Not sure what file type to send, or where to use RGB versus CMYK? This cheat sheet will help you ensure your logo is always presented in the best format. I've also included a free downloadable in full color and easily printable (and colorblind-friendly!) greyscale at the end of the post.
The world of file types and color formats is a vast and confusing one, so let's just dive in.
Logo File Format Use Cases
Who & What
Some of these have some overlap, so don't treat this as a hard and fast rule. If someone asks for a specific file type, go ahead and send them that, even if it doesn't match the sheet. I've had printers request RGB formats, vendors only accept JPEGs or PNGs, clients request SVGs, anything you can think of. However, if they don't give you clarification for whatever reason, this should give you good results.
You, the Client
You, as the client, will most often be using your logo yourself in things like: profile images, social media, internal documents, letterheads, presentations, and email signatures. These are things you'll often create or work on without the aid of a designer.
.jpg Usage & Perks
Most often, you'll want a JPEG, which will usually be a nice, small file size and able to be used nearly everywhere.
Small File Size
JPEG images typically have smaller file sizes compared to PNG images due to their lossy compression algorithm. This makes JPEG a better option when you need to optimize images for faster website loading times on websites or when sharing images via email or social media where smaller file sizes are preferred.
Please note that JPEGs are a lossy file format, which means there will most likely be color dithering and artifacts. Color dithering is a technique used in computer graphics and digital imaging to create the illusion of a greater number of colors in an image than are actually available in the color palette, resulting in smoother gradients and more visually appealing images. Image artifacts refer to unwanted visual anomalies or distortions that can occur in an image due to various factors such as compression, limited color depth, or data transmission errors. These artifacts can manifest as pixelation, blurriness, color banding, or other irregularities, which can detract from the overall visual appeal and quality of the image. These things aren't typically a big problem with logos, due to their simplicity, but they're important things to note and are helpful for other usages.
JPEG is excellent for photographs and complex images with a wide range of colors and gradients. The compression of JPEG can efficiently reduce file size while maintaining acceptable image quality in most cases. Although PNG supports a higher color depth, the larger file size may not be practical for extensive use of photographs, especially on the web. While your logo isn't a photograph, you may have gradient versions of your logo that will still be great as a JPEG.
JPEG is a widely supported and recognized image format across various platforms and devices, making it a safe choice for compatibility purposes. While PNG is also widely supported, there may be instances where certain platforms or devices prefer or require the JPEG format, especially due to its size. You'd be hard-pressed to find a website that doesn't accept a JPEG.
To put everything simply, try to only use an original JPEG file that was exported directly from a scalable format. Use the resolution requested by the website or the format required. For example, Instagram profile photos are 320 by 320 pixels. If you want to post your logo as the profile photo, make sure you're using an image adequate for that purpose, don't use a 16- by 16-pixel favicon image size. Do not use undersized JPEGs, it looks unprofessional and mars your brand image. Oversized can be an issue, too, if the file size is too large it can slow down a webpage or may not be able to be uploaded. However, when in doubt, go big.
.png Usage & Perks
Less frequently used but still very common is the PNG. There are several reasons why you might choose this format over a JPEG.
PNG supports transparency, allowing you to have images with transparent backgrounds or semi-transparent elements. This feature is useful when placing images over different backgrounds or layering multiple images.
PNG uses lossless compression, which means the image quality is preserved even after compression. This is beneficial when you need to maintain the image's original quality for detailed graphics, illustrations, or text.
PNG supports a higher color depth (up to 48-bit) compared to JPEG (24-bit). This means PNG can display a wider range of colors and is more suitable for images with a high level of color detail, such as photographs with gradients or illustrations with subtle color variations. It's important to remember that PNG files are generally larger in size compared to JPEG files, which can impact loading times for web pages or online applications.
.pdf Usage & Perks
If you often need to print your logo or use it in internal print formats, you might prefer to use a Portable Document Format (PDF) of your logo.
PDF is designed to preserve the original layout, formatting, and structure of a document, including text, images, and vector graphics.
