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File types and what they are used for is VERY important to the digital world. You have to understand who your customer is and what they are using the files for. For example someone who uses a vinyl cutting machine is more apt to use a SVG file versus a .psd file. Someone who is looking to print a poster or card is going to look for a high quality .jpeg versus a .dxf file. So let's get into it.
I am going to list out each of the file types you will see by name, then I will get into what each is used for.
.ai - Adobe Illustrator - AI files are vector files specifically used in the Adobe Illustrator programs. You can utilize Adobe Illustrator to create different file formats like the ones mentioned below. These are preferable for people who work out of the Illustrator program.
.bmp - Bitmap - This is an OLD file format version not used very much these days. They have been surpassed by many of the file formats mentioned in this post.
.dxf - Drawing eXchange Format - These files formats are used with AutoCAD drawing software. These files provide the OUTLINE of a vector. You can open these with Silhouette Studio based edition and the cutlines will be there, with no color, for you to cut on your machine.
.eps - Encapsulated Postscript - EPS files are used to transfer an image or other artwork into another application. Vector based files are scalable to any size. They can be opened with Illustrator or Photoshop.
.gif - Graphics Interchange Format - These are VERY low resolution files used for web based applications and emails. Almost all browsers support this file type. Generally these ARE NOT used for the digital designing world for reproduction.
.jpg Joint Photographic Experts Group - JPEG file types are great for their compression capability and are geared towards graphic designers. These are mainly used for printing services and web design.
.pdf - Portable Document Format - PDF's are universal file formats that preserves/embeds the fonts, images, graphics and layouts of any source document regardless of the application used to create it. Anyone who has a computer can open these with the Adobe Reader program.
.png - Portable Network Graphics - PNG files are commonly used for online and on websites due to their low resolution. They can be created with a transparent background and are generally used more for web based applications.
.psd - Photoshop Document - PSD format is generally a raster type document that contains graphics and photos created in Adobe Photoshop. These files can only be opened in Photoshop itself.
.svg - Scalable Vector Graphic - These files (which can also come in other file extensions) are comprised of paths and nodes with start and end points. The nodes are along the paths to make up the shapes and designs you are creating. SVGs can be scaled to virtually any size with no loss in quality. (Please note you will need to upgrade your silhouette software to use these files to Designer or Business Edition. You can achieve that HERE)
.tiff - Tagged Image File Format - These file types are commonly used for storing images, photography or art. These are used a lot in commercial printing. This format is the most widely supported format across all platforms. It is the standard format for high quality images and is the most reliable format for high quality images.
Keep in mind the above file types fall into one of two categories, Raster or Vector.
Raster images are made up of pixels (or grid dots) where each pixel is assigned a different color. These images are resolution dependent, meaning they only exist at one size. When you transform a raster image, you are stretching the pixels, which is sometimes why your images get blurry upon expansion. Raster images are mainly used for photographs, web design, and digital artwork.
The following file types are raster based - jpg, .gif, .png, .tiff, .psd.
Vector images, as briefly described above, are big, giant MATH equations. Each dot, line, shape, whatever is made up of its own equation. You can color each of these shapes how you see fit. These images are resolution independent. That means as you increase the image size, you do not lose any of the quality like you would with a raster based image. Vector images are mainly used for logos, icons, typesetting and digital illustrations.
The following file types are vector based - .pdf, .eps, .ai, .svg
This is an important topic to cover as well. RGB stands for Red, Green Blue, where CMYK is for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (black). When deciding if your file formats are for PRINTING or for DIGITAL GOODS this is key. Utilizing CMYK for printables is crucial as we all know our color printers utilize those four colors to print full color images. A computer, phone, or TV screen is comprised of the 3 colors in RGB, so if your image is geared towards the screen side, you'll want to utilize that coloring format.
The most common types of files for the Silhouette Cameo and Cricut Explore Air are SVG files. The one downside to the Silhouette is you CANNOT utilize these files types with the Basic Edition. You will need to upgrade to the Designer Edition or the Business Edition. I will discuss the differences in another post, however, you should note the upgrade is WELL worth it.
For those of you who haven't upgraded you can use the .dxf file type. These are cut ready files that open with just the cut lines as shown below.
You can also open a .jpg or .png and trace the file to achieve the design you want. These will not be "cut-ready" but can be used in the software if you are creating printables. More on tracing another time.
If you are designing images to use for Print on Demand Services like Printful (what I use for POD) you can utilize .png or .jpeg. POD is mainly used for shirts, cups, clothing, and things of that nature. Some also provide posters and prints, but that will be covered in the section below.
I personally utilize .png for the transparent background. Each product on Printful will give you the dimensions they need for the product as shown below. Ensure your file size matches those coordinates and ensure the image resolution is AT LEAST 300 dpi. If you're looking for the BEST quality you can save at 600 DPI.
If you're looking to create items for printing like photo prints, canvas or the like you're going to want to utilize a .pdf or high quality .jpeg. You can then use these files to go to a printing place like Staples or wherever you are printing products. PDF is really the preferred file here as it is universal and should save the file in high quality for you to be able to duplicate easily. Either way with these I would provide both file types to my customers.
Anything website related should be in a .png or .jpeg format with the preferable file being the .jpg as they image quality is much better. If you need something with a transparent background though, .png will be the way you want to go. These files should also be in at least 300 DPI or higher.
If you're anything like me you want to determine how you can get your files to your customers. To make this easy you want to provide the files in a folder and then ZIP them to compress the file size.
So there you have it. I think I covered most ground you would need to get going with file types you should be providing your customers. Look for a post on converting images in the near future!
If there is something I haven't covered or a question you have PLEASE comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates on future posts that will help you grow your passive income or join my Facebook Group!