9 File Types You Should Know About

If you want to be able to correctly save, send, and manage every digital project you work on, you need to understand the distinctions among different file types. You probably already know most of these formats, but if not, this article will help clear up the misunderstandings you might have about file types and maybe introduce you to a brand new one along the way.

1. Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG/JPEG)

JPG is the most common file type for images. Saving a file as a JPG automatically compresses it into three different image qualities: high, medium, and low. High-quality JPGs are acceptable for desktop printing; medium quality is for web graphics, and low quality will work well for email. JPEG is great for sharing photos because you know there won’t be any trouble reading the format.

There are downsides to saving as a JPEG, though. For starters, the file format doesn’t support transparency within images. Debatable compression quality also means you may not get the desired standards you are seeking when you hit the save button. Some users suggest that saving a JPEG with maximum quality will produce acceptable results, but others have yet to be convinced.

A good tip is to use 72 dpi (dots per inch) for web applications and 300 dpi for print. Keep in mind that not all editing programs will give you the option to save your JPG as three different resolution qualities, so be prepared for a baseline of 72 dpi for every JPG you save.

2. Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)

GIF files are most commonly used for animated graphics and transparent images. GIF files are low resolution and perfect for emails and web graphics. They support only 256 colors in the RGB color space, so keep in mind that the file size will be drastically reduced.

3. Portable Networks Graphic (PNG)

The PNG format is a lossless file type, which means it can preserve your images without any loss in image quality. The format itself was based on the GIF file type, but allows for higher bit rate pictures and can preserve background transparency while minimizing jagged edges. PNG is an excellent format for displaying images on the web that require transparent elements.

If you receive a logo in your email, most likely it is saved as a PNG file.

 4. Tagged Image File Format (TIF/TIFF)

TIF files are the largest raster file type. They’re reliable and never lose quality, so use them for saving Images for print. TIFF is compatible with almost all image-editing and graphics applications currently available. In addition, TIFF supports a large number of color standards including CMYK, RGB, Lab, Indexed Color, and Grayscale Images.

Similar to PNG, TIFF is also able to preserve transparency with the bonus of including alpha channels, which dictate the specific degree of transparency. TIFF files can also save Photoshop layers so they can be edited or rearranged at a later time. If you are saving an HDR image with immense dynamic range, TIFF can save images at a rate of up to 32-bits-per-channel.

TIFF files can pack a lot of information, but can also become quite large due to this fact. Never use this file type for saving web graphics, or else your page will never load…LOL!

5. Portable Document Format (PDF)

PDFs are commonly used because they retain formatting across all digital platforms. They save the images, typefaces, and layout from any editing program (including Microsoft Word) and turn them into a safe, easy-to-read document. PDFs can be shared, printed, and viewed from anyone with Adobe Reader software, which is conveniently free.

6. Photoshop Document (PSD)

The Photoshop format also referred to by its ‘PSD’ file extension, is the default format for saving your Adobe Photoshop Projects. It provides compatibility across a number of Adobe products including Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, and After Effects. It is one of the only formats that can save a file with all Photoshop features accounted for, such as layers and applied effects.

Despite being an excellent way to preserve every adjustment you have made in Photoshop, the PSD file is not generally accepted when sharing images since your client must be in the Adobe ecosystem in order to open it. PSD is useful for saving your work so you can easily return to the file to resume work. In most cases, PSD should be confined to your workspace.

Photoshop is able to export a PSD file into a wide range of file types, including JPGs, PNGs, and PDFs, and can resize any image to fit whichever project you’re working on.

7. Encapsulated Postscript (EPS)

The EPS file is typically used to transport an image from one application to another. EPS files can be edited and opened in any kind of design software, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and Freehand. EPS files are vector files so they can be scaled to any size and are used for producing high-quality graphics for print.

8. 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.

9. 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. It is mainly used because it can be compressed and resized without any loss of quality.