Are you perplexed by file names like JPEG, PNG, or TIFF? Unsure about where and when to use them? While there may seem to be an overwhelming variety of image formats, each one has its place and function.
Tired of blurry, cloudy, or pixelated images? It is especially important to know how each format works when creating or resizing graphics in order to maximize their benefits.
In this blog, we will explore the names and functions of the most popular image formats, as well as how and when to use them properly. In order to make the best use of these formats, you must begin with a fundamental understanding of the difference between raster and vector files.
Raster vs. Vector
Raster images, by definition, are pictures. Any picture you see or purchase online or take with your phone or digital device is raster. Raster images are comprised of a set of tiny blocks, called pixels, to generate a whole image. Each pixel is a certain proportion, determined by their quality. If you increase the size of pixels beyond the space for which they are intended, they become blurry and lose their sharpness. While you cannot design a raster image, you can manipulate them. Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing and color correction, but there are many alternatives that offer similar features.
Vector images, on the other hand, are much more versatile than raster images, because they do not use pixels to determine sharpness. Instead, vector images are constructed using mathematical formulas rather than blocks. Vectors are considered “art” in many design programs and can be resized without any distortion of quality. Designers typically use programs like Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, CorelDRAW, and others to create vector-based art.
The Most Common Image Formats
The list below includes the most popular and versatile image formats, along with their description and usage guidelines. When used according to their specifications, these file formats will produce amazing results.
- JPG (or JPEG): Joint Photographic Experts Group
Pronounced colloquially as “jay-peg”, this format is probably the best known and accepted raster image format. JPG is the preferred format in most digital cameras and is often the best choice for use across a multitude of operating systems, such as Windows and macOS (Apple). JPG boasts vibrant color, as much as 16 million variations of colors and blends.
- PNG: Portable Network Graphics
PNG is ideal for digitized content, like social media posts and web pages. This format brings together the best of raster and vector and packs high-quality images into a small file size. PNG also easily supports transparency, another reason it is the preferred format for web page design.
- GIF: Graphics Interchange Format
There is some debate about whether to pronounce GIF with a soft or a hard “G.” Whichever way you choose, this format’s popularity as a vehicle for transmitting low-resolution animated clips is ideal for digitized content like banner ads in web pages, or in mobile social apps like Instagram, where images need to load quickly.
- TIFF: Tagged Image File Format
Pronounced exactly the way it reads, a TIFF file is the undisputed king of raster image formats. TIFF file sizes are typically quite large because of their high resolution and can be resized easily without compromising quality. Because of their high quality, it also takes them forever to load on the web, which is why you should avoid using this file type. TIFF is perfect for outputting photos to print.
- EPS: Encapsulated PostScript
EPS is a popular vector file format and is ideal for printing and transferring to other applications, like Photoshop or InDesign, but as universal file type, it also transfers seamlessly to other applications like CorelDRAW or Quark. It can be outputted from almost any design program.
- PDF: Portable Document Format
If you think that the ubiquitous PDF format is only for transmitting documents, take another look. While it has the word “document” in its name, PDF files act as a cross-platform container for sharing any type of information, including images and graphics. Invented by Adobe with the intention of capturing all forms of information and sharing it universally, PDF has become the Swiss Army Knife of image file formats. PDF files are now editable within the full version of Adobe Acrobat or within other Adobe programs.
JPG’s versatility is limited when designing print content because of its tendency to distort easily when resized, and is not suited for photos with text, or shapes with angles. It also does not support transparency, which makes exporting artwork like logos unreliable.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the wealth of naming jargon and descriptions. Hopefully, this blog acts as a more comprehensive guide when you need to choose the right image for your next project. Knowing the differences between file formats can take your project from good to amazing, simply by adding a clear, compelling, and properly-formatted image.
If you want to take your creative projects to the next level, reach out to Infinity Concepts!
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