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DESIGN - Understanding File Types Used in Signmaking

The following guide will help you to get the best results possible when doing your own design for your sign. The most important thing is to have a basic understanding of the two types of artwork.

Raster files - Raster files are files comprised of pixels and are typically found in things like digital photographs and in files created in programs like Adobe Photoshop. Most files found on the internet are raster images as well. Some common file extensions for raster images are: .jpg .tif. .gif .bmp

With raster images, you cannot enlarge your image without getting distortion. As you enlarge the image, you also enlarge the pixels causing a "stairstepping" effect to your image. This is something to keep in mind when creating your file as you will need to start with a large file if you want a large sign. Most images available on the internet are not large enough for use on signs.

Vector files - Vector files are comprised of "lines and curves" called vectors that are, more or less, mathematical equations that represent your images. What this means is that these files can be enlarged to any size without any distortion. These files are most commonly used by graphic designers and in files created in Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. Some common file extensions for vector images are: .ai .eps .cdr Vector files can contain both vector and raster elements.

With vector images, you do not get the "stairstepping" effect when you enlarge your images. They can be resized to any size and they will not lose detail however high quality design programs that use vector artwork are not as common as those that use raster.

 Digital Printing - Both vector files and raster files can be used in large format digital printing. If raster files are used, they should be created at 100 ppi (pixels per inch) at the final output size. (or 200 ppi at 50%; 400 ppi at 25%, etc.) If color is critical, a color proof needs to accompany the order or PMS colors should be specified. All fonts should be converted to outlines if a vector file is provided. Products seen from greater distances, such as billboards, can be created in much lower ppi. We can accept many file formats so please don't hesitate to call us to discuss the best options for your project.

Vinyl Cutting - Many signs and graphics are made of die cut vinyl. Die cut vinyl as well as many other sign making processes require vector files. This includes but is not limited to, screen printing, engraving, routing and sandblasting. In fact, digital printing is the only process to use raster files, everything else uses vector files. It is the lines in the vector file that provides the path for the cutting tool to follow. All fonts should be converted to outlines. All "objects" must be closed. This is a basic description, so if your file is more complex, don't hestate to call us for guidance.

Design Services - If you would rather not bother with all of the artwork issues, our expert designers can do it for you at reasonable fees.



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