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Image Quality Support
When printing from digital files, the most important factor for creating an attractive printed piece is the quality of the image provided.
Without a good quality image, the printed sign will not have the quality you desire. Let’s look at the basics to get you started.
What is Pixelation?
When a raster image is scaled down, the image can become pixelated, also referred to as blurry/fuzzy or being able to see little boxes in the image. You can see an example below. To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to use a VECTOR image rather than a raster image.
Vector Graphics vs. Raster Graphics
Images that are vector based (.ai, .eps, .svg, and some .pdf) are made up of points, lines and curves. They are considered mathematical equations. If you made that circle 100 times larger than you originally had it, the mathematical formula would still calculate a red circle. This means that no matter how you resize vector images, they will scale properly and there will never be any pixelation.
Non-vector files, called raster graphics, (.bmp, .jpg, .png, .gif, .tif, etc.) are created using a grid of pixels. Each pixel is a specific color and those colors, when placed together, create a larger image. When attempting to make them into a larger image, they are being stretched and, therefore, begin to look blurry or fuzzy.
Vector files are much better to use for any kind of sign because they can be easily scaled without losing the quality of the original file. This is not true of raster-based images.
It should be noted that not all images can be vectorized. Photographs are one example of an image that can’t be changed into a vector file.
High Resolution Raster Images
Sometimes a raster image can be used for a sign. It must be a high-resolution image to work. To determine if an image will work, you’ll want to look at the pixels per inch (PPI), also sometimes referred to as dots per inch (DPI). To see if your image has the requisite dots per inch (DPI), you can right-click on the image on your computer and click “Properties”. Next, click the “Details” tab. If you scroll down, you will see both the image size and the DPI. On a Mac, open the image in Preview, click Tools > Show Inspector. The Windows and Mac screenshots respectively are shown below.
300 DPI is the preferred minimum if you want to use a raster image file for your sign. 150 DPI or higher may work, depending on the image, but 300 DPI is preferred.
What If A Raster File Isn’t A High Enough Resolution?
We need to get a larger file.
If your image was created by a graphic designer: If you are able to reach out to the original creator of the file, see if they are able to provide you with the VECTOR PDF version of your file. Oftentimes, the original designer will have created a vector version of the file.
If you created the image/logo yourself: Retrieve your original file and be sure to save at the pixel size our design tool is recommending. Many of our clients use Canva to create their logos, please watch the video below with tips on saving your Canva design for the best print. If you need help with this, you can share your design with us at email@example.com. We are happy to look at it for you.
Sometimes people will use an image editor such as Photoshop to change the resolution. This will not likely get you the results you are looking for
Here is a raster version of our logo at 72 pixels per inch:
Here it is resampled at 300 pixels per inch:
There are small differences, but the problem wasn’t really solved.
NEVER CLICK ON AN IMAGE FROM THE WEB AND “SAVE AS” FOR LARGE FORMAT PRINTING!
This is by far the biggest issue people run into when creating a large sign. What you see on the web is almost always 72 DPI/PPI and won’t look good if you try to scale it larger than a few inches.
Let’s talk about file types. We’ll cover the most common here but you can view a fill list of image file formats on Wikipedia.
Vector File Types/Formats
PDF – Portable Document Format – .pdf: THIS IS OUR PREFERRED FILE TYPE. PDFs are open file format files that can be shared and used in a wide variety of ways. Most of the time, a vector image saved as a PDF can work great for a sign.
AI – Adobe Illustrator – .ai: This file format is the one used in Adobe’s Adobe Illustrator software. A huge benefit of using an AI file, is that they can be opened by a variety of software programs.
EPS – Encapsulated PostScript – .eps: Technically, EPS files are ones which contain both pixel and vector data. EPS files are generally used when a vector graphic is needed for print. For most situations an AI file will work fine, even for print, so there’s no need to convert to this format if you don’t have it already. We DO NOT accept this file type.
SVG – Scalable Vector Graphics – .svg: This file type was created by the World Wide Web Consortium to provide a vector format for the web. It can be created in a few different image editing programs such as Illustrator, Corel, Sketch, and Inkscape.
Non-Vector Or Raster File Types/Formats
BMP – Bitmap – .bmp: Advantages of using a BMP include the simplicity and how common they are, but they can be quite large.
JPEG or JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group – .jpg: JPGs are quite common and very widely used. They tend to be smaller than BMP files but also worthy to note – each time you resave a copy of a JPG, it compresses and loses quality, so always work from the original if possible.
PNG (Portable Network Graphic) – .png: PNGs are also widely used and have the benefit of allowing for a transparent background (JPGs don’t). They can also be compressed without losing quality.