File facts: a beginners guide to file formats for custom t-shirt designs

File facts: a beginners guide to file formats for custom t-shirt designs

The fundamentals of file formats

It’s easier than ever to create your own custom merch, but you do still need a bit of technical know-how to get the process started. But not to fear: at ICON, we work with many first-timers, and with a little help, it’s easy enough to get your designs beautifully printed or embroidered onto the garments that best suit your personalised merch vision.

One aspect that can cause confusion is the question of files. There are lots of different file types, and the type required need depends on whether you’ve chosen screen printing, direct to garment (DTG) or embroidery. (Head here to read more on screen printing versus DTG.)

Here we break down which file type you need for your custom merch designs.

Vector or raster file?

Above all else, you need to be familiar with two file types: vector and raster files. In simple terms, vector files are based around mathematical descriptions, which means that they never become pixelated or blurry, no matter how much they are enlarged.

Raster files, on the other hand, are generated in pixels, which means that they can become pixelated or blurry, but that they can also convey textured images and details with more depth.

Which file is best for screen printing? 

If you’re planning on screen printing, then you need to use a vector file. This is also true for embroidery. Vector files are best suited to simple designs, so this is something to bear in mind when you’re planning your design and how you want to get it printed. (Head here for more tips on creating designs embroidery for caps.)

What is a vector file?

A vector file can come in a number of formats. But remember that, as well as being in one of these file formats, you specifically need to export it as vector file. At ICON we ask for vector files in one of the following formats: 

  • AI
  • PDF
  • EPS
  • SVG

What about raster files?

Likewise, raster files can come in one of several formats. The important thing to remember is that the file needs to be at a resolution of at least 300 DPI. If it’s any lower, this will risk the file being pixelated and not doing your design justice.  At ICON we ask for raster files in one of the following for formats:

  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • TIFF

Still unsure?

If you’re feeling confused or unsure about any of the above, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to talk through your queries. We’re always happy to help and we welcome clients who are new to the merch printing process. We’re enthusiastic about helping our clients along every step of the way.

Want to create custom merch for your brand or business? Got more questions about file types or the printing process? ICON Printing offer fast turnaround printing on a range of garments, counting clients ranging from the Tate to Boiler Room and WeWork. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.

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