When it comes to images, there are so many file formats. From JPEG to PNG and so many in between. But what do these file extensions mean? And how do they differ? Today we’re exploring these different file types, their benefits, and the best ones to use to make sure your images look their best in print and on-screen.
Not all file formats are created equal. While some formats lie JPG you may see routinely, other formats like TIFF may seem a bit foreign if you aren’t a graphic design wiz. Each of these file formats is unique and has its own particular benefits. Some file formats are better for websites and digital devices while others are better for sharing for printing. If you’re an artist looking to print your work, you’ll want to know the best file format to ensure that your artwork gets the perfect finish.
One of the most common file formats you’ll encounter is JPEG or JPG. Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, this file format is great for small image files. It is primarily used on websites and as the standard format on many digital devices like smartphones and DSLR cameras. But while this format is used prevalently on the web because of its quick loading speed, this file format is considered lossy.
This means that every time you open and save your image, the file will compress, permanently deleting any unnecessary information. While compression makes JPG’s ideal for storing an saving images, it isn’t always the best for print.
If you do decide to use a JPG image for print, avoid aggressive compression and use a high resolution (+300dpi). JPG images in a high resolution contain CMYK image data and can be printed.
TIFF, short for Tagged Image File Format, is one of the most widely supported formats out there. If you’re ever unsure of what format to use, you can always rely on TIFF. From Illustrator to Photoshop, Microsoft Word to text editors. No matter where you import it, almost every application accepts TIFF images. Not only is TIFF universally supported, but it is also lossless.
This makes TIFF a fantastic option for saving and storing large files, like original images or artwork, as they can be stored without any quality loss. As well, TIFF images can be used on multiple layers in addition to RGB and CMYK colour spaces, making it a format well suited for high-resolution printing.
While these images are higher quality, it also means they take up more space. Large, high-quality images are great for printing, but may not be the best for the web. If you’re sending a large TIFF file, it’s recommended to zip it before you try to email it.
The PDF or Portable Document Format is widely used for document sharing. This format creates a duplicate of whichever file you want to replicate that cannot be edited. For this reason, it is the industry standard for sending and sharing documents, but it can be used for many types of high-quality files, including images.
One reason the PDF file format is so commonly used for file sharing is that it is lossless and secure. This assures that no matter where you open the file, document, image, or photo will display correctly on the devices without any quality loss or alteration. PDF files support CMYK colour space, so this file format can be used for printing
PNG or Portable Network Graphics is another widely used file format. PNG is an ideal format for high-quality complex images. PNG is the preferred format for graphic designers utilising transparency in their work.
A fantastic option for logos and static images with transparent background, PNG allow you to easily embed graphics into other images and reduce the amount of editing down the line.
While PNG files can support over 16 million colours, they only support RGB colour space. This means that while PNG files are great for websites and applications, they are not suitable for print.