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Graphic Formats Explained

Maryam Taheri March 31, 2021 · 4 min read

When designing or manipulating photos and artwork, whether it’s for a poster, app or website, understanding how different graphic formats work is essential for success no matter what the end use. If you save your painstakingly perfected photo to the wrong format you may not be able to upload it or worse, you may lose quality or the ability to edit that you can’t regain. Though there are dozens of different image formats used to display pictures, there are some that are more commonly utilized. If you’re trying to decide which format to save your pictures to for work or play, here are some of the most popular graphic formats and what they mean.

What is a JPEG File?

JPEG is the most well known and popular graphic image file available, as just about everyone has saved pictures and images to JPEG (jpg) format. In fact, just about every camera automatically saves picture files in this format. Joint Photographic Experts Group, or JPEG, is a compressed image file that reduces the size by discarding certain pieces of information. Images can use this type of file to some degree and still enjoy crisp attractive photos, but it’s not ideal in professional situations.


What is a TIFF file?

Known as the Tagged Image File Format, TIFF files are more popular among professionals in the photo industry who want lossless compression, but it’s not often recognized as a file type by websites. Plus, there are so many different types of TIFF files that no one reader can read them all, leading to issues with using them down the line. For printing, however, it’s considered one of the best options with the purest outcome.

What is a RAW file?

Found on digital cameras, the Raw Image Formats, or RAW files are small files that experience little to no loss during compression. They have a similar issue as TIFF files, that there are so many different types some are essentially unreadable. However the DNG file is popular with several camera manufacturers and is convertible with the majority, such as Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Olympus.


What is a GIF?

Probably the most noticeable file format on the Internet today, GIFs are recognizable for motion, as several images are combined and rotated to create a short, moving scene, one that’s often humorous. Graphics Interchange Format uses lossless compression and, obviously, supports animation. It has limited color storage and works best with simple images.


What is a BMP file?

Bitmap or BMP is a limited use file format that only works with Windows OS. They are usually left uncompressed, so not only are they larger but they also allow for easier editing. They’re widely accepted and easy to use, so it remains a popular format.

What is a PNG file?

Hosting layered colors, the Portable Network Graphics, or PNG files, are perhaps the best choice for pictures in process of editing. Lossless and open-source, it’s considered the replacement and improvement over the GIF file format when it comes to web design. They have low resolution and can be created with a transparent background, just like GIF and unlike JPEG.

What is a EPS file?

Unlike the previous examples of raster images, the EPS format is a vector image file. Vectors are great because they allow the creator to scale the picture to any size without appearing pixelated. EPS files are transferable to many programs for editing or adjustment, and it’s one of the most popular options for photographers and other artists who intend to print their work.

What is a PDF file?

The most universal of file formats, a PDF file can be printed, shared, edited and more. A PDF embeds all the information in a file, including images, text and layout regardless of the program used to create the page. It’s also extremely easy to use, and nearly everyone can view or print PDF materials using free software that’s readily available on the Internet.


With so many file formats available when it comes to images, it’s no wonder so many people find them confusing. This quick overview can help demystify the various formats of images for web design and print, so the next time you need to save a graphic you know precisely which extension to choose.

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About the Author
Maryam Taheri

I'm a recent graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Biology and a passion for the creative arts. I love building websites, trying new things, and I have a passion for social media.

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