Deciding when a file for a particular project is “print-ready” can be confusing, and many less experienced designers choose the one they are most familiar with and consider it to be sufficient for their purposes. But, the type of file you select does matter to the overall quality of a printed image. So, what does print-ready mean?

Characterization of file types falls into two different formats — vector and raster. Raster images use pixels which are tiny colored areas on a display screen that arrange themselves to form an image. These types of images are what you commonly see online.

Vector images are free from pixel constraint that scale to any size without loss of quality. Usually, specific image software is necessary to create vector images.

Which file is best for printing? More specifically, the five most common file types in print design include:

  1. JPG/JPEG: As the default file format on digital cameras, JPGs are saved using the appropriate resolution and correct color space. By default, JPG images print in CMYK. We will talk more about printing in CMYK later in this article.
  2. PDF: Another widely used file format due to its preservation of original content and appearance no matter how the viewer sees the image.
  3. EPS: Vector graphics are most commonly saved in this format upon completion, and can still be scaled indefinitely using this file type.
  4. PNG: This file type excels by delivering high image quality and supporting transparent backgrounds or opaque features within the image.
  5. TIFF: Exclusive to print images, its high image quality and large file size makes it a preferred method of printing out designs. Compressing the image does not reduce its quality unlike most of the file types above.

There are many other general files types as well as those exclusive to specific programs and operating systems, but to have the most success, use the file types above.