We wanted to created a quick guide of the most popular, common and useful image formats.
As a design agency we often get sent low res, low quality files for Print or Website projects. This can get really frustrating and even slow the project down. So here is our list of the top 5 image formats you should know and love.
1. JPEG (also known as JPG), file types ending in .jpeg or .jpg
JPEG files are images that have been compressed to store a lot of information in a small-size file. Most digital cameras store photos in JPEG format, because then you can take more photos on one camera card than you can with other formats. JPEG actually stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.
The way a JPEG is compressed it actually loses some of the image detail during the compression in order to make the file small (and this is called a “lossy” compression).
JPEG files are usually used for photographs on the web, because they create a small file that is easily loaded on a web page and also looks good.
JPEG files are bad for line drawings or logos or graphics, as the compression makes them look “bitmappy” (jagged lines).
2. GIF, file types ending in .gif
GIF stands for Graphic Interchange Format. This format compresses images but, different from JPEG. The compression is the same so no detail is lost in the compression, but obviously this means that the file can’t be made as small as a JPEG.
GIFs also have an extremely limited colour range, this may be suitable for the web but not for printing. This format is rarely used for photography, because of the limited number of colors.
One of the great things about GIFs is that they can also be used for animations. Most banner ads on the web will be created using an animated GIF.
3. PNG, file types ending in .png
PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. It was created as an open format to replace GIF, because the patent for GIF was owned by one company and nobody else wanted to pay licensing fees. It also allows for a full range of colour and better compression.
It’s used almost exclusively for web images, never for print images. For photographs, PNG is not as good as JPEG, because it creates a larger file. But for images with some text, or line art, it’s better, because the images look less “bitmappy.”
When you take a screenshot on your Mac, the resulting image is a PNG because most screenshots are a mix of images and text.
4. TIFF (also known as TIF), file types ending in .tif
TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format. A TIFF images creates a very large file size. TIFF images are uncompressed and thus contain a lot of detailed image data. TIFFs are also extremely flexible in terms of colour (they can be grayscale, or CMYK for print, or RGB for web) and content (layers, image tags).
TIFF is the most common file type used in photo and layout software (such as Photoshop or Indesign), the main reason for this is because a TIFF contains a lot of image data.
5. Raw image files
Raw images contain data from the actual digital camera. The files are called raw because they have not been processed and therefore can not be edited or printed yet. There are a lot of different raw, it depends on which model camera you use, this is because camera company often has its own proprietary format.
Raw files usually contain a vast amount of data that is uncompressed. Because of this, the size of a raw file is extremely large.
Most of this info is courtesy of Wikipedia, which is a great place to read more about all image file types.
If you liked our top 5 image formats resource or would like to know more about sending and receiving images. Feel free to drop us a message. We are happy to help!
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