What is a Vector/EPS?

Following the theme of simplifying life, I thought I’d cover what in the world a vector graphic is.  Often a designer will ask you for a vector/eps/ai version of your company’s logo.  This can be kind of confusing since I know a lot of folks only deal in jpeg/jpg/gif files.  I mean, won’t those work?

Well…. no.

Ok, fans of pointillism will know how thousands of dots of color can make a larger photo.  Well, all printers and non-vector images use dots.  In fact the number of ‘dots per inch’ (DPI) is the measure of a photo’s resolution.

So JPEG/JPG/GIF images have a certain number of dots per inch.  Most images you pull from the internet will have a DPI of 72. High-resolution printing uses 300 DPI.  This disparity explains why internet graphics (usually illegal anyway) are often too low-resolution for printing.  If you’ve every printed from the internet and the image looks all pixelated, that’s because the image didn’t have enough dots per inch.

So, conventional wisdom says in order to print a crisp, clean picture, you have to send a huge file with high resolution, right? But what happens when you start getting into tiny, business card logos or super large banner logos?  Huge image files certainly won’t fit in an email!

The solution is to have your logo made vector.

Vector is a mathematical term, which is apt because graphing lines using mathematical formulas creates a vector image. What does this mean? You can enlarge or shrink the image INFINATELY without losing any image quality.  That means as big as a skyscraper or as small as a pin head without any loss of quality.

If you have a professional design your image, they will likely give you JPEG/JPG/GIF versions and a vector version as well.

Now, there are several acceptable free vector-editing programs out there, so I hear. I’m not an expert on those so I’m including a review on some programs you can try. The expensive industry standard is Adobe Illustrator (they make .ai files).  All vector editing programs will let you save an image as .eps which can be used with any other vector image as opposed to Adobe’s proprietary .ai file type.

Even if you don’t use the vector image in every-day use, having it available to send to a print company when you want a big sign done up or to a designer when you want a new brochure made will be very, very helpful.

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