March 17, 2023 | 3759 Views

11 Image File Types & When to Use Each

Understanding Image File Formats

Before we jump into the deep end of image file types, let’s get a quick breakdown of the general categories out of the way. Most photo file types fit into two categories: raster and vector. Each category has its own specific uses. While this breakdown isn’t perfect (certain formats can actually contain elements of each), it’s still an excellent place to start for your projects.

Types of Image File Formats:

  1. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
  2. PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
  3. GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)
  4. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)
  5. HEIF (High-Efficiency Image File Format)
  6. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)
  7. EPS (Encapsulated Postscript)
  8. PDF (Portable Document Format)
  9. PSD (Photoshop Document)
  10. AI (Adobe Illustrator Artwork)
  11. RAW Image File Types

1. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

Ah, the JPEG (or JPG), the workhorse of image file types. Thanks to its lossy compression, this raster image format is perfect for sharing images online. But like most things in life, there’s a catch – lossy compression reduces the file size but also the quality of the images.

Despite this, JPEGs are still some of the most commonly used image file types on the web. With virtually universal browser and operating system support, they’re accessible for almost everyone. In fact, most social networking sites automatically turn uploaded image files into JPEGs.

When to Use JPEG Image File Types

The versatility of JPEG image file types makes them perfect for a variety of online work. If you’re dealing with online artwork or photos (like for blogs and articles), this raster photo file type offers you the most flexibility with editing and compression in your photo editing software. It’s an excellent choice for web images that need to be downloaded quickly without sacrificing quality.

2. PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

Next, let’s talk about PNG, the underdog of image file formats. This raster graphics format is a winner thanks to its built-in transparency and lossless compression. That means your images will maintain detail and contrast between colors, even after editing. However, remember that PNGs are still low resolution, so you might not want to use them for larger images.

Despite their low resolution, PNGs are quickly becoming one of the most common image formats online. In particular, they offer much better text readability than JPEGs. So, if you’re looking to create images with text that really pops, PNGs are the way to go.

When to Use PNG Image File Formats

PNG image formats are perfect for all sorts of web graphics, like infographics, banners and coupons. They support high-quality transparency, which means you can have a completely see-through background, giving your design a little extra oomph.

Here’s a little tip: if you have an image with a limited color palette, like an illustration, then PNGs are definitely the way to go. They also work well when you need a small file size, especially if the image is mostly text, shapes or simple colors. But be careful not to use PNG image file formats for high-resolution photos, as they can create some pretty hefty file sizes – we’re talking several megabytes.

3. GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

Next, we have GIFs, the small but mighty image file types you’ve probably seen everywhere online. As another raster image format, GIFs use lossless compression, but “constrain” the image to 8 bits per pixel and use a limited palette of only 256 colors.

We all know and love GIF image formats. They’re perfect for creating short, internet-friendly animations that won’t slow down your website. Thanks to that 8-bit limitation, file sizes stay small and speedy.

When to Use GIF Image Formats

GIFs are a standard image file type when you want to show a quick animation, like a funny reaction or a how-to guide. They’re also great for creating small, simple graphics that load super fast. Just remember, GIFs only support up to 8-bit color, so don’t expect high-resolution quality. Also, don’t use this file type for photos, as the file sizes can become huge.

4. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

Now, let’s talk about TIFF – the unsung hero of image file types. TIFF is a raster image format commonly used for storing and editing images for print.

Although TIFF does support lossy compression, it’s typically used as a lossless image format. And if you’re a professional graphic designer using applications like Photoshop or Illustrator, you’ll love that TIFF files are typically uncompressed. That means you won’t lose any quality in the editing process. The only downside? TIFF images can have pretty hefty file sizes.

When to Use TIFF Image File Types

TIFF is a fantastic image file type for high-quality print graphics that you want to look their best. When you need to print photos or illustrations, especially in large sizes, TIFF is the format to use – you’ll get incredible detail and color accuracy. Just be aware that TIFF image formats can take a while to load, so it’s not the best option for web graphics.

5. HEIF (High-Efficiency Image File Format)

Get ready for the new kid on the block – the HEIF image file type. Its compression is almost twice as efficient as JPEG, which means you can have images of double the quality with the same file size. Sounds like magic, right?

But, like all things, HEIF has its limitations. HEIF is a raster format based on pixel mapping, so you can’t scale up the images without losing quality. Plus, it’s not supported by most major browsers (yet).

When to Use HEIF Photo File Types

HEIF image file formats may not be the most popular, but they have some cool features. Newer phones and devices mainly use these image formats to store images at a higher quality than the JPEG file format, meaning you can take more detailed and higher-quality snaps. While they have yet to gain widespread use, HEIF files are definitely a format to watch out for in the future as more devices start using them.

6. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

Let’s jump into SVGs, the superhero of image file formats. The W3C created this image format to render two-dimensional images directly in your browser.

