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Vector? Hi-Res? WTF Does That Mean?

This another post to help you know what you look like you know what you're doing when it comes to file formats that you'll provide to a printer. Or your designer. I'm dropping knowledge bombs over here people! 

Let's talk about vector art first. When I'm working with a client to create a flyer or poster that contains their logo, I will ask them "please send me a vector file of your logo." And 90% of the time they come back with "B Squared, WTF does vector mean?" Well, I'm gon learn you today. Vector art is normally created in Illustrator or InDesign. I'm going to get a little nerdy here in my explanation. What these programs do is use mathematical equations and geometric primitives (points, lines and shapes) to create a design that is clean, camera ready and can be scaled to whatever size that you need. Vector art won't pixelate when you increase the size to seven feet wide. If you give a designer a vector file, they will be able to manipulate the design rather easily. 

Now - here's what vector art isn't; you taking a jpeg, plopping it into Illustrator and saving it out as an .eps file (a vector file format). Not going to cut it. Because when I open up that file in Illustrator and click on the logo that's in the file and I get a rectangular box around what I clicked vs. having each individual line of the design select, I'm going to get a little hot and bothered (see my example of what I'm referring to). Remember: vector means line and line means I can pretty much do whatever I want with it. Like the guy in the Little Caesar's commercial "there's no rules!" (Until you take your shirt off. Then, they tell you to put your shirt back on).

Alright, we've hammered down what vector means, let's chat about hi-res, or high resolution. High resolution images are images that are 300 dpi (dots per inch) or higher. Normally when working in Illustrator, you are working on a design that is set at 300 dpi. You can also set the resolution if you're working in Photoshop as well. What this does is help you reduce the overall file size of the document that you're working in. PLEASE BE AWARE: if you are planning on having your logo, flyer, etc printed professionally all images, logos, graphic elements, etc MUST BE HIGH RESOLUTION. Web images display at 72 dpi so that they can load on the page quickly. A quick and simple way to tell if an image is hi-res is to look at it's file size. If the file is over a megabyte there's a good chance that it's hi-res. 

Don't forget, pictures have sizes as well (like 5" x 7", 500 pixels x 500 pixels). So, if you've got a photo that's 4" x 6" and 300 dpi, but you need to make it larger to fit, a good rule of thumb is to not exceed three times the size of the original at 300 dpi. So take that original 4" x 6"; the biggest you'd want to make it is 12" x 18" to keep the clarity (which is now about 100 dpi; when you increase the physical size of the photo, you decrease the dpi). If you are shopping for a stock photo, make sure you purchase the correct file size for what you'll use it for. If you think you're going to need it for a large format piece (like a poster or a banner), purchase the larger photo. You can alway make the photo smaller; you can only make it so big before it will pixelate. Check out the examples in the side bar!

So there you have it. The explanation of vector and hi-res so that the next time your designer asks you for either of those, you're armed with some knowledge.

 

Vector Example: I've selected the entire logo and you can see that all of the pieces of the design are outlined in red, signifying that each element is a line or a shape

Vector Example: I've selected the entire logo and you can see that all of the pieces of the design are outlined in red, signifying that each element is a line or a shape

Image Example: I've selected the logo that was placed into Illustrator using a jpeg; there is only a blue line around the borders of the image.  THIS AIN'T VECTOR.

Image Example: I've selected the logo that was placed into Illustrator using a jpeg; there is only a blue line around the borders of the image. THIS AIN'T VECTOR.

This is hi res. The logo is nice and crisp!

This is hi res. The logo is nice and crisp!

This will get you yelled at. Even though this is small, you can still see it's pretty pixelated.

This will get you yelled at. Even though this is small, you can still see it's pretty pixelated.