Monday, December 5, 2016

Images for Large Format Printing

We get a lot of requests to convert photos to vector format. One of the reasons is that some printer's guidelines state that in order to print good quality images in large format, such as signs and banners or vehicle wraps, high resolution or scalable vector graphics are required.

high resolution image for large format printing

Maybe a little clarification is needed because vector graphics are drawings, so converting a photo to vector means making a drawing of the photo and that isn't necessarily what is needed or wanted.

If the images you want printed in large format are:

Photo for large format printing

A. Photos

Images that are captured with a camera need to be supplied in high resolution (large image*) format. Photos are not scalable so simply enlarging a small image will result in a poor quality large image. The photo must have been taken with a high quality setting on the camera, so that it will be the size needed for the project, or larger. Your printer should be able to tell you the pixel dimension (photo size) needed for the specific project. Photo to vector conversion is recommended only if you want a drawing made, based on the photograph.

vector graphic for large format printing

B. Graphics

Drawings such as logos and illustrations may be supplied to your printer in high resolution OR vector format. The good thing is that if you don't have a high resolution image, most graphics can simply be converted (redrawn) in scalable vector format and will be suitable to be printed at any size.

vector graphic and photo for large format printing
C. Combination of Graphics and Photos

If your design includes both, it may be supplied to your printer in high resolution. If you do not have a large enough image, the design can be re-created using a combination of vectors and photo, but you still need to supply the photo in high resolution format to the graphic artist re-doing your design.

When is photo to vector conversion recommended?

Photo to vector conversion is ideal for projects where photos cannot be used, such as engraving, embroidery, vinyl-cut signs, or whenever you prefer a drawing instead of a photo. For vector re-drawing quote and samples, please visit 

*Large dimensions: the pixel width and height of the image, not the kb file size.

Please feel free to ask questions or make suggestions via the comments below.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Lost your image file? No problem!

If you do not have a digital file of your graphic but you have access to an item with the graphic printed on, embroidered on, tattooed on, or otherwise visible on an item, we may be able to reproduce your image in multiple formats including vector AI, CDR, EPS, SVG and more.

Take a photo of the item with the graphic on it and email it to us. A scan of the item would work much better because there won't be any distortion* but we can also work with a photo as a last resort.

graphic reproduced in vector format


*Distortion Problems
When using a photograph of a graphic as a reference, rather than a flat scan, the photographs will show the graphic in perspective (distorted). We will have to guess as to how the artwork might have looked originally.

reproduce lost vector

If at all possible, a flat scan of the product with the graphic on it will work best.

vector conversion

If a scan is not available, we can still try to correct any distortion but the new graphic we create will most likely not be identical to your original file if we do not have the original to compare it to.

See more samples

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Raster vs Vector

There are two main type of image files: Raster and Vector. Raster images are created with pixel-based programs or captured with a camera or scanner. They are more common in general such as jpg, gif, png, and are widely used on the web. Vector graphics are created with vector software and are common for images that will be applied onto a physical product. Also used in CAD, engineering, and 3D graphics.

When using a raster program you paint an image and it's similar to dipping a brush in paint and painting. You can blend colors to soften the transition from one color to another.

When using a vector program you draw the outline of shapes: and it's similar to creating an image with tiles of all different shapes and sizes. e.g. an eye shape, a nose shape, a lip shape. These shapes called objects display one single color each.

A lot of images can be made with either raster or vector program and look exactly the same on both programs. Images with a subtle gradation of one color to another are the images that will look most different since vector programs need to create a separate shape for each shade of color.

Some vector programs do have the ability to create color gradients within one single shape, but these are actually raster effects. A vector graphic with gradients contains both vector and raster elements and won't be suitable for process that requires 100% vector or true vector art.

Photographs are raster images and are probably the best example of images completely made of color blends - or shade blends in the case of black and white photographs - and those images look very different when drawn in vector format. Click here for examples.

Pixels vs Vectors

Raster images are made of pixels. A pixel is a single point or the smallest single element in a display device. If you zoom in to a raster image you may start to see a lot of little tiny squares.

