Printing a logo (Raster to Vector conversion)


Q. I'm trying to print our logo (that I got from a <whatever - our website, my outlook signature, etc >) and it comes out blurred. Is there a way to fix that?

A. Yes. First of all, your logo is blurred because of the type of image used. The image that you are using is a raster graphic, what you need is a vector graphic. (See the links for a detailed description of the formats). In short, raster is not suitable for printing sharp images - you need a vector graphic.

Here's a visual example that shows the difference between the two formats:


When image is printed, it is magnified (lets call it that - for the sake of simplicity) and the image above shows the results that you get.

To get back to your logo...

When you work with Microsoft Office, these are the recommended formats that you should use for the best results while printing (the full details can be found here):


DXF: AutoCAD Drawing Interchange File
The DXF format is a vector-based, ASCII format that the Autodesk AutoCAD program uses. AutoCAD provides highly detailed schematics that are completely scalable.

CGM: Computer Graphics Metafile
The CGM metafile can contain vector information and bitmap information. It is an internationally standardized file format that is used by many organizations and government agencies, including the British Standards Institute (BSI), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the United States Department of Defense.
In Office 2007, the CGM graphics file format requires a graphics filter.

The CorelDRAW! metafile can contain both vector information and bitmap information.
In Office 2007, the CDR graphics file format requires a graphics filter.

WMF: Windows Metafile
The Windows Metafile is a 16-bit metafile format that can contain both vector information and bitmap information. It is optimized for the Windows operating system.

EPS: Encapsulated PostScript
The Encapsulated PostScript format is a proprietary, printer description language that can describe both vector information and bitmap information.
In Office 2007, the EPS graphics file format requires a graphics filter.

EMF: Enhanced Metafile
The Enhanced Metafile format is a 32-bit format that can contain both vector information and bitmap information. This format is an improvement over the Windows Metafile Format and contains extended features, such as the following:

  • Built-in scaling information
  • Built-in descriptions that are saved with the file
  • Improvements in color palettes and device independence
The EMF format is an extensible format, which means that a programmer can modify the original specification to add functionality or to meet specific needs. This modification can lead to incompatibilities between different types of EMF pictures.

PICT: Macintosh Picture
The PICT file is a 32-bit metafile format for the Macintosh computer. PICT files use Run Length Encoded (RLE) internal compression, which works reasonably well. PICT files support JPEG compression if QuickTime is installed (Macintosh only).
In Office 2007, the PICT graphics file format requires a graphics filter


Convert to Vector from Raster

I usually pick the WMF format, since its Microsoft's native and many graphic editing applications can save to that. The next step is to convert your logo from a raster to a vector image:

This can be done with an application called Inkscape. Its open source and works with MS Windows (among other Operating Systems). Download the software, install and start it up:

  1. Click on File and Import. Find your image, click on it to select it and click on Open.
  2. You should be able to see your image now. Click on it to select it. Reposition or enlarge the image if necessary.
  3. Click on Path, Trace Bitmap. The Trace Bitmap window will open.
  4. You will see two tabs on the Trace Bitmap window (Mode and Options).
  5. On the Mode tab, you can play and change the settings until you find the one that is giving you the best outline. Remember that you have an Update button at the bottom right corner of the window. Preview your results until you are happy. These are the settings I've used:
  6. trace_bitmap

  7. When you click OK, you have already traced the image. (You have to close that window that popped up with the square at the top - it doesn't close when you click OK)
  8. Click to save and save as WMF file (or whatever other format that you like)
You can now import that file into word document and print it. Ideally, the raster image should be large before the conversion to vector in order to get the best results.