and manipulate multiple text, image, shape, and gradient layers. Instead of submitting PSD files to CatPrint, we recommend that you flatten and save them as JPGs, and then submitting the JPGs to CatPrint.

INDD:

INDD stands for “Adobe InDesign File.” INDD files are created in InDesign and are commonly used for page layouts. We recommend saving InDesign files as flattened PDFs with embedded fonts before submitting the PDFs to CatPrint.

So, what is the best option for submitting files to CatPrint?

If you are designing using a vector program (such as Illustrator or InkScape), you should send us your PDFs with embedded fonts and the appropriate flattening options on.

If you are starting with a photo, and using Photoshop or Gimp, send us a 300 DPI JPG, with q factor of at least 90. Just be sure that the original photos are both of high resolution and quality.

If you are using Photoshop but there are no photos involved in your work, you may want to consider using a vector program like Illustrator or Inkscape, the latter which is a free program similar to Illustrator. There is a learning curve, but most artists would agree that the switch is worthwhile.

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About

CatPrint is a boutique color printing company offering premium short run printing via the internet. When founded in 2004, the company was operated out of the owner's basement. Today, CatPrint has expanded into a cutting-edge web establishment, employing a team of workers with expertise in the fields of graphic design, productions and customer service. We also guarantee the use of the largest and most innovative digital presses available to us. Throughout our development, we strive to remain a customer-conscious organization, always trying to offer the most satisfying printing experience. Remember, our main concern is always you – the customer!

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