What file formats are best for screen printing?

We often get this question from eager designers who want to make sure that their artwork comes out as well as possible. The answer is that the best file formats for screen printing are original vector file formats. However, don't get discouraged if you don't know what vector files are, or if your file is not vector artwork. Truthfully we can use just about any file format that contains text or graphics. The only difference is whether the file needs to be converted to a printable format or not.

Vector artwork most typically comes from Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. These two software programs have been around for well over 10 years and are considered the two definitive programs for creating vector artwork. Recently with the popularity of Rich Internet applications, there have been a few new web based alternatives such as Gimp and Aviary. Illustrator is our program of choice but we can take just about any file you have and turn it into something we can work with.

Vector artwork is art that does not have jagged edges and can be resized to any size and not lose any quality. The opposite to vector artwork is raster artwork. Raster artwork would be considered a JPEG or bitmap file format. When these files are resized, they lose quality as the edges and become jagged. These jagged edges can be seen on prints if the file hasn't been converted to vector artwork or if the DPI is too low. Don't get me wrong, we can print from raster artwork but it is not optimal.

Vector artwork, by comparison, will create a very sharp print. It also gives us the opportunity to change the size of the artwork up and down until we get the right size without worrying about a loss of quality. This is great because with vector artwork we don’t have to worry about the design looking pixelated or blurry.

The main take-home point from all of this, however is simply that we will take any file format you have and work with it. In fact even when it is necessary to convert the artwork to a vector format, nine times out of ten we do not charge anything extra to make this conversion to your file to the vector based artwork. We are happy to provide this service to our customers.

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