Design File Types for Fabric Explained: How to use different formats in design
Are you planning to design file types for printing on fabric using digital technology? Here’s everything you need to know
The first and most important thing you need to know before you print your design on fabric is how to save your files once you have created the design. You’ll find that when you request to print your design on fabric with maake, we tell you which type of format is acceptable (in our case, it’s either a JPEG or a PNG – see below for more details).
What is a design file and why are these image file formats so important?
Editable image file formats are often a key part of your design process. They give your computer information about what graphic design file formats they are and which format you have created them in (eg Adobe Illustrator or AI, Photoshop etc). A graphic file type also informs you of which software you need to use to view and edit the graphic file on your computer.
Now, the graphic file format and the size of the graphic can also affect the quality of your design content. Some files are better for text, and some are better for an image, a logo or a photo. We have compiled all the information you need on each different graphics file format you can use when you make your design project. Take a look…
Graphic file types
When you save your design, the format you use to make your design image will dictate the file type. Here are examples of each format we use at maake:
- JPEG: This is the most common image format. This is the shortened version of the name ‘Joint Photographic Experts Group’. This image is a compressed Raster (pixel-based) format used for photos and graphics . The compression levels are easy to adjust. JPEGs are perfect for all types of print projects including web use. These Raster images are ideal for editing and printing graphics, artwork and photos.
- PNG file format: PNG is the short form for ‘Portable Network Graphics’. One of the main reasons a designer may use a PNG image is that a PNG image supports transparency. This allows the designer to have a clear and transparent background on their PNG graphics. This is instead of having a coloured background that can be tricky to remove. A PNG can also display depths of colour. They are commonly used for good quality graphics and illustrations with few colours. We call the file compression of a PNG image ‘lossless’, which means there is no loss in the quality of the PNG image. This type of graphic image file is ideal to use on the web, but is not ideal for print.
Information on other file types
When we embark on designing for printing on fabric the following is the list of each format we usually discuss. This is by no means an exhaustive format list, but it's a great place to start getting familiar with information about the different types of image files and to find out when to use them. Let’s take a look:
- AI – If you use Adobe Illustrator or AI as it’s called, this will be your default format. Illustrator works well with editing Vector images. AI files such as Vector files can be exported in another format such as PDF for printing and reviewing the image as well as TIFF or JPEG for web use and extra image editing.
- PSD file format – If Adobe Photoshop is your software of choice, PSD (Photoshop Document) will be your default file format. Printers will usually not recognise graphics saved in this format. You will need to export your image files into TIFF or JPEG before you print, not only if you’re using the file for the web.
- EPS – This image stands for ‘Encapsulated PostScript’, which is a Vector based image file that is used to create high resolution graphics for print use. It is a universal file type which is a great advantage. This Vector based file can be used in different software – unlike other files. Remember: these Vector image files are not ideal for photographs or artwork, or for the web.
- TIFF – A large Raster image file. These image files produce a high-quality image for printing and for web use. All the original data is always maintained, no matter how many times you copy or compress these quality graphics files.
The main difference between TIFF and PSD image files is the size limits. Tiffs can handle over 2GB; they are extremely high quality image Raster images that we usually use to print high-quality photos. You should avoid these quality Raster image files if you're creating Raster files for the web because of their huge size. We create both of these image files in Adobe Photoshop, so choose accordingly if you’re going to use the image on the web.
Which Graphic Image File Format should You Choose?
We’ve given you the list of the most frequently used graphics files by fabric designers. There are plenty more, which designers create in Photoshop and other formats for use in various media, including the web and on fabric. We divide these files into 2 separate groups of files.
The most important thing to remember is that, when a designer creates a pattern or images, they save the graphics in a particular format that is an image file. Each image file format has a specific use – and using the right file format for your images for a print project will help in making sure your designs or graphics print clearly and with vivid colours.
Certainly, the type of fabric you choose to print images on will decide the end result of the print job. But knowing upfront about your file format will make all the difference to the images on your final product.
A designer uses graphic image files in 2 distinct file formats – the Raster format and the Vector graphics file format. We have mentioned Raster and Vector graphics formats already, but let’s explain Vector and Raster formats in more detail so you will be more familiar with both and able to choose the right images and file formats for your design.
Raster File Formats
The Raster file formats are: JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, RAW and PSD.
We make Raster images in Adobe Photoshop. We create each image file from a set grid made of dots that we call pixels. Each pixel is a different colour. When you create these image files in Photoshop, the images exist in one particular size. If you want to edit Raster images to make the file types Raster like PNG, JPEG etc larger, you will have to stretch the pixels of the Raster format. And this is where the term ‘pixelated’ comes from – when making the Raster image too large, it becomes pixelated, and it isn’t clear. It’s best to leave the Raster image at its original size, rather than try to enlarge images, even if only using on the web.
