If you’ve recently received a brand-new logo design as part of a business launch or rebrand, you’re probably excited to start using it as soon as possible. Websites, business cards, bus stop ads, t-shirts, the works—you’re going to want to stick your logo everywhere you can.
Before you unveil your new logo to the world, though, it’s important to pause and make sure you’re using it correctly.
While your logo design itself may be the same no matter where it appears, the type of file used in each instance may be different. It's crucial to have the correct file types on hand so you can easily print out or upload your logo online without issue. Otherwise, you may wind up with a blurry billboard and a box of misprinted mugs.
If you’re feeling confused about different logo file types or aren’t sure what is the best logo file format to use, this guide will help you understand:
- Vector vs. raster graphics for logo design
- Common logo file formats
- The best file formats for logos
- Which file format is best for websites?
- Which is the best for printing a logo?
- When to work with a professional logo designer
Vector vs. raster graphics for logo design
All digital files are either vector images or raster images. The two file types often appear similar at first glance but are structured differently. It's important to understand the difference between the two. This way, you can be sure you're getting the right kind of logo file for your project.
Designers create vector images with logo design software like Adobe Illustrator.
A graphic designer should create your logo in vector format. You can make a vector image as small as a postage stamp and as large as a billboard without losing any quality.
Vector image file formats are unique for several reasons:
- They are always graphics, not photographs.
- You can export vector images to raster file formats.
- They utilize smooth lines and points that automatically scale or shrink when you resize the file.
- Vector graphics are very high quality and will not become blurry or pixelated when resized. Every line remains smooth and crisp.
- Vector images are a smaller file size than their raster counterparts.
Every time you take a photograph with a digital camera or smartphone, you generate a raster image. These files are widely compatible with computer systems and are easy to share with others.
You may convert any raster image into other raster file types, but never into a vector format.
Raster image file formats differ from vectors in several ways:
- Raster images may be graphics or photographs.
- Raster images contain thousands of tiny square pixels. Each pixel is assigned a different color.
- Each pixel has a defined size and may be made smaller but not larger.
- If you zoom in closely on a raster image, you will begin to see these pixels. The pixels can create a jagged or blurry effect if you make a raster image too large.
- Raster images are very data-heavy and often larger in size than vectors.
Vector and raster images may be one of several different file types. You might need two or more of these file types to use your logo in different ways.
Common logo file formats
When working with logo files, you may see any of these common file extensions:
Not all formats are created equal. Some of these different logo file formats are better for use in print than on the web, and vice versa.
The best file formats for logos
Sometimes, your website CMS or printer will specify the best logo file format for a project. If not, you'll have to make a choice based on how you will use the file.
In addition to considering whether a file type is a vector or a raster, it's also important to think about the file's resolution and color profile.
Image resolution is the number of color points that may appear within one square inch of a design. The higher this number, the more likely it is that an image will be crisp and colorful. Image resolution is either:
- Dots per inch (DPI) when discussing logo file formats for print
- Pixels per inch (PPI) when working with a logo file format for websites
When printing a logo, the file must have a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. A digital logo file must have a resolution of at least 72 PPI.
Color profiles indicate how a printer or a computer monitor creates the wide variety of colors used in different logo design file formats.
Digital images have an RGB color profile. When a file has an RGB color profile, every color in the image is created by blending red, green, and blue pixels.
Printed images have a CMYK color profile. Files with this profile blend cyan, magenta, yellow, and black dots to create other colors.
AI - Adobe Illustrator
AI files are vector images created in Adobe Illustrator. Many graphic design professionals will save a design as an AI file before exporting it to one of the other file types on this list. The original AI design file is known as the "source file" or "working file."
AI files may have either a CMYK or RGB color profile.
- AI files are easy to resize while retaining image quality
- Designers may export AI files to other formats for print and web use, including raster file types.
- Image components are layered, making it easier for designers to make changes
- AI files can have a transparent background.
- These files work well with other Adobe programs like Photoshop or InDesign.
- Requires the use of Adobe Illustrator to view or edit files
- Designers cannot directly upload AI files to a website without exporting them to another file type first.
PNG - Portable Network Graphic
All PNG files are high-resolution raster images. The images work well across computer systems and web browsers. As a result, clients and developers find PNG files a good choice for many applications.
PNG files have an RGB color profile.
- PNG files can display up to 16 million colors.
- There is minimal loss of clarity when compared to the source file.
- It does not require proprietary software to view or edit a PNG file.
- PNG files can have a transparent background.
- PNG files often have large file sizes and may need to be compressed further for web use.
- Even with compression, PNG files may load slowly on websites.
JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group
JPEGs (also known as JPG files) are a standard logo file format for digital use. Clients and developers often use JPEG files. While JPEGs have a slightly lower resolution than PNG files, JPEG images load faster on websites.
JPEG files may have an RGB or CMYK color profile.
- JPEG files can be compressed to varying degrees, reducing image file size.
- They load quickly on websites.
- JPEGs are suitable for both print and web use.
- These files do not require proprietary software for viewing and editing.
- JPEG files work across web browsers and operating systems.
- JPEGs cannot have a transparent background.
- High compression levels may make pixelation more apparent.
SVG - Scalable Vector Graphic
Web developers primarily use SVG files. These image files contain code and text that may be manipulated and changed along with the rest of a website. This encoded information is not visible to anyone browsing the website.
SVG files have an RGB color profile.
- The files may be resized without losing quality.
- SVG files will not become pixelated at any size.
- A file can contain embedded keywords and SEO data.
- SVG files have a very small size when correctly optimized.
- SVG files are suitable for still images or website animations.
- The files can have a transparent background.
- They are compatible across web browsers and operating systems.
- SVG files may not be suitable for printed projects.
- Poorly optimized SVG files may be large in size.
- It requires some knowledge of coding to take advantage of every feature that SVG files offer.
EPS - Encapsulated PostScript
Many commercial printing vendors still prefer EPS files, which include PostScript coding data. Printing and engraving machines read this code.
EPS files have a CMYK color profile.
- Files are vector-based and easily scalable.
- EPS files maintain a very high resolution suitable for printing.
- They are compatible with legacy and modern printing software.
- Designers can easily convert an EPS file into raster file types.
- The files are not suitable for web or app usage.
- It requires proprietary software or equipment to view, edit, and print an EPS file.
PDF - Portable Document Format
Designers, their clients, and printers all utilize PDF files. This file type is excellent for both print and web-based projects. PDF files may be compressed at different rates, offering various resolutions for digital and printed material.
PDF files may have an RGB or CMYK color profile.
- PDFs are compatible with all modern web browsers, computer systems, and smartphones.
- It does not require proprietary software to view a PDF.
- The files can be locked or password-protected.
- PDFs are suitable for print and web use.
- A PDF can be a raster or a vector file.
- PDFs do not support transparent backgrounds.
- They are not easily editable without a program like Adobe Acrobat.
PSD - Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop is a professional image editing program used to manipulate raster images. Professional photographers often use this file type. Designers should not create logos in Adobe Photoshop, but they may export an AI file to Photoshop. A graphic designer may export AI files to PSD when incorporating a logo into an image, like a watermark.
Photoshop files may have either a CMYK or RGB color profile.
- Photoshop supports high-resolution raster image editing.
- PSD image components are layered, making it easier for designers to make changes.
- These files can have a transparent background.
- Viewing PSD files requires the use of Adobe Photoshop.
- Designers typically cannot enlarge PSDs without sacrificing image quality
- You cannot directly upload a PSD file to a website without exporting it to another logo file format first.
Ultimately, while the file type you use may vary between projects, it's always a good idea to choose a vector logo file whenever possible.
Which file format is best for websites?
SVG files are the best logo file format for displaying logos online, thanks to their high resolution, small file size, support for transparent backgrounds, and encoded data. Because SVG files are vector-based, you never have to worry about your file looking blurry or pixelated.
If SVG files are not an option for your project, these other file types are also suitable for use in web design:
- JPEG files are quick to load, compatible with all web browsers, and get compressed in a way that is usually not visible to the naked eye online.
- PNG files are ideal if your website background color is anything other than white. The ability to have a transparent background in PNG files means your logo will appear to be floating wherever you place it.
- GIF files are a suitable lower-resolution alternative to SVG files when support for animation is required.
Which is the best for printing a logo?
Unless otherwise specified by a printing vendor, high-resolution PDF files are the best choice for print use. Sending a logo as a PDF ensures the recipient can open and view the file on any device without compatibility issues.
Other great file types for printing a logo include:
- EPS files, thanks to the fact they are compatible with printing equipment from the 1980s to today. If a file type is not specified, sending printers both PDF and EPS files may be a good choice.
- AI files that retain all the original logo design elements and layers without any compression or changes. If a printer has access to Adobe Illustrator software, they can view AI files and export them to any other file type as needed.
When to work with a professional logo designer
Working with a professional logo designer ensures you have the correct logo file type, color profile, and resolution for every project. Upwork’s Project Catalog™ makes it easy to view logo designers’ rates and portfolios before reaching out—so you can be sure their services align with your brand and budget.
Start by browsing available logo design services to find the right independent professional experienced in logo design, and have a new logo for your brand in a matter of days.
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