Vector images are mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If you zoom into a vector graphic it will always look the same.

A raster image has a specific number of pixels. When you enlarge the image file without changing the number of pixels, the image will look blurry. When you enlarge the file by adding more pixels, the pixels are added randomly throughout the image, rarely producing good results.

When you enlarge a vector graphic, the math formulas stay the same, rendering the same visual graphic no matter the size.  Vector graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

Common Uses

Vector graphics are commonly used for logos, illustrations, technical drawings and for use with processes that require vector art such as specialty signs and printing, engraving and etching. Also used in CAD, Engineering, and 3D graphics.

Raster, or pixel-based images represent and edit photographs and photo-like images better than vector programs because they can use an abundant number of different color pixels. By arranging pixels and slowly incrementing or changing the color or shade of the pixels adjacent to them, it creates a subtle gradation from one color to another: nice and smooth color blends.

If I am creating a new design which software should I use; Raster or Vector?

It depends on the design itself. If it's going to have photographic elements with continuous tones and blends of color, you are probably better off using a paint program.

If you want your design to look like a drawing or illustration with clear contrast between the elements of the design, then use a vector program.

Ideally a company that has a logo design with photographic elements, also has a secondary simplified version of their logo in vector format that can be used for those specialty items that require vector art.

All the images on this post have been rasterized for web display.

For more information please visit my website

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Vector for Engraving

A lot of our vector drawings are for engravers who tell us they will use the vector file for relief engraving, laser engraving, sandblasting, etching, or cutting. I am guessing these are some of the few process left that require vector art. Although I have never actually used an engraving machine or tool, I have been preparing vector graphics since 2000 for many different purposes including engraving and sign cutting.
Below is a recent engraving project
The image engraved on this stone needs to be reproduced in vector format

This is the vector drawing as per Engraver specifications

Engraver work in progress

Final engraved product

See the project from beginning to end, including errors and corrections that needed to be done before the vector drawing was appropriate for the particular process:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Photo to Vector Conversion

Manual vectorization with soft color blends

Here is an example of a recent vectorization from photo to vector (raster to vector). This drawing was for screen printing and, for this particular project, it didn't have to be drawn using only vectors. In addition to drawing with vectors, some vector graphics programs also have tools that allow you to use pixel-based, raster (non-vector) elements such as soft color blends & shading/highlights. A graphic that is created with a vector drawing program but also includes pixel-based smooth color blends and soft shading is not a 100% vector graphic, or a true vector graphic; it contains both raster and vector elements. See Raster vs Vector

Photographs are raster graphics made with pixels: a multitude of different color pixels create a realistic image. Vector graphics are drawings made with objects: lines and curves that create shapes. When a photo is vectorized, it means a drawing of the photo is being made and, in most cases, the new vector graphic will be considerably different as you will see in some of the examples below.

Pixels vs Vectors

Raster vs Vector

Manual vectorization without color/shading blends - 100% true vector

Certain processes such as specialty printing (printing on bottles, pens), plotters, vinyl-cut signs, engraving, and other processes require 100% vectors without soft color blends or shading.

Below is a photo to vector conversion with no gradient shading or blends. The original raster and the new vector graphic look considerably different. This project was for engraving which required black and white line art, no gray-scale mid tones. More on Grayscale vs Line Art

100% vector line art

Color "blending" may be created using only vectors by adding multiple objects and gradually changing the color tone of each consecutive object. The more color objects you draw, the smoother the transition between the colors will be. Achieving a smooth transition may be time consuming if drawing is done manually.

vector gradients

Automated vectorization - Tracing tool

A photograph or an image with color blends and soft shading may be vectorized using only vectors and still maintain a strong resemblance to the original. A large amount of color/shade objects may be needed. Rather than drawing each object by hand, the Trace tool in vector graphics program can automate this process. The tracing tool may or may not render acceptable results. In my experience, the same processes that require 100% vector art also require simplified vector graphics with limited amount of color/objects, and accuracy that is often only achieved by drawing manually. See more examples of manual vector conversion vs automated vectorization

Automated vector conversion

Manual vectorization 100% true vector "line art" with color

Below is a raster to vector conversion using only vectors and no pixel elements. The original heart is made of a multitude of different color pixels. The blend of different color pixels gives a 3-D appearance with highlights and shadows. Redrawing the image with single color vector objects instead, produces a considerably different image that looks "flat". Another example of how different an image will look when you take away the color blends. 

