There are so many awesome design templates out there. Which is great when you know what you’re doing and not so great when you don’t.
It’s the people who know nothing about design who can benefit the most from these templates, but they’re often laced with jargon only a designer would understand.
I’m going to go over some important things to look for when you’re purchasing a template. This post will shed some light on some of those “design terms” and help you find the right kind of files for your project.
Buying a Design Template Quick Links
Keep reading or skip ahead
The file format will give you some insight into what apps or programs can open the files you’re purchasing. Some templates may include a variety of formats and will usually list them on the product page.
- PSD: Photoshop
- INDD: InDesign
- AI: Illustrator
You might also find stuff in JPG, PNG, or SVG.
- JPG is usually for photos
- PNG may also be photos but is most often used because it supports transparency.
- SVG is a vector format. These can be scaled to any size and are commonly used for printable or Cricut designs.
For Canva users, Canva accepts JPG, PNG, and SVG only. If a template doesn’t include the template files in this format, it will not work with Canva.
It’s best to ask if you’re unsure or to check for other recommended programs. Which brings me to my next point!
Yes, this section is sort of similar to the file formats section, but if you’re unable to find that information, here’s another way to tell.
Most templates will use a specific set of programs or just one. Some Adobe products can open each others’ files but to edit them, you still need access to the right program.
Product listings will tell you which program it was created for. Layered files usually require specific programs because image file formats like JPG don’t support layers.
Vector files will typically need to be opened in Illustrator. Book and page design templates are usually created in InDesign. And you can find pretty much anything in Photoshop format.
You really do need to pay attention because even though you think Illustrator might be the best choice for designing a business card, there might be a template that uses a PSD file instead.
Layers allow you to edit certain parts of a Graphics independently. Most files will have layers if they’re provided in PSD, AI, or INDD format, but PNG and JPG do not.
All PNGs and JPGs are what’s called “flattened” to a single layer.
Some people might include a PNG for each layer so you can upload them to services like Canva or use them in other graphics programs.
This doesn’t work for everything though because then you can’t use layer or text effects that make the graphics more interesting. That’s part of the reason why some templates just aren’t available in web-based design apps.
Don’t get this mixed up with file size, these are two different things!
Image size is the “physical” size of a project. If you’re designing for print, this is usually illustrated in inches or paper size (such as A4, US letter, legal, etc). File size is how much space the file takes up on a hard drive.
For screen use, image sizes are in pixels. More pixels = larger image.
You typically want photos to be as large as possible so you’ll be able to resize them or only use sections of them at a time. It also helps for printing.
For stuff like social media graphics, you want to find templates that fit the typical sizes for that network.
Here’s an example:
A 300x700px template wouldn’t be great for Pinterest, even though it’s a vertical image. The width (300) is under half the recommended size for Pinterest (736) so it will appear small when someone clicks on it.
Here’s another thing that differs based on print or web use. (Yes, another one! I know, so much.)
DPI is short for Dots Per Inch and refers to exactly what it sounds like. Dots is a printing term. For screens, this would be the number of pixels in an inch (also called PPI.)
Am I confusing you yet?? I hope not!
Typical DPI for most screens is 72. Retina displays are 150. Printers require at least 300 to look good.
So to make it easy, for screens, you want 72 or 150. For print projects, no less than 300.
It’s also okay to purchase a high DPI template for on-screen use. You can always adjust the DPI or size in Photoshop or another image editor.
It’s always better to start big and go smaller than to start small and go bigger. This is why vectors are used for print-focused products; you can resize them to ANY SIZE and they’ll still look great!
This is something you don’t really have to worry about for things like social media graphics or blog photos.
Here’s this question again: Are you using this template for print or screen use?
Color space is yet another thing to check. You need CMYK for print and RGB for screens.
If you’ve ever changed an ink cartridge, you should remember that there are at least 4 colors every printer has: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
Some printers will also include variations of these, like “light magenta” but I’m rambling again here.
These four colors make up the CMYK color space. Now you know!
Fun fact: cyan, magenta and yellow are the primary colors of light. Okay so, maybe not so fun fact? I do find all this really interesting. lol
Anyway, on to screen color space!
The color space for images we view on screens is RGB: red, green, and blue (remember ROY G BIV?). Every color you see is some combination of these colors.
The thing to remember here is if you want to use a design for print, you need a file in CMYK format. For online/screen use, you need RGB.
Design Template Shopping Recap
Now that you’ve read through this tips, you should know a whole lot more about print vs web graphics and how to find design assets that will work with your design program. Even Canva!
Here’s what we’ve learned:
- File formats are the first indication of what program a template is designed for
- Image file formats like PNG or JPG can be uploaded to Canva
- Unlike PSD, INDD, or AI files, PNG and JPG cannot be layered
- File size is size on disk, image size is width and length dimensions
- Print projects need to be at least 300 DPI and use the CMYK color space
- Web graphics need at least 72 DPI and use RGB color space
What was your biggest take away from this post? Do you have a question about all this?
Leave a comment and let us know!Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase, I'll receive a bonus or commission. Don't worry, there's no extra cost to you!