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Bitmap Vs. Vector: A Guide to Looking Your Best

By Ali Nagy

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Your company has been selected as one of the sponsors of this year’s most prestigious event. You are asked to provide a copy of your logo to appear on promotional materials. No sweat-you can click and drag it from your website, right?

Three weeks later, the day of the event, you are horrified to find that your beloved logo has turned into a blocky, unnatural chunk of colors surrounded by a white box on the back of a brochure. What on earth could’ve possibly gone wrong?BotchedBrochure-01

You my friend, like so many others, fell victim to providing the wrong file type.

BITMAP FILES

Chances are, the file that you obtained from your website was a bitmap file. These types of files, as their name indicates, are comprised of tiny, square bits. At the proper size, all of these tiny bits (better known as pixels) form a seamless, realistic image that mirrors the capabilities of the human eye.

The quality of these file types is determined by their resolution. Resolution is measured in dots per inch, or DPI. Most graphics that you see used on the web have a resolution of 72 DPI. The minimum resolution of an image for a printed piece should be 300 DPI. When you provided your logo, the resolution was too low, resulting in that blocky mess, or pixelation.

SO WHAT GOOD ARE BITMAPS, ANYWAY?

Bitmap file types are wonderful options for digital use. Some common file types that are generally used for internet graphics are GIF files, JPG files, and PNG files. PNG files can be particularly handy, as they have a transparent background.

When it comes to your business cards, letterhead, and any other printed materials, however, its time to look to a different file type to keep your logo crisp, clean, and classy.

VECTOR FILES

A vector file format is not comprised of pixels. Unlike bitmap files, vector files are created using mathematical equations, making them resolution independent. What this means is that, no matter how large or small your logo is, if it is in a vector file format, it will ALWAYS remain crisp and sharp, be it on screen or on a billboard.

PurdyPoochVectors-01

HOW DO I MAKE A VECTOR FILE?

A vector file cannot be created in microsoft word, cannot be dragged from the internet, and cannot be created in Photoshop.  You also cannot make a bitmap file into a vector file without special software. Generally, a vector file will be created for you by a designer or other professional in special programs like Adobe Illustrator. Common vector file formats will have the extension .EPS or .AI.

It is very important for you to have vector formats of your logo on file. That way, the next time you are asked to provide your logo for an event, or have a sign created for your storefront, it will look its absolute best. Not sure if you have these file types? When in doubt, ask your designer.

Below is a handy reference chart that summarizes the must-knows of bitmap and vector formats:

BitmapVsVectorChart-01

A FEW WORDS TO THE WISE

Now that you know the difference between these file types and how they should be utilized, go forth with confidence and apply this knowledge! Your brand is a representation of you. We want you to look good. Really good.

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