Raster file types are usually the format we use to save photographs, graphics, digital images (like patterns to print on fabric or a logo) and some web graphics, images for Social Media and emails using Adobe Photoshop. We use Photoshop to create, design and edit these high quality Raster images. We also use Adobe Photoshop to add specific effects to these Raster images such as texture and shadow or to alter the original images. So remember: Vector images are created in Adobe Illustrator, while Raster files are made in Adobe Photoshop.
Printing Raster Files
We’ve discussed the colour models RGB and CMYK in depth in our blog on Colour Theory (read it here). These are the 2 models we use in colour printing. For CMYK we use 4 colour inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), while for RGB we only use the primary colours red, green and blue – these RGB shades reflect the exact colours we see on the screen; this is why we often use this format for creative web design for the purposes of marketing and advertising. On the other hand, CMYK can create a whole kaleidoscope of gorgeous quality colours for your images or high resolution logo. We can also mix both colour models together to create numerous other colours for your images. These can be used on various products and formats including fabric and the web.
The Vector Image File Format
Vector files include: PDF, EPS, SVG and AI
Vector images describe digital artwork that we have created on computer – almost like a vast mathematics equation that transforms various shapes into art. In effect, Vector artwork is compiled of Vector graphics that include mathematical curves, lines and shapes. A Vector image is always high resolution and of good quality.
So, Vector images depend solely on resolution. This means that if you increase or reduce the size of a Vector image, it won’t lose its clarity or detail. The Vector image will stay high quality if it was to begin with. We use the Vector image a lot for format setting, or creating and editing a logo and digital illustrations or Vector images in Adobe Illustrator (AI files). They aren’t frequently used for the web. However, we do not create Vector files in Adobe Photoshop, we can only create a Vector image in AI. Raster images are created in Photoshop, while Vector files are made in Illustrator.
Important Factors when Creating Files
- File Resolution
For printing, you require a file of a reasonable quality, with a minimum file resolution of 150dpi (50 dots per inch or DPI).
- File Size
This determines the size of the final print file on the product. The file size of the images is just as important as their file resolution. File size is more important when it comes to fabric printing than web use.
Printing on fabric
Once you have chosen the fabric you are going to print your pattern or images on, it’s a good idea to find out about how to print on fabric, which will explain maake’s printing processes.
It's Time to Shop
If you’re ready to design an image or images for us to print on fabric, click here:
Then we suggest you take a look at our comprehensive blog on Digital Fabric Printing, which describes in detail how we print images on our fabrics.
Remembere: maake has a policy of no minimum orders! This means we print exactly the amount of fabric you require, no more.
Find out more
Before you order your Colour Atlas, learn all about how you can create perfect colours on fabrics when you use this innovative tool. It’s available on the web, alongside numerous informative blogs created especially for maake customers.
Before you pick your fabric, read our go-to guide that explains The Best Fashion Fabric Choices in the UK. We produced another great guide on the web that offers the best fabric choices for kids. There are numerous guides on different types of fabric and different garments for different seasons, which you will find here on the web.
Design Tools to help you
maake has 2 excellent tools in kit form to shop for that will help you on your way. Check them out on the web!
A few years ago we compiled the perfect toolkit for you to help you choose the right fabric for your project and find out how to get the perfect colour match for your images and patterns. This includes the following:
- A sample book with swatches of all the fabrics maake offers our customers, so that you can see the range of fabrics available to print on.
- 2 mini Colour Atlases 65 x 48cm in size– one in Polyester (Easy Care Panama), and one in cotton (Calico Plain Cotton) to show how colours will reproduce on synthetic and natural fabrics.
- Handy booklet on Printing Digital Designs.
- £5 voucher to use on your next order.
- 5 large fabric samples.
All this for a special discounted price of £12 (usually £20!)
Order it on the web!
- Already a pro? Check out our Designers Pro Bundle
The perfect tool for professional designers, this kit offers all the tools you need to print professionally on fabric with maake. It features:
- Handy sample book which contains swatches of all the fabrics maake offers our customers, so that you can see the range of fabrics available to print your patterns, images and logos on.
- 2 full size Colour Atlases 140 x 100cm in size– one in Polyester (Easy Care Panama), and one in cotton (Calico Plain Cotton). These will show you exactly how colours will reproduce on both synthetic and natural fabrics.
- An informative booklet on Printing Digital Designs.
- £5 credit voucher to use on your next order.
- 5 large fabric samples.
All this for a special discounted price of £21 (usually £35!)
Order yours right away on the web!