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An Overview of Three Common Graphic File Types for Desktop Publishing

written by: Haley Montgomery•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 5/21/2009

This article offers an overview of three common graphic file types in desktop publishing, including a description of each, their advantages and disadvantages for desktop publishing projects and desktop publishing tips on the best ways to use each file type.

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    EPS Files

    Desktop Publishing File Description: Encapsulated postscript or EPS files are typically what is termed "vector" artwork. They are used to render graphic files that can be imported into other postscript documents. The exception are desktop publishing files created in Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop EPS files do not maintain their vector format when exported.

    DTP File Advantages: One of the advantages of EPS files or vector art is that they allow designers to resize artwork for desktop publishing projects without losing quality. EPS files can normally be enlarged and still maintain clarity and resolution. They also usually retain their specific Pantone colors when imported into graphics software. Most professional page layout and desktop publishing programs readily export artwork in the EPS format.

    DTP File Disadvantages: Unfortunately, some non-professional desktop publishing software packages like Word, Powerpoint and Publisher do not accept EPS files. In addition, EPS files don't embed fonts that were used in desktop publishing projects. So, fonts must be converted to outlines before exporting or must be included as separate files with the EPS artwork. Another disadvantage is that the color breakdowns of some EPS files cannot be altered.

    Desktop Publishing Project Applications: EPS files are required by many printing and production companies for banners, signs, and promotional products. They are also a helpful format for receiving images such as corporate logos that have strict guidelines for printing, spatial and color quality.

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    JPEG Files

    Desktop Publishing File Description: JPEG files are compressed photographic files. They are typically exported in RGB format, and desktop publishers can adjust settings for the appropriate combination of image quality and file size.

    DTP File Advantages: JPEG files can be imported into almost any desktop publishing, website development and word processing software. JPEG files at 72 dpi are a standard format for website graphics, although settings in various photo software allow for export at 300 dpi and beyond. JPEG file sizes are reasonably low, even at higher resolutions making them more flexible to work with.

    DTP File Disadvantages: Many photo software packages default to the lower resolution versions of JPEG exports which lose noticeable quality in printed applications. In addition, the colors in JPEG images can not be altered in most desktop publishing page layout programs. JPEG formats also do not render type or flat artwork as well as photographic subject matter. JPEG files do not retain font information for included text or specific color palette choices.

    Desktop Publishing Project Applications: JPEG files are one of the most widely accepted file formats in a variety of project applications. They are ideal for website or internet design applications, and higher resolution versions are also acceptable for printed desktop publishing projects as well. JPEG files are best used for photographic images rather than line art unless higher quality compression settings are used. JPEG files are not an acceptable format for vector based production methods since individual color breakdowns are not retained.

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    PDF Files

    Desktop Publishing File Description: Portable Document Files or PDFs render two-dimensional documents for viewing independent of the software used to create the original files. PDFs render both text and image of documents including font, color and vector graphic information.

    DTP File Advantages: PDF files can be viewed through a free downloadable reader, making them an almost universal method of sharing documents. Many page layout and drawing desktop publishing programs can export as PDF files, and can sometimes "print" to PDF. PDF versions of multi-page documents typically have a much smaller file size than originals, and PDF export settings allow for a number of custom features such as embedding of linked files and fonts, as well as export of only specifically selected document pages. High resolution PDF files are an acceptable format for many printing and production methods, including digital printing.

    DTP File Disadvantages: Desktop publishers can only benefit from the full range of PDF features by using the Adobe Acrobat full version, not the reader. PDF files cannot be altered by many desktop publishing programs other than Acrobat. In addition, PDF files do not automatically embed fonts, although that setting can usually be configured when exporting. Occasionally, fonts embedded in PDF formats do not display uniformly across a variety of platforms.

    Desktop Publishing Project Applications: PDF files are an excellent means of providing proofing files for desktop publishing projects since many computer systems today already contain versions of the free reader. When used with the full Adobe Acrobat software, PDF files offer a variety of security and editing features for document mark-up. PDF files are also a good way to provide downloadable documents for website projects.