It’s no secret that image file formats can be confusing. I’m frequently asked by clients what each one of them is for. Unless you are a graphic designer, chances are you don’t know either. While there are various kinds of image file formats, I’m focusing on breaking down the fundamental differences between five of the most popular ones.
Raster images are made up of pixels, which can distort if they are stretched to a larger size, causing them to look blurry. While you can touch up or edit them using a design program, such as Adobe Photoshop, you will be limited by the original image’s quality and resolution. JPG, GIF, and PNG files are common raster image file formats.
Vector images are made with mathematical formulas, which means they can be easily resized without losing any quality. You can edit the color, shape, or size of vector images using a design program, such as Adobe Illustrator. Vector images are usually saved as EPS and PDF files. However, it’s important to note that both of these file formats can also contain raster images, so it’s always wise to ask if they are saved as a vector.
5 Popular Image File Formats
JPGs are the most common raster image files. They are ideal for most images, especially PHOTOGRAPHS. They are lossy, which means they do not retain all the image data and can lose quality. Data deemed unnecessary on the picture gets deleted to compress the file.
GIFs are usually simpler graphics ideal for ANIMATIONS. They retain all data, but they can only support up to 256 colors, which is why you can sometimes see gradations between colors, also known as banding.
PNGs are ideal for images that require TRANSPARENCY—no white background! They are lossless, which means they retain all image data so there is no loss in quality. They can support thousands of colors, but they can be larger files.
EPS files are usually vector, but they can contain raster images as well. They are ideal for LOGOS and master design files. However, EPS files can only be opened by a design program, and they tend to be very large files.
PDF files are the most popular files for ANY TYPE OF CONTENT. They can contain both raster and vector images. They can be opened without a design program as long as you have a PDF viewing software, such as Adobe Acrobat.
There you have it! Let me know if you still have questions on this and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.