What makes SVG so unique? Unlike those pixel-based raster formats, SVG uses XML text to outline shapes and lines. It’s like creating a mathematical equation to graph your image. And the best part? You can scale up SVG images without sacrificing quality. Though it’s not an ideal format for images or complex drawings.

When to Use SVG Image Formats

SVG is the ideal image format for logos, icons and illustrations that you want to look great on any device or screen size. They’re super flexible and can be easily resized without losing quality. Plus, SVG is an excellent choice for creating graphs and diagrams you want to publish online.

7. EPS (Encapsulated Postscript)

Alright, here’s where the terminology gets a little more complex. Next, we have EPS. This image file type is like a map that Adobe Illustrator and other illustration software use to store illustrations. You can think of it as a GPS for your vectors, guiding them through complex software seas.

Instead of mapping pixels and colors like a raster image, EPS image formats are text-based documents describing shapes and lines with code. This means they can be infinitely scaled up without any loss of quality, just like SVG files.

When to Use EPS Image File Types

If you’re working with Adobe Illustrator or other software and need to save and print illustrations, EPS image file types are your go-to. They’re also perfect for sending a vector logo to a client, designer or printer. Plus, with EPS files, you can forget about the hassle of where the logo will be placed or printed – it’ll always appear at the right resolution, no matter the size.

Just steer clear of the EPS photo file type when dealing with photographs or artwork.

8. PDF (Portable Document Format)

When you think of a PDF, you probably think of a document format for storing all sorts of written stuff, from reports to eBooks. However, did you know that PDFs can also store images and illustrations?

In fact, PDFs are based on the same language (PostScript) as EPS vector image file formats and support lossless scaling of images. That’s why they are often the go-to file format for saving high-quality illustrations, magazine covers and other graphics destined for printing later on.

When to Use PDF Photo File Types

When it comes to sharing graphics, PDF image file types are the way to go. They’re the ultimate universal tool to help you create an interactive visual report or infographic to complement your content. Not to mention, if you want to display your documents on the web, PDFs are perfect for that too. You can easily share posters, flyers, magazines and booklets without any trouble. Plus, PDFs will keep your entire design in one package, making it easy to view, download or print.

9. PSD (Photoshop Document)

If you’ve ever worked with Adobe Photoshop, you’ve definitely come across PSD image formats. They’re basically files that store your masterpiece in progress, so you can keep returning and perfecting it later.

One thing to keep in mind is that PSD image file types aren’t ideal for the web. You won’t be able to just slap them on your website like you would with a JPEG or PNG. They’re more like a “behind-the-scenes” image file format for you to use while working on your image.

When to Use PSD Image File Formats

PSD image file formats are the go-to tool to create stunning digital images for the web. PSD files are perfect for images, banner ads, email headers and more. Plus, creating these images in Photoshop allows you to optimize them for the web and ensure they’re a perfect size. Remember that you’ll need to export your masterpiece into a different image file format before uploading it to your website.

10. AI (Adobe Illustrator Artwork)

Let’s talk about AI image formats. AI, short for Adobe Illustrator, is a format developed specifically by Adobe to save the image and the project state. Pretty cool, right? However, just like PSD files, they’re not meant for web use and aren’t supported by most default image viewers or browsers. On the bright side, you can resize AI files to your heart’s content without losing quality.

When to Use AI Image Formats

As the industry standard for creating artwork from scratch, AI is the best tool in a designer’s arsenal. Whether you’re working on a small social media graphic or a huge billboard, the vector shapes and lines in AI image formats will stay crisp and clear at any size. If you want to create versatile and scalable images, you can’t go wrong with Illustrator.

11. RAW Image File Types

Finally, let’s talk about RAW image formats. Your digital camera uses these image file types to store top-quality images that you can adjust in a RAW photo editor later on. Different camera makers use different types of RAW image files.

RAW image file formats offer a higher bit depth than JPEGs, providing up to 16,384 shades per color channel (14-bit) in a single picture. This means you have more flexibility when adjusting colors and contrast during post-processing.

Keep in mind that raw images aren’t suitable for the web and aren’t supported by any major browser or viewer.

When to Use RAW Image File Types

If you want to snap some photos, you’ll want to shoot and edit them in RAW image file format. This format captures all the details you’ll need for the perfect shot. Use a RAW format to make precise adjustments to exposure, contrast and color balance during photo editing. Just keep in mind that RAW files are generally too large for use on the web. Instead, convert your images to JPEG for web use.

Choose ON1 Photo Editing Software for Compatibility With All Your Photo File Types

Working with image file types can be complicated, but hopefully, this guide has given you a better understanding of their importance. If you’re ready to start optimizing your website’s images, check out ON1 photo editing software. Our software supports all types of image file formats and can even act as a plugin for your existing photo editing software. With ON1, you can create, edit and manage your image files more efficiently, saving time and hassle. Don’t let complicated image formats hold you back from creating the content you want. Choose ON1 photo editing software for all your image format needs and take the first step towards creating stunning visuals that stand out.