The Best File Types for Printing Perfect Custom T-Shirts

The craze of custom shirts is soaring high these days. So naturally, people are drawn to these shirts as they can put any design on them. But the most challenging issue arrives when they submit a low-resolution file for printing onto their shirt. 

This post will discuss the best file types and their characteristics for printing custom shirts

Best file types for custom t-shirt printing —

Bitmap or Raster Files: These are the most common image files available on the Web. They also make the vast majority of files out there. The name ‘bitmap’ tells that it is a map of bits. In simple words, a bitmap file is a grid of pixels for info stored for every pixel related to its position, color, and brightness. 

A bitmap can be great for photographic images. But to get the best results, these files should be of high resolution with no or minimal compression. 

Vector Files: It can be a compound file. It means these files contain bitmap files. Sounds confusing? Here is the simple way to understand it — a vector file can have a bitmap file, but a bitmap file cannot have a vector file. A vector file can contain photographic elements/gradients. 

When you scale up a vector image, it doesn’t lose its quality. But when you do so with a bitmap file, it somewhat loses its quality and sharpness. 

Most common vector files used in printing 

PDF (.pdf) — The Portable Document Format is one of the most popular file types. You can open and view this file in any operating system. You don’t need the app that created this file, and it will retain its original layout and fonts. PDF files can also have rich media like 3D objects, GIFs, and video clips. But there is one thing, you cannot print these on a shirt. 

EPS (.eps) — The Encapsulated PostScript file is a standard vector file type. This is a reliable file format that is self-contained. You can use programs like CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop to save EPS files. Unfortunately, you cannot save the file as an EPS in Microsoft Office program. 

  1. (.ai) — It is the native file type of Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is a popular vector graphic program. But those who don’t have a big budget for Illustrator can use the free program — Inkscape. You can use this program to convert CorelDRAW files (.cdr) to a format that can be opened in Illustrator (.eps). 

In case you aren’t sure about which file format will be great, don’t worry. You can use the most versatile format — PDF.

Vector file tips for printing 

Create outlines for your fonts — In the vector format, the fonts that you use are from your computer. They do not automatically go with the file. It can lead to issues if your printer lacks the same fonts. The text’s default state will be “live,” which simply means editable. No matter the reason, if you need to keep the fonts “live,” you have to send the font file with a vector file. Once you’re done editing the text, you can rid the problems by making “outlines” of your fonts. This will change all your types into text shapes and make them print-ready. 

Placed files and linked files 

When you place a bitmap file into a vector file, sometimes it comes as a “link file” instead of the placed file. This is because it creates a reference image that you can see in the preview, but the document won’t be found there when you try to open it. 

If you don’t include the link file with the main document, it won’t work. So, make sure to uncheck the link to the box when placing a file. 

Bitmap Compression for PDFs

In case you have placed bitmap images in a vector file, PDF will compress those images. First, check out the settings option during save and click the “Compression.” The option will ask you what points per inch (ppi) you like to downsample. In the drop-down menu, click the “Do Not Downsample” option. However, to reduce the size, choose a 300 ppi option which is a high printing resolution.  

Bitmap or raster file types for printing

JPEG (.jpg) — It stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEG is the most popular format on the Web. It is perfect for gradients and rich colors. However, it doesn’t use compression every time you save this file; you lose some data. When you work on a large file in Photoshop, save it in a PSD or TIFF file format to avoid data loss. You can only save the file as a JPEG during the last step. 

TIFF (.tiff)— The Targeted Image File Format was created as an interchange file format between scanners and printers. It is popular among the photographer’s fraternity and designers due to its compression feature. While the JPEG file loses its quality during compression, the TIFF file doesn’t. 

PSD — It is a Photoshop document. You can digitally modify an image. It supports various imaging options and multiple image layers. When you want to work with high-quality graphics data, this is the format to count on.


There are various file formats out there. So, first, you have to find the right file format for your custom clothes design to be printed. Then, pick any of the earlier said formats and get your custom shirt printed with high-quality imagery.

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