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The Best File Types for Printing Perfect Custom T-Shirts

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The Best File Types for Printing Perfect Custom T-Shirts

Mar 02, 2022

When a customer sends in a low-resolution art file at the start of the process, this can be a big problem for a high-quality print. What to do about copyright and what to eat for lunch are the second and third things our art department deals with.There are two main types of files you should be aware of, and I'm going to show you examples of each and give you a short description of each. And I'll explain why some are better than others, as well as a shortlist of file types you should avoid if you can.To make this more interesting, I'll try to make it more interesting for you, and you should try not to fall asleep. Deal?

For printing, what's the best file format to use?

There are two main types of image files: vectors and bitmaps, which are both types of files (or rasters). There is no doubt that vector files are the best type of file to use. There are very few exceptions to this. It will always give the best possible outcome; with very few exceptions, Bitmap files can be significant and even necessary in some cases, but they should be high-resolution and not be too compressed to get the best results. This is especially true for photographic images. You should know that when you use a bitmap, the file type doesn't matter much as how good it is.

Here's a picture that shows the two main types of files and some examples of their formats:

Most of the time, low-resolution and very compressed bitmap images are the most difficult files to work with. They will need more work to be ready for printing, and sometimes they will have to be made from scratch. If your files aren't good enough, I'll show you how to check them. First, let's make sure we know the two main file types. I'm still with you.

What's the difference between a vector file and a raster file?

Vector graphics, as opposed to bitmap graphics, consist of mathematical points rather than a grid of pixels. The relationship between its ends defines a graphic element's lines and shapes. Colors, gradients, type, and effects are all additional data points. Infinite scalability is a crucial characteristic of vector files, making them ideal for printing. In other words, unlike bitmap files, you can increase the file size without sacrificing image quality.

As an added bonus, vector images typically have a smaller file size than bitmap images. Bitmap files have to store the data for each individual pixel, whereas vector files only have to keep the points that define objects. Take a look at the monogram, for instance.

Right, you can see the bitmap version up close. The "outline" view of the vector version can be seen on the right. The data for each of those pixels, whether they are black, white, or various shades of grey that describe the edges, must be stored in the bitmap file. On the other hand, in vector file, all that needs to be held in the data for each of those points, their relationship to each other and the fill color they use. You can't do both at once, but you can memorize a summary and how many pages are in a particular book.

The edges of the graphic will become increasingly blurry or pixelated as the size of the bitmap image is increased... Because the number of pixel data it needs to store grows exponentially with the image's size, the file size will increase as well. An encyclopedia's worth of information can be crammed into one book. Because of the mathematical formula that remains the same regardless of image size, the vector file will maintain its clean lines and file size, no matter how large the image is.


A bitmap is like memorizing an entire book word for word, whereas a vector is just remembering the summary and the number of pages...


It is possible to create both vector and bitmap files in a variety of ways. You can usually save your image as a variety of different file types in most graphics programs. What I'm going to do is give you the most common ones we see on a daily basis, as well as a brief description of each one.

Vector Files

Vector file types can be combined files, which means they can have other files inside of them, like bitmap files. A vector file can have a lot of bitmap files inside of it, but not the other way around. You might see some photos or gradients in a vector file, but everything else is made of different shapes and lines that aren't real.

This is a list of the three most common vector files that are used for printing (and the types of files we like to get from people who make art).


One of the most common types of files is (.pdf), which stands for Portable Document Format. This is a good thing because it's beneficial. It was made to be standard, which means that it can be opened and viewed on almost any operating system without needing the app that created it, and it will keep its fonts and layout. PDFs can also have "rich media," like GIFs, 3-D objects, and video clips. Those aren't the kind of things you should ask for on a T-shirt. We tried, but it didn't work.


Encapsulated PostScript (.eps) is one of the most common vector file types. It stands for Encapsulated PostScript. Because it's a suitable format that often stays together, it's ready to go. Programs like CorelDRAW can make EPS files. They can do this because they can save EPS files. As a general rule, Microsoft Office won't let you save out as EPS. There is no need to worry about that because you should not use Office to make designs.


(.ai) is the file type that comes with Adobe Illustrator. I love these because it's the best program for making vector graphics. Most likely, the person who made it is a pro. There is a free program called Inkscape that people seem to like if they don't have the money for Adobe Illustrator. In fact, we only use it to change CorelDRAW files (.cdr) into something Illustrator can read (.eps).


Bitmap / Raster Files

It is the most common type of image file out there. Bitmaps, or raster files, are the most common type of image file. When you look at web pages, a lot of the files you see are bitmaps. What it is: a map of bits. Each pixel has information about where it is on the screen, how bright it is, and how many colors it has. This is called a "grid."

What's the difference between bitmap and raster?

Not at all. The difference is mainly semantic, so the terms are often used together. A bitmap is an image that has been rasterized, which means it was made by scanning a pattern of lines. A vector image can be shown on the web, but it has to be rasterized to make it look like pixels on the web. This is called "rasterizing." When the word "bitmap" first came into use, it was used to describe an image file format called BMP (short for bitmap). There have been a lot of changes since then, so this format isn't used very often now. The '90s may have left one behind.

This is a list of the three most common types of bitmap or raster files that can be used to print.


(.jpg), which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a way to store and share pictures. It's the most popular format used on the web and has become the de facto standard image format. It's good for colors that are rich and have a lot of different shades. Some data is lost when you save a JPEG. Compression will be the subject of more in the next few days. When working with a large file in Photoshop, it's best to save it as a PSD or a TIFF to avoid loss. Realistically, you only need to save as a JPEG as the last step.


"TIFF" is short for Targeted Image File Format. It was initially designed to be used as an interchange format between scanners and printers, but now it can also be used for other things. It has become very popular with photographers and graphic designers over the years because it is very good at reducing the size of images. In general, image files are more significant than JPEGs, but the trade-off is worth it to keep the quality. So if you have a TIFF and a JPEG, now you know which one we like better. Layers and vector paths can be added to TIFF files (outlines, clipping masks, fonts, etc.).


Is just a Photoshop file. It's the native format for Adobe's most popular graphics program. It's hard to say enough about how popular this product is. The word "photoshop" has become a verb. To "photoshop" something means to change an image in a way that is done with a computer. Because there are other programs out there, Photoshop has been the best for a long time now, even though there are other programs. If you want something like Photoshop for free, there's a great tool called Photopea that does a lot of what Photoshop can do.

A graphic designer or your printer might find it very useful if your file has layers, transparency, and other information. This can make the file size more prominent, but it can be worth it for them or for you. So, zip it up and send it.

How to convert a file to vector

A low-resolution JPEG can be turned into a nice clean vector file, but is there a way to do that? If so, what is the process?

Do not get fooled by free online vectorizers. You only get what you pay for, and there are a lot of them! Is there any chance that the results will be different? Some rules apply. It's mostly a waste of time. To get the best one, you should pay for Vector Magic, which is a good choice.

Adobe Illustrator has a built-in feature called "Live Trace." If you already have it, you're in luck: You can use it to copy and paste. It takes a little time to get used to. Make sure to open up the advanced features and play around with different settings until you get the results you want.



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