What is an EPS File? 7 Things You Need to Know About Them

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What is an EPS file?

An EPS file is a graphic file format for vector illustrations – commonly used in print and digital media. If you’ve ever used a vector illustration in a project, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the EPS file format. In case you were wondering, EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. 

EPS files vs vector files

What is a vector image?

So what exactly are vector images (illustrations) and why do we love them so much? Unlike raster images (JPEG, GIF, PNG, etc.), which are made up of pixels (tiny colored squares arranged in a rectangular grid to form an image), vector graphics use mathematical calculations to plot points and the paths that connect them to describe the image. While a raster image might have 2000 pixels from point A to point B, a vector graphic would simply plot the two points, calculate the distance between them and draw a line (this is why vector files are typically much smaller than raster images).

Vector illustrations also give you the freedom to use the image however you choose. The shapes and objects plotted in a vector can be easily manipulated, colored, and resized without any loss of quality. Let’s say you download a set of red icons, but you really need them to be orange. With a vector illustration, you can easily select the icon and change its color. If you tried to do the same thing with a raster image, it would be difficult to isolate the color you wanted to replace without things looking a bit fuzzy.

Vector illustrations are known as “resolution‑independent”, which means you can scale them to any size without affecting the image quality. Whether you’re putting it on a business card or a billboard, vector graphics will remain sharp and crisp at any size.

Is an EPS a vector file?

The short answer is yes. The EPS file is a long‑established type of vector file commonly used today because it can combine both vector and raster images on a single page. However, one of its main drawbacks is that they don’t support transparency – a feature other vector files support.

How to open an EPS file

You don't need to be a mathematician to open and edit vector artwork, but you do need vector‑editing programs or applications. Vector‑editing software and applications you can use to open EPS files include:

  • Adobe Illustrator®
  • Adobe InDesign® 
  • CorelDraw
  • Affinity Designer
  • Inkscape (free)
  • Gimp (free)

If you don't have access to one of these programs, you won't be able to easily manipulate elements of the illustration or resize it without affecting the image quality.

In many cases, rather than downloading an EPS file, you can get a "flat version" of the illustration in a JPEG format that turns the illustration into a pixel‑based image that you can open with any program that lets you open or edit photos.

If you only need to view an EPS file, you can use Adobe Acrobat or Preview on an Apple device, but you won't be able to edit the image.

What is an EPS file used for?

EPS files can be used in a wide variety of ways. Since vector illustrations are made up of objects, each object in an EPS file can be moved, rotated, rearranged, duplicated, or deleted to suit your needs. You can easily delete shapes to isolate the object you want or combine shapes to create a new composition.

In the world of vector illustrations, the EPS file format is best for high‑quality document printing and marketing materials. If you wanted to use the same image on your business card (small print) and a marketing poster (large print), an EPS file can be resized and altered for both uses while appearing just as clear and crisp as the original.

What should I use an EPS file for?

It’s best to use an EPS file to ensure that your image won’t lose quality in any project. Due to their scalability, businesses commonly use EPS files for high‑resolution advertising, marketing, and brand collateral, including:

  • Advertising campaigns and billboards
  • Band illustrations and t‑shirt designs
  • Brand collateral like logos and signage
  • Event promotions and flyers
  • Hard copy printing (clothing, paper, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Magazine covers
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Products and merchandise

How can I edit and convert an EPS file?

EPS files are not the easiest file format to convert. Similar to when you need to edit an EPS file, you’ll need a vector editing program or app (like Adobe Illustrator®, InDesign, CorelDraw, Publisher, or Inkscape) to open and convert an EPS file to PNG or JPG.

Where can I find EPS illustrations?

All iStock illustrations are available in the EPS file format. When it comes to creating everything from email campaigns to mockups of brand collateral for your business, stock illustrations give you a head start.

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