PDF supports vector graphics, which allows images and illustrations to be scaled without losing quality. This is particularly useful when your logo needs to be printed at various dimensions. Also, if you have this file at your immediate disposal, it's super easy to send off to a vendor, designer, or printer.
PDF files may have larger file sizes, especially with high-resolution images or multiple pages. Additionally, PDF files may require specific software (like Adobe Acrobat Reader) to view or edit the content.
.ai or .pdf
Designers will typically be using your logo in things you're unable to create yourself. This will most likely be: website design, banner ads, animations, collateral, signage, and any other large design projects.
Designers will often need an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or PDF. These formats are vector-based, which means they can be scaled without losing quality or resolution. Vector files are essential for versatile logo usage, as they can be resized for various applications, such as digital platforms, print materials, and large-scale displays, without losing clarity or sharpness. Additionally, Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files (and to some extent, .pdf files) can be easily edited, allowing designers to make adjustments and modifications to the logo as needed.
.jpg, .png, or .svg
Developers will usually insert your logo files into things that require programming in some capacity. This includes web/app development, emails, landing pages, and blogs. Developers need these file formats for logos to ensure optimal quality, flexibility, and compatibility across various web applications and devices.
JPEG is a widely supported format that provides good compression for photographic images, making it suitable for logos with complex color gradients and details.
PNG supports lossless compression and transparency, making it ideal for logos with transparent backgrounds or when high-quality images are needed.
.eps or .pdf
Vendors will use your logo in the production of physical items, including business cards, stationery, apparel, event graphics, embroidery, and all other collateral production. These items will be sent as ready-to-print files, so you don't want them to be able to accidentally manipulate your logo as it's going into production.
Print vs Digital
.ai, .eps, .pdf
These are going to be your most commonly used print files. These preserve the quality and integrity of vector graphics, maintain the original layout, and ensure compatibility across various software and platforms while keeping a consistent appearance in the final printed product.
.jpg, .png, .svg
These are going to be your most commonly used digital files. These formats are used for digital designs because they offer a balance of compression, quality, and scalability, catering to the specific needs of different digital applications.
CMYK vs RGB
Your logo package should have CMYK and RGB versions of the files.
CMYK Usage & Perks
CMYK represents Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). This color format is used for print. Those four colors are the traditional four ink plates used in color printing. If you've ever changed your home printer ink cartridges, you've seen these letters. This method of generating color is subtractive, and as a general rule, will produce less vibrant colors than what's possible in digital use.
RGB Usage & Perks
RGB represents Red, Green, and Blue. This color format is used in digital art. These three colors are used in the additive color process that digital screens use. Because the color parameters are added together, you can achieve eye-catching bright colors.
.ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg
These file formats offer scalability, referring to the ability of an image to be resized without losing quality or resolution. Vector graphics are created using mathematical formulas based on points and lines on a grid, allowing them to be rendered cleanly at any size. This makes vector graphics particularly suitable for various applications, such as web design, print materials, and large-scale displays, where maintaining image quality at different sizes is crucial.
.ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg
These files offer the ability to modify or update the content, layout, or design of a file using appropriate software or tools. Editable files are typically saved in a format that retains the original structure and elements, allowing users to make changes to the text, images, colors, or other components without starting from scratch. These are particularly useful for collaboration, template creation, and ongoing projects, where adjustments or updates may be required over time.
.jpg, .pdf, .png
Universal file formats are widely supported and can be opened, viewed, or used without the need for specialized software or tools. While PDFs require specific software, most devices have inbuilt PDF readers or users will have them due to the frequency of working with PDFs. These file formats are designed to maintain consistent appearance and functionality, regardless of the operating system or application being used to access them.
.ai, .eps, .pdf, .png, or .svg
Transparency enables images to seamlessly blend with various backgrounds and elements. When an image is saved as a PNG with a transparent background, it can be placed on top of other elements, and the transparent areas will allow the underlying content to be visible.
Download a logo file format cheat sheet to keep on your phone, computer, or in your desk.
Great for digital use
Great for printing and colorblind users