100% true vector art

I am hoping the examples above will show how photographs and color-blend-full images may change in appearance when vectorized. See more vector conversions here.

Images were vectorized by Logos and photographs are the property of their respective owners.

I welcome comments and corrections!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

High Resolution Image for Printing

What is a high resolution image?

Common image files such as jpg, gif, png, tif, psd, bmp, are measured in pixels.

The resolution of a pixel-based graphic is the number of pixels within an inch: PPI (pixels per inch)

Whether the image has high enough resolution depends on the process being used. Generally, offset printers (paper printing) require a minimum of 300 ppi, screen printers (cloth printing) require 240 ppi.

In order to determine whether an image is high enough resolution, you need to know 3 things:
  1. Your image's pixel dimensions (e.g 850 pixels wide)
  2. The printed size desired (e.g. want to print a 4 inch image on paper)
  3. The resolution required by the process your image will go through (e.g. printing 300 minimum ppi)

If your image is:
(pixels wide)

It can be printed in good quality at:
(inches wide)















To determine the image's pixel dimensions you will need a program that allows you to do so, such as Paint or Photoshop. Not file size, but rather you need to open the image to see its dimensions.

Your image may look ok on your computer screen (left image), but if it's not the proper size and resolution for your specific printing project, it may print poorly (right image).

If you have an existing image:
To determine what size your existing image can be printed while maintaining good quality, simply divide your image's pixel width by the resolution required by your printer. For example if your image is 850 pixels wide and your printer is asking for 300 ppi: Divide 850 by 300 (850 ÷ 300 = 2.83). Your image can be printed in good quality at 2.83 or smaller. Printing it larger will reduce quality.

Just because an image is very large in pixel dimension and high resolution it doesn't mean it is appropriate for printing. If you take a photo with high megapixel camera and you do something wrong something that is not conducive to good photography happens while taking a photo, you are going to end up with a blurry or poor quality photo that may not print well at any size.

To create the right size image image for printing:
To create an image that will be good enough size/quality for printing (example 300 ppi), multiply the size you want your new image to print by 300 ppi. For example if you want a 6.5 print size, multiply 6.5 x 300 = 1950 pixels, You need to create an image that is no smaller than 1950 pixels wide. A good habit is to always start a little larger than you need (Keep in mind very large files are hard to work with and slow to transfer), you can always reduce to the size needed - you cannot enlarge without losing quality.

How can I increase image resolution? With software like Photoshop you can manually increase the size and/or resolution of an image, but that rarely - if ever - improves quality; you are simply adding pixels randomly throughout the image. If you have a graphic that is not good enough quality for printing, try image vectorization.

Vector Graphics are not pixel-based therefore they are resolution-independent; meaning a vector file can can be printed at ANY size and not lose quality. To see if your image can be vectorized so you never have to worry about size and resolution, upload your image to my

Note: Vector graphics are drawings / illustrations, so the best candidates for vectorization are graphics, logos, drawings, and illustrations, because they can be reproduced in vector format and look exactly like the original or better. Photographs are not suited for vectorization unless you want the photograph to be changed into a drawing.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Photo to vector for engraving

The only thing I know about engraving is that the vector artwork needs to be created in black and white line-art, and depending on the size of the actual engraving, real small detail should be avoided. There is actually a lot of small detail on the image below and I was sure the engraver was going to reject it but the plaque must have been large enough to hold all the detail. 

Some challenges may arise when changing a multi-color image to black and white LINEART (not black and white grayscale). Elements in the graphic will no longer be defined by different color or shades of gray, they have to be black or white only and you will have to decide which elements are black and which elements are white. Using outlines instead of fills usually works to separate two objects of similar color.

When images are on a color background, removing the background may make the overall feel of the image look different. After playing around with these elements I got a winner.