A Beginners Guide to File Types and File Organization

It’s a new year and time for new adventures and goals. Whether that is promising yourself to get to bed earlier each night, drinking more water, or even something like taking the first step into turning some of your art into products.

Looking into moving over from just digital and traditional art prints to another tangible medium like enamel pins can be, for the lack of better word, ‘ overwhelming’ when you are first dipping your toes in. It’s a lot of information coming at you from all angles at once, and it’s alright to be a bit lost at first.

It’s normal, I promise!

Remember, we were all new at one point. My very first foray into pins was also here at Alchemy and resulted in an almost 100 message long email thread with our owner Greg and him walking me through the process. So don’t be afraid to reach out to us and ask questions, there is no such thing as a stupid question in the pursuit of knowledge!

One of the first hurdles that I myself and a lot of fellow artists also have in the beginning is understanding the sort of file type to submit along with how to format the file itself.

The short of it is, vector files will always be not only the preferred file type but industry standard across the board. Don’t worry though if you are unable to provide this type of file, we’ll cover that shortly.

Why a vector file?

This is because vector files unlike their raster counterparts can be scaled and manipulated losslessly. Need the art 2” for a pin but 5ft for a banner? No problem with a vector. This is because vectored art is composed of many points, lines, and curves that are formed and defined by mathematical equations to form what you see on the screen. When you scale or edit a vector file you are actually altering and manipulating the math behind the image to form new points vs stretching a static art. Fun fact. If you copy and paste a vector from something like AI and try to paste it - you get a bunch of jumbled numbers and code instead of a picture.


Now that we understand a little more about the reasoning behind why one file is preferred over another - it’s important to note that we understand not everybody has the ability or the appropriate software to create their own vectors. This is 100% okay and no cause for alarm. I didn’t even know what a vector was when I first started. Adobe Illustrator? Sorry, I don’t know her.

Don’t worry, all hope is not lost! We got you! As long as you are able to provide us with a nice large raster file we can usually get a vector made and set up for you without any problems. In fact, the majority of art we tend to get in is not already vectored, so have no fear!

As a fellow artist, who started out as a client with no prior experience, I wanted to share my top 3 tips to set you up for success when submitting your work in raster form to make your life a little easier and less stressful.

Bigger is always better when it comes to files.

  • When creating your initial canvas, make sure to set your DPI to a high number such as 400. Although in most cases we can get away with 300 dpi as a minimum for most products, some printed products such as washi have a hard 400dpi requirement in order to properly print without issues.
  • Make your canvas large in dimension as well, don’t design on a dinky little 1 inch square. I personally do almost all of my own designs on a 3,000 x 3,000, 400 dpi canvas.

Keep it clean!

    • Distressed and sketchy style brushes always look great when designing but from a manufacturing and production standpoint never work and also make it extremely difficult to vector at times. Stick to using a nice hard flat brush with crisp edges and full opacity. Brushes like the hard round brush in photoshop or the studio pen in procreate are great examples of brushes to use.


 Layers are life! Resist the urge to flatten!

    • Layers will be your best friend and most digital art applications allow for them (Photoshop, gimp, paint tool sai, and procreate to name a few). When you are designing, try to group and keep key elements on individual layers. Have your Lineart as one layer, the color on another, and if there are any specialty areas such as intended printing vs enamel - have that on its own layer as well.
    • When you are finished, don’t merge everything and save it with the layers intact, even if the file is huge. Saving as a .psd is the best file extension and can be done in all the previously mentioned applications, not just photoshop. So send us those huge files. Much like Moto Moto, we like ‘em big, we like ‘em chunky!

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