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The Ultimate Guide to File Formats

by Sima Thakkar
art & design, featured

Do you know what type of file you need to make an image transparent? Or what about the best image type for web only? In this handy file format guide by Jason Hoppe, you will save yourself a lot of time by saving images the right way – the first time around.


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JPG – Joint Photo Expert Group
Faster file format used for images, pictures. Is destructive; more compression of the image, smaller file size, more degradation of image quality. Not good for type, logos, graphic. Cannot be made transparent.

GIF – Graphic Interchange Format
Pronounced with a G, not a J. Developed by Compuserve to save raster type, logos, graphics to very small file sizes. uses limited (index) colors, so not ideal for image. Can be transparent. Can be animated. For web only.

PNG – Portable Network Graphic
Developed to replace a GIF which required royalties be paid for its use. Uses limited (index) colors so not ideal for images. Can be made transparent. Options are PNG- 8 or PNG- 24 for true transparent effects. Not for print.

Bitmap File – BMP
Developed by Microsoft, BMP files are like PNG and GIF files. Made specifically to render simple yet crisp logos, type, icons. Used mainly for print for simple graphics.

PSD – Photoshop Document
Native file format for photoshop files. Supports transparency, channels, masks and vector type and objects, paths and layers. For print/photos only. PSD file type not supported for web.

Scalable Vector Graphic
Used to render 2D vector formatted files as well as for annotation. SVG is ideal for type, logos, graphics and vector shapes. Based on XML, it is used on the web. Can be compressed without any loss of quality.

TIFF – Tagged Image File Format
Older file format for images and Adobe Photoshop files. Can be saved with layers, channels, masks and path, but does not support transparency in the saved file. For print files only.

Encapsulated Postscript
Older file type that allows saving of vector artwork such as an Adobe Illustrator or an Adobe Photoshop files that contains vector shapes or type. Not commonly used, but still supported. Used only for print.

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