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Custom Button Design: Image and File Types

File types are very important to consider when saving your custom button designs, and today we will help explain how you should save your digital files to make the perfect button!


How are digital images saved?


There are two main types of digital images, raster and vector. Being aware of your button design’s image type is very important, as it will determine how easily changes can be made to the button design and how accurately it will print.

The first type of image are raster images, which are flattened designs and pictures. They are made using different colored pixels within an image, and because they are flattened raster images are very difficult to edit. It is very important to save raster images as a high resolution image so your custom button design prints clearly, because this type of image is made of pixels.



The second type is a vector image, which is made using lines and points in a design program. These designs will always look smooth because of how the design program saves the image. Every point and line is saved as coordinates and formulas rather than as pixels, and as a result the design will stay sharp even when enlarged.



Since vector images are made using separate lines and points they are often layered and easy to edit. We highly recommend designing and using vector images if possible, as they will give you the clearest looking button design!


How do I tell what type of image my button design is?


One way is to open your image in editing software. Are you using a photograph? Does your button image look pixelated when you zoom in? Is it difficult to move different parts of your design? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are likely working with a raster image.

Can you easily edit individual shapes in your design? Does your design still look sharp when you drastically enlarge it? Is the final design file layered? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you are likely working with a vector image.

Another easy way to figure out your image type is by the button design’s file extension.


What is a “file extension”?


File extensions can tell you what program was used to make your button design, and the type of image you are working with. For example, Adobe Illustrator saves files with “.ai” at the end of the file name. This tells your computer, and the designer working on your button order, that you used Adobe Illustrator to make your design, and that they should use a design program that can open the file to create your buttons.



How does the file extension help me figure out my image type?

Different file types apply different settings to your saved images, which can impact how you can use your new design.

For example, any image with the following file extensions are raster files:





As mentioned earlier, raster files are made up of pixels, and the overall image needs to be high resolution if you want your buttons to print clearly. It is extremely difficult to make changes to designs in these file types since they are saved as flattened files.

(*The two extensions marked above do support layering if saved properly, but they still use pixels to create and edit images. If your button design uses these file extensions but is small in size, you will still have pixelation issues!)

Vector files are supported by these file extensions:




Your button design can be saved as vector images if they have these file extensions, which makes them easy to edit and they will print very clearly on your custom buttons. Because of this, we highly recommend saving your button designs as these files.

(*Using a flattened/rasterized image and saving the document as a .pdf file does not turn it into a vector image. The image will still be flattened, and extremely difficult to edit.)

What about Microsoft Office programs?


If you have access to design programs to create your buttons, we definitely encourage you to use them instead of Microsoft Office programs like Word and Power Point. These two programs are great for text documents and presentations, but they do not work well for designing buttons. They often save documents in RGB colors (see our previous blog post to learn about the different ways of making colors), and when the design is uploaded to a different program most of the layout positioning is lost.

It is important to note that our graphic designers do not have access to Microsoft Publisher, and any Publisher files (any files ending in .pub) cannot be used for your buttons.

If you are going to use Office programs, please save your button design file as a .pdf. This will not turn your button design into a vector, but it will help preserve the formatting of your design.


What if I don’t see the file extension I’m using listed above?


The file extensions above are the most common types we see submitted for orders. If you are using a different file extension, like Adobe InDesign (any files ending in .indd), please contact us at 623-445-9975 or email us at for instructions on preparing your button artwork for submission.


When I use a photo in my design and save it as a PDF, will my picture save correctly?


If you are using a design program all images will need to be embedded (not linked!) into the file before you export the design. Embedding images means that the image data will travel with the completed design when you send it. This is different than linking an image, which only tells the program where to look for the image on your computer. When a file is linked the image data is not included when you send the design for your buttons, and our designers will not be able to see your entire design!

If you are using an alternative program like Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, you will need to save your document as a PDF before sending it with your button order. This lets you review the document before sending it, and if it looks different than it should you can make adjustments until you are happy with it.


If you are not sure how to save your files or submit them with your order, feel free to call or email us and we will help guide you.


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