Lecture 03.02: Print File Types


The goal of this project is to intro­duce the file types used in design pro­duc­tion and to cre­ate a con­sis­tent and effi­cient process to man­age files for use in print and dig­i­tal workflows.


Pro­vide an overview of print pro­duc­tion related file types.

Background Reading

Dab­ner, p 134–135, p 146–147


The inclu­sion of the three let­ter exten­sion on a file name is a good habit for Mac OS users. It allows for sys­tem recog­ni­tion of dig­i­tal files on sev­ers, email, web or Win­dows OS. The fol­low­ing file types are com­monly used in print and mul­ti­me­dia pro­duc­tion. This list should not be con­sid­ered com­plete or absolute due to near con­stant soft­ware updates and mul­ti­ple author­ing applications.

  • Adobe Pho­to­shop (.psd):Image manip­u­la­tion and cap­ture pro­gram. Native for­mat. Default. Retain lay­ers, color adjust­ments, type, and selections. 
  • Tagged Image File For­mat-TIFF (.tif):Photo images in lay­out pro­grams. Com­presses lay­ers and other fea­tures. Very effi­cient for Image­set­ters, but is not scal­able. Select “IBM PC” Byte Order. 
  • Adobe Illus­tra­tor (.ai):Vector illus­tra­tion pro­gram. Native for­mat. Need fonts installed on sys­tem to open prop­erly. Allows for TIFF and EPS file place­ment. A tem­plate file will have an “.ait” extension 
  • Encap­su­lated Post­Script-EPS (.eps):Best for vec­tor graph­ics or text. Scal­able as con­tin­u­ous tone images, but file size may be two to three times larger than TIFF. Fonts used in EPS must be installed on sys­tem. Save with “ASCII” encod­ing for PC printing. 
  • Macro­me­dia Free­hand (.fh):Similar to Illus­tra­tor. Native for­mat. Need fonts installed on sys­tem to open prop­erly. Allows for TIFF and EPS file placement. 
  • InDe­sign (.indd) or Quark XPress (.qxd):Multipage text and image lay­out pro­gram. Native for­mat. Allows for only TIFF and EPS file place­ment. Need fonts installed on sys­tem to open prop­erly. Both allow for export of data to XML or HTML for fur­ther pub­lish­ing options. 
  • Adobe Portable Doc­u­ment For­mat-PDF (.pdf):All inclu­sive file for­mat that is cross-plat­form and adapt­able for print or dig­i­tal distribution. 
  • Microsoft Word (.doc) or Excel (.xls):Microsoft Word files cre­ated on PC or Mac can be opened on either plat­form. Good for word pro­cess­ing spell check and alphabetizing. 
  • Rich Text For­mat-RTF (.rtf):Plain text only. Lit­tle for­mat­ting avail­able. Small and included with soft­ware and on sev­eral machines. 
  • Sim­ple­Text (.txt):Plain text only. Lit­tle for­mat­ting avail­able. Small and included with soft­ware and on sev­eral machines. 
  • Post­Script Type 1 (.t1):TrueOne fonts were devel­oped by the Adobe Cor­po­ra­tion to meet pub­lish­ing demands. Also called Post­Script fonts, the screen fonts are sep­a­rate from the files the printer uses. Both are nec­es­sary to uses in appli­ca­tions and to print prop­erly. Because Post­Script is the lan­guage pro­fes­sional print­ers use for most out­put, these work best for pro­fes­sional work. You should use these when­ever pos­si­ble. These files are plat­form specific. 
  • Open­Type (.otf):OpenType fonts are a recent addi­tion to the font world. These files con­tain both Mac and PC Post­script data in a sin­gle file. They also have addi­tional advanced typo­graphic fea­tures for use in var­i­ous soft­ware appli­ca­tions. Because of their recent intro­duc­tion, few titles exist. 
  • True­Type (.tt or .dfont):TrueType fonts are usu­ally sys­tem fonts that come as part of your com­put­ers soft­ware. Most fonts found on PC’s and free online are also this type of for­mat. These will work on both Mac and PC, though pro­fes­sional print­ers often have dif­fi­culty using the file cor­rectly. They should never be used. 
  • Adobe Pho­to­shop Brushes (.abr): Load­able files to use in Pho­to­shop for draw­ing and painting.
  • Adobe Color file (.aco) Pho­to­shop save­able color palette files.
  • Scribus (.sla) open source ver­sion of InDesign
  • GIMP (.xcf) open source ver­sion of Photoshop
  • Inksacpe SVG (.svg) open source ver­sion of Illustrator
  • Scal­able Vec­tor Graph­ics (.svg) an open stan­dard for­mat for sta­tic and motion vec­tor graph­ics, com­pa­ra­ble to Adobe Illus­tra­tor and Flash, respectively.