Small businesses tend to run into a blurry logo problem when they want to blow their logo up to print on a poster or table cover. This fuzzy logo problem becomes especially challenging for brands wanting to represent at a tradeshow in the hopes of coming home with new wholesale accounts. We've asked printing professional Ben Camerota of MVP Visuals to walk us through how a company can secure a crystal clear logo.
Secure the Right File Type
In a perfect world, you (or your graphic designer) are presenting your printer with a “vector image.” Vector files are made up of distinct paths within your image that are comprised of "lines" and "anchor points". You can't see them when looking at the finished logo, but a graphic designer or printer would be able to see these lines and anchor points and move them to manipulate your image or logo.
When a vector file is enlarged, each line is mathematically enlarged in exact proportion so there is no pixelating or distorting. This makes vector files ideal for printing. Vector images can be in the form of .ai (Adobe Illustrator), .pdf (Adobe PDF), or .eps (Encapsulated Postscript file).
The reason you want to work with this type of file, and to request it of your graphic designer when you've hired them to design your logo, is that a vector format looks great when it’s blown up “at actual size.” Actual size means how your artwork appears on the display in front of you, such as a large format poster or table cover.
When Preparing a File to Print for a Specific Tradeshow or Project, Ask How Many PPI/DPI is Required for Your Custom Printed Item
PPI stands for pixels per inch. DPI means dots per inch; both refer to the resolution of your logo. They’re essentially the same thing. Each reference how refined the printer needs your image in order to print clearly. For example, your logo in a Word Document or .jpeg file may look fine to you, but when it’s blown up to a poster size, each pixel within the image gets blown up and will give the image a fuzzy look. A standard number for a printed table cover, for example, is 150 PPI. Speaking of .jpeg’s – they almost never work as the resolution is not high enough to print clearly.
To check for your file’s resolution, follow these steps:
In Adobe Illustrator®: Effect > Document Raster Effects Settings...
In Photoshop®: Image > Image Size
Supply the Printer with a PMS Number
PMS (Pantone Matching System) is a universal system used in the printing industry to ensure that the colors in your logo end up on your printed item (see how Tin Shingle celebrated Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year in their #SmallBizStyle section). Computer resolutions differ greatly, so going by what color is on your screen won't guarantee a color match. One man’s blue could be another woman’s purple. So, it’s key to supply your vendor with the most information as possible.
If you don't have a PMS number, offer to send a match print. This could be any type of physical promo material that the vendor will use during the printing process to ensure a match. Just be sure to remember that color can vary based on the substrate or material that you’re printing with.
Or, consider another option: request a fabric swatch (if you’re looking to match the color of the cloth to your logo) or a physical prototype (usually a nominal fee) prior to production.
When in Doubt, Recreate
Many companies have the ability to re-create your logo in vector format. Prices can range from $40-300 depending on who you use. There are software systems out there you can purchase, but it’s never worth the cost unless you’re constantly dealing with client artwork. If you do pay to have your art recreated in vector format, be sure to ask for the file back – once you have your logo in vector format, you can size it for any future display, regardless of size.