Different image file types. What the hell are they?

There are so many different image file types these days, and unless you work with the regularly, chances are they can become confusing. Here's a brief rundown of what's what and what you should use the for.

The JPG:

Probably one of the most commonly used files on the Internet. A jpg is a compressed image file. The compression can be adjusted, so the more compression the smaller the file, but also the poorer the quality. It's also what's known as a lossy format. In other words, if you save and jpg and then re-save the same file, file data is lost and quality degrades. These files are commonly used for sharing photos, artwork and logos. But there's an even better file for logos. Read more below to find out.

Jpgs are good for photos. EPS or vector files are better for logos. TIFF files are best for lossless file sharing.

The PNG file:

The PNG file is unique. It has a very special quality that most of the other flat images don't have. It has an alpha channel, or transparent background. The PNG file is great for sharing logos when you don't want an ugly white background to be displayed. PNG stands for “Portable Network Graphic”. It is the most frequently used uncompressed raster image format on the Internet. This lossless data compression format was created to replace the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

The GIF file:

GIF (pronounced jiff), stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It is a digital file format devised in 1987 by the Internet service provider CompuServe as a means of reducing the size of images and short animations. In fact, it's great for short animations.

The EPS or Vector File (EPS):

EPS is a vector file format often required for professional and high-quality image printing. PostScript printers and image setters typically use EPS to produce vast, detailed images — such as billboard advertising, large posters, and attention-grabbing marketing collateral. Oftentimes, professional printers request your design files be sent in EPS format, so the design file is compatible with their software and printer. EPS files can be converted to JPG, PNG, TIFF, and PDF.

The Adobe Photoshop File (PSD):

PSD files are the native file format of Adobe Photoshop. You’ve probably seen files with the .psd extension format, especially if you’ve been an Adobe Photoshop user. Most commonly used by designers and artists, Photoshop Documents are powerful tools for image data storage and creation.

  • A PSD can store multiple layers, images, and objects, often in high resolution, making it the industry-standard for creatives.

  • A PSD can support up to 30,000 pixels in height and width, giving these files an impressive range for both image depth and colour spread.

The Adobe Illustrator File (AI):

Adobe Illustrator Artwork (AI) is a proprietary file format developed by Adobe Systems for representing single-page vector-based drawings in either the EPS or PDF formats. The .ai filename extension is used by Adobe Illustrator. Instead of using bitmap image data, this format is composed of paths connected by points.

vectors can scale to any size, but bitmaps become pixelated when enlarged
vector vs. bitmap

What is a bitmap?

A bitmap (or raster graphic) is a digital image composed of a matrix of dots. When viewed at 100%, each dot corresponds to an individual pixel on a display. In a standard bitmap image, each dot can be assigned a different colour. Together, these dots can be used to represent any type of rectangular picture. If you zoom into a bitmap image, regardless of the file format, it will look blocky because each dot will take up more than one pixel. Therefore, bitmap images will appear blurry if they are enlarged.

What is a vector?

Vector graphics, on the other hand, are composed of paths instead of dots, and can be scaled without reducing the quality of the image. Vector graphics, as a form of computer graphics, is the set of mechanisms for creating visual images directly from geometric shapes defined on a Cartesian plane, such as points, lines, curves, and polygons. Vector formats are good for projects that require scalable graphics, including scalable type and text. For example, company and brand logos are displayed at different sizes; they show up in the corner of a mobile application or on a roadside billboard. A logo created with vector graphics can be scaled up or down without loss of quality or creating a large file.


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