Setting Up Files

VECTOR FILES RASTER FILES

We can print almost any type of file, but if you want sharp text and accurate color, some formats work better than others.

VECTOR FILES

The best way to get sharp logos and text is with vector files.  They can be enlarged to any size and never lose their resolution, because they’re not based on pixels.  Your company logo should be in vector format for printing signs, cut vinyl, embroidery, or channel letters. If your computer can’t open the vector file, don’t worry – our machines can!

RASTER FILES

Like the pixels in your TV screen, raster files are made of tiny blocks of color.  On your website or printed on paper, they look great … but if you zoom in close, you’ll start to see the pixel blocks; making your text look jagged, or photos look blurry. We want the highest resolution you can find — the bigger the file size, the better.

Illustrator AI or PDF

logo PS

Illustrator AI or PDF

CMYK. Outline the fonts. Embed all linked images.

EPS

(Encapsulated PostScript) often contains the original vector information for graphics, text, and illustrations — so it can be resized with no loss in quality, and colors can be changed easily.

SVG

(Scalable Vector Graphics) can contain a mix of vectors and raster imagery, balanced to be flexible on print or web.

Corel, Publisher, Doc, Etc.

Please export to PDF.

Photoshop PSD or PDF

CMYK. Work at full scale, with minimal bleed. Resolution 72, 150, or 300.

TIF

Large print file with original quality color information.

JPG

Photos often used for websites, so they’re saved small as possible to make pages load faster. There will always be a background color (no transparency or color changes)

PNG

Photos used for websites. Generally larger and higher quality than JPG, and they support transparency, so the background color can change.

GIF

Images for web only, not print. Color is simplified for faster load times, so it’s just a few solid colors – not good for gradients, shadows, or neutral shades.

Wait, did you say PDF on both sides?

Yep.  PDF is awesome for being able to hold both kinds of photos and text, and we can usually pull out what we need, change the color, or add text … but sometimes the author used subtle tricks to protect their work inside.  The vectors might be locked, or the fonts might be missing, or they simply scanned a low-res image and named it PDF.  So we don’t know how helpful someone’s PDF will be till we take it apart.

Don’t have a vector file?

Don’t worry yet.  Our staff checks every file before it prints, to alert you if the images will look pixellated at full size.  But remember, your viewer is usually standing several feet away.  So you’d be surprised how some images look fine when you step back.

Plus we can vectorize your files if needed.  We can turn your web file or low-res JPG into a real vector PDF … and give you the source files (because you should own your logo) and our mission is to help your business grow! Prices start at $25 per image or $85 per hour.

FILE PRO TIPS

  1. We print CMYK.  If your files are RGB or Pantone, we’ll convert them (90-95% match).
  2. Vector files: outline the fonts, and embed all linked images.
  3. Raster files: work at full scale with minimal bleed.
  4. Resolution depends how close the viewer will be, versus keeping the file size manageable (max is 800 MB).
    – Holding in their hand = 300 dpi
    – Standing next to it = 150 dpi
    – Viewing at a distance = 72 dpi
  5. Black should be “rich” at 60/40/40/100, not “process” black at 0/0/0/100.  Metal and plastic have a hard time absorbing that much ink; they sometimes look just super dark gray.  We can try double-printing them if the other colors won’t be harmed (adds time and cost) … or we can wrap them in vinyl which absorbs ink much better (adds time and cost).  If you want fast signs at the lowest price, we think super dark gray is fine in most cases.
Extra Credit Color Notes

Unlike offset printers, most digital printers are sensitive to temperature, humidity, file settings, and the material loaded.  The same file will look different when printed on banner, versus aluminum, versus car wrap.  Our production staff is trained to watch for extreme color tinting, but slight shifts are to be expected.  A file we printed last year might not 100% match what we print today.  If Pantone perfect is required, request a color sample before we go to press (but that might add time and cost to your project.)  Here’s some tips we use to get the closest match possible (90-95%).

  1. BLUE will lean purple, so keep a 30% difference between cyan and magenta.  Our favorite blue is 100/70/0/0.  Adding yellow or black to make dark blue will sadly also make it less vibrant.  Websites can use royal blues like 100/100/0/0 … but that formula will look very purple with ink.
  2. GRAY is a tricky color to get the right tone (warm versus cool).  Simple grays (black value only) will lean teal on some materials, so we often add 2-5% magenta to neutralize the tone.  Avoid rich grays (mix of CMYK values) because that will make any tone shift much more noticeable.
  3. RED will lean orange if there’s more than 80% yellow.  Our favorite red is 10/100/80/20.
  4. They say large-format printers think in feet, not inches.  And they also think in years.  So the color you walk out with today might be planned that way to age well in the sun.  Ever notice how old signs look bleached, and yellow is the first to go? Keep in mind lighting (inside florescent, versus outside daylight, or in a lightbox, etc.)

Digital printing is often more art than science, but we will always do our best to give you good results year after year.