Creating & Sending Digital Files for Print

Our creative team as compiled the following guidelines for creating and submitting files to Spectrum Signs & Graphics for large format printing.  If you are sending us a file to print from and to ensure the best results, please make sure that it matches our requirements and specs below.

Files We Accept

  • Illustrator (.ai)
  • Photoshop (.psd)
  • Encapsulated PostScript (.eps)
  • Portable Document Format (.pdf)
  • Tagged Image File Format (.tiff)
  • Hi-Resolution JPG (.jpg)

Adobe_Illustrator_Icon_CS6  Adobe_Photoshop_CS6_icon  eps-icon

pdf-icon  tiff-icon  jpeg-icon

We recommend you provide flattened TIFF, PDF or high quality uncompressed JPEG files for output. We can also accept files from most popular photo and page design software such as the latest Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Acrobat. Other applications and file types may require additional setup time and costs. If you are working in a Microsoft Office Program, we recommend that you convert your file to a high quality PDF or JPG before submitting your file to us.

What is a Layered or “Native” File and Why is it Important?

A native file is the original working file the artwork was created in, most likely an Adobe Creative Suite program that includes editable layers. Layers contain all the elements that make up the artwork. A layered file provides the best way to re-size and change the appearance of the design to accommodate appropriate size outputs. These files can be exchanged reliably between Macs and PCs, and from the client to the printer to produce the requested final product.

Native files are primarily in: Illustrator (ai) or Photoshop (psd)

We prefer to work with and print from a layered or native vector file.  For more on vector files, please scroll down.

File Help

Graphic File Types & When to Use Them

File Help

Vector Graphics

Unlike JPEGs, vector graphics are not made up of a grid of pixels. Instead, vector graphics are comprised of paths, which are defined by a start and end point, along with other points, curves, and angles along the way. These paths can be used to create simple drawings or complex diagrams.

Because vector-based images are not made up of a specific number of dots, they can be scaled to a larger size and not lose any image quality. If you blow up a raster graphic, it will look blocky, or “pixelated.” When you blow up a vector graphic, the edges of each object within the graphic stay smooth and clean.

Raster Files

Raster files come in the following types of common formats: jpg, gif, tiff, and png. A raster image is made up of dots, or pixels, and in every square inch there resides a certain number of pixels denoted by your image’s resolution. An image size of 1″ x 1″ at 300 dpi or, dots per inch, means that the one square inch of that file has 300 pixels in it. If you scale that image up to 300″ x 300″ then each square inch will have one pixel making your image look blurry.

File Help


Resolution Recommended for Large Format Printing

For optimal large format output, we recommend a minimum of 150-200 dpi at final print size for photographic images. 150 dpi at final print size is adequate for most jobs. A good rule of thumb is to try and have an original source file at 25% of the final output size with 400-600 dpi resolution.  For .psd, .tiff and .jpg files, the resolution needs to be 300 dpi or higher.

Photos Found Online

Images from the Internet or web sites are generally 72 dpi and in a GIF or JPEG format. These files usually do not provide a good quality image for printing. Color and resolution are removed from these images to allow for rapid transfer on the Internet. These images would appear fuzzy and pixellated if printed. An unfavorable image cannot be resaved as a different type of file. For example, you cannot place a gif file in Photoshop and resave it as an EPS format. This does not enhance the resolution of the file. If you have to use low resolution images, we will print only after you consent to the limited quality.

100% Black VS. Rich Black

When using larger areas of black, we highly recommend using rich black which is made up of 30% Cyan, 20% Magenta, 20% Yellow and 100% Black. When you use black to fill an area, it is filled with 100% of all inks, not just black. Therefore, “100% Black” produces a dull gray color, but “Rich Black” produces a richer, darker, true black.


Include Composite (Flattened) File

Always save a composite (flattened) image, such as a PDF, JPG or TIFF, along with the native file(s) that you submit to us. The purpose of creating and including a composite file is so that it can be compared against the native file to ensure that the file is being printed properly.