If your web agency has asked for a PNG of your logo or you’ve sent a JPEG and the print-house wants a TIFF you might be thinking “What the hell is one of those?!”
There are hundreds of image file types available globally but luckily there are only eight that you really need to know. We’ve put together a list of the key formats to help you understand why us design folk can seem so picky sometimes!
JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group
A JPEG is probably one of the most common file types you’ll come across. It’s a format that compresses images to make them easier to store on your computer, send via email and upload to your website. Works best with photographs and complex images, but be aware that if you choose to decrease the quality of the JPEG too much, you will begin to lose all that lovely colour information, but once decreased can never be recovered.
PNG – Portable Network Graphic
Much like a JPEG, a PNG compresses images for use but with the added benefit of transparency. A PNG will allow you to have a fully transparent background but a JPEG won’t. Which means you can easily overlay a PNG image onto a background, making it more efficient for image editing. File sizes are often lower with PNGs than they are with JPEGs which makes them ideal for your website to minimise your sites load time.
TIFF – Tagged Image File Format
A TIFF is like a beefed-up version of a JPEG. It’s used widely by the publishing industry as it’s capable of storing super high-quality CMYK image data. It’s perfect for all your printed materials but steer clear if you’re looking to upload photos to your website – the file size reflects the quality!
GIF – Graphics Interchange Format
Some people pronounce it ‘Jiff’ and some people pronounce it ‘Giff’, but whatever you call it, a GIF is a very useful online file format. With only 256 colours and no possibility of a smooth gradient, it can be restrictive in terms of design but it is great for making short animations for things such as online adverts. The downside to this file type is that the image is quite “lossy” due to the data compression, so it’s not recommended to replace actual videos.
AI – (Adobe) Illustrator Artwork
An AI file is the default save file used by Adobe Illustrator. While the last four file types are all raster, AI and EPS are vector based.
Raster – Image-based digital file that uses pixels to create shapes. Can lose sharpness and quality if it’s resized.
Vector – Uses paths to create sharp lines that will retain their quality when scaled up or down. This works well for things like icons but not for photos.
EPS – Encapsulated PostScript
On the surface, it may look like an AI file and an EPS are exactly the same… it’s because they basically are! The only real difference between the two is that AI supports transparency and EPS does not – that’s it!
PSD – (Adobe) Photoshop Data
Unless you work in the creative industry, you may not have heard of a PSD. It’s the default save file used by Adobe PhotoShop and allows the design to retain all layers, transparency, live text and colour settings without flattening them down and compressing them in the same way a JPEG would.
PDF – Portable Document Format
A PDF is a nifty little file type that allows you to retain the live text, formatting and colours of your original file no matter where you created it! While you can open a JPEG on any computer you’ll need a PDF reader, such as Adobe Acrobat, to view a PDF. The plus side is that you’ll be able to update bits of the copy of add in a new image, without having to have the original programme installed on your computer.
To put it simply there’s no “one size fits all” file type. Some are good for websites, some are bad for websites and the same goes for print. Below is a chart that sums up the basics of image file types and their uses: