You probably already know that having customized gear in your dojo’s pro shop is great for your business and your students. But you might not know what goes on behind the scenes at Century when it comes to creating your custom products. It all starts when you send us a file containing your artwork. Understanding what to send and how to send it can be confusing, but it goes a long way in making sure you get the results you want.
The first thing to know is that there are two types of digital graphic file you can send: vector and raster.
Senior Production Artist Jordan Kopf explains the difference between the files with the following metaphor:
“If we were in the movie The Matrix, then not being in the Matrix would be raster,” he says. “If you get in real close, you can see all the nitty-gritty bits and parts that make up the image. If you zoom in, you’ll see the pixels -- ” in other words, it’s like looking at something up-close in the real world, let’s say, your hand, and seeing all the little ridges and hairs and bits of skin that form it.
Pull up a picture from your smartphone’s camera. The image seems pretty well-defined and crisp, right? Now zoom in all the way. You might not see pixels, but you’ll definitely notice some blurring. That’s what a raster file is like.
So…is raster bad? Not at all! If it’s sized correctly, raster is great for showing photographic details. If you wanted a complex picture, with light, shading, and many colors, sublimated onto a shirt, raster is the way to go.
Types of raster include: .jpg, .png, .tif
Vector is the world inside the Matrix. Copy and paste a vector file, and if you do it right, you’ll get a code. The code tells the computer what image to draw – basically, a vector file would say something like, “Draw a blue circle with a red lightning bolt through it,” but in computer-speak.
Because vector files are a code, not pixels, they can be blown up to any size without losing quality.
But before you think that vector is always the superior format, consider this: the code that makes up the images can only draw shapes and fill them with color. This makes shading, color gradients, and complex images exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to render in vector.
Types of vector include: .pdf, .ai, .eps, .svg
Which one should I send?
If you want a photograph or photo-quality image sublimation-printed onto your item, send a raster! You’ll get a greater level of detail, especially when it comes to shading in the image.
For other custom types, most notably screen print, either raster or vector will work. In general, a vector is better, and here’s why: suppose you need this logo on 200 T-shirts:
No problem! You send in a raster file with T-shirt-sized art, and before you know it, you’ve got great new shirts for your school. A few weeks later, the logo has become so popular you want it on larger items too. So you order a couple customized Wavemasters.
The problem is, raster images are made up of a set number of pixels. Making the image bigger doesn’t add pixels; it just makes existing pixels larger. A raster image might have enough pixels that it looks great on a small image on a shirt, but if it’s expanded to go on a Wavemaster, it’ll look fuzzy and lose detail. You may end up needing to resend the image you want in a different raster file with a higher pixel rate.
If you send a vector file, however, your image can be blown up or shrunk down to any size. Tiny keychains and big old Wavemaster 2XL can be customized from the same vector.
What if I don’t have a vector file of the art I want?
That’s okay! Our artists are highly trained professionals, and the lack of a vector file won’t deter them.
If you only have a raster file, and your customization requires a vector, they can do a conversion of your raster and turn it into a vector. This will take a little longer, but it’s worth it in the end to get a great image for your custom items!
What if I don’t have either?
This does happen sometimes. Art can get lost, or damaged. Maybe the logo you want is from years and years ago, but the files were lost, or destroyed, or stolen by ninjas.
Let’s assume that, for whatever reason, we’ve arrived at the worst-case scenario: you have either no art, or you have something unusable, like a picture of a T-shirt that has the logo you want on it, or a thumbnail.
Even this isn’t an insurmountable issue. Our artists can redraw your logo from scratch, going off the image you provided.
There are a few things to consider about redrawn art, however. The amount of effort required will mean it takes a more time to finish your order. Also, Jordan warns that artists are typically reluctant to redraw, for a good reason:
“A redraw will never be fully identical to the original image,” he explains.
This isn’t to say it won’t be great art in and of itself. But it won’t be a clone of the original – more like a very similar-looking sibling.
Dos and Don’ts of Submitting Your Custom File
DO make sure that your raster submission is at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) at the size it will appear on your item. For example, if you want a 10”X10” custom image on your shirt, send us an image that has 300 (or more) dpi at 10”X10”.
DO send the original file of your artwork, if possible.
DO feel free to ask about having our artists create new, custom designs just for you!
DO send us an outlined (or “expanded” – different software refer to this differently) version of any text in your logo. This prevents the fonts from changing in between your machines and ours.
DON’T send thumbnails.
DON’T use images with a watermark or copyright logo – actually, don’t use ANY image from the internet unless you’re certain of its copyright status. We’ve all heard horror stories about lawsuits filed over image use. Protect your dojo and yourself, and don’t risk it.
DON’T send your art as any kind of Microsoft file. Our artists use Apple computers, which don’t play well with Microsoft. When in doubt, export your file to .pdf and send it that way.
If you have any questions, our customer service and art teams are more than happy to help! Just give us a call at (800) 626-2787.