Artwork for Signs — Go for the Vector!
Updated: Apr 29
But where do you start?
First, a little Printing 101: To insure the crispest, sharpest, most vibrant signs, banners and other media, you should start with artwork that is high-resolution. You’ll hear printing professionals refer to 300 dpi, 100 dpi, etc. That simply measures the dots per inch within the artwork. The more dots per inch, the better the final product will look. The best way to get consistent high resolution is to use artwork and images created as a vector file. Now you ask, what is a vector file, and how do I get one?
There are two kinds of computer art files, raster (or bitmap) files and vector files. Raster files are composed of colorized pixels, and usually work well only at the size they are created, usually for online or screen viewing. In other words, if you create an image for Instagram, don’t expect it to look good blown up to poster size. The pixels will enlarge into fuzzy groups and your picture or image will look blurry, lumpy, and out of focus.
A vector file is artwork created in software such as Adobe Illustrator, which uses mathematic formulas to produce artwork that can be enlarged or reduced to any size without sacrificing any clarity or causing it to become blurry or lumpy-looking. Because of the math, vector files can stay high-resolution at any size will essentially look good online, on signs or billboards, or on any media you choose to feature them.
How do you know if you have a vector file? There are several kinds — look for files with the following extensions:
.ai: Short for Adobe Illustrator, this file is commonly used in print media and digital graphics, such as logos.
.eps: Encapsulated PostScript is an older type of vector graphics file. .eps files don’t support transparency in the way more modern file formats like .ai do.
.pdf: The Portable Document Format is built for the exchange of documents across platforms and is editable in Adobe Acrobat.
.svg: The Scalable Vector Graphics format is based in XML (a markup language used widely across the Internet that's readable by both machines and humans). It’s useful for the web, where it can be indexed, searched, and scripted.
The other part of this equation you need to know: once a file has become a raster file (or you may hear it referred to as flattened, as the artwork will flatten to the size it currently is) it can’t go back to vector status. 72 dpi (commonly used as online or TV quality images) can really never become 300 dpi. The pixels will just become very highly defined clumps of color rather than the sharp clear image you’d like to see in your larger media!
Don't have a vector file? Keep calm, there's a solution. Should you only have a less-than-vector image to feature on your printed media, Trinity Graphx Signs & Designs can help. Our professional designers can take your raster image (or even an idea you’ve scribbled on a napkin,) and create vibrant vector art to grace signs, banners, vehicle wraps, business cards, UV-printed tumblers — anything you’d like to use as marketing tools for your business or organization. If you’ve got a great idea, but no vector file, call us and we’ll bring it to life for you!