All the visuals you chance upon on the web have different image files attached to them.
Even designs on paper, plastic, a variety of merchandise are products of different image files created digitally. These images occur in various formats, and each design is intended and optimized for a specific purpose.
Why is it essential to understand different image files? Well, choosing the suitable file means having the perfect design meant for its format.
Here’s a simple example, if you’re active on social media, you’ve likely seen a GIF before. A GIF definitely has a different image file than a standard, unmoving image. And that’s but one example! There are tons of different image files, and they each have their respective objectives with how they contribute to your all-around graphic needs.
Not choosing the correct image file can lead to some downfalls.
One, the wrong format for an image may lead to a poor, low-resolution design that fails to communicate your message.
Two, it may also slow down your page’s loading speed, which ultimately leads to visitors leaving the website right away. Statistics show that 40% of consumers will wait no longer than three seconds before abandoning a site.
Choosing the right image file that’s optimized for its purpose secures a sense of stability and professionalism in your business—one that lives between the lines but is also noticeably a factor that people subconsciously take into account. Visitors may not give a fast-loading page or a clear image a second thought, but they sure do notice the flaws.
There’s a lot to unpack among the different image files, so let’s start with the basics. There are two main image file types known as Vector and Raster.
Vector Vs. Raster: What’s The Difference?
Raster images are made up of a collection of pixels to form an image. Many images you see online are Raster files, particularly JPEGs, PNGs, and GIFs.
Unlike Vector files, Raster images are resolution-dependent, meaning they only retain their visual integrity in a single size. If you scale the image, the pixels stretch, and you will likely end up with a blurry and distorted picture. You cannot resize Raster images and simultaneously keep their resolution intact.
On the other hand, Vector files are comprised of lines, points, and curves—proportional formulas calculated by the computer.
Vectors are perfect for images that need to be scaled, such as logos, brand graphics, digital artworks, and many more. Unlike Raster, Vector images are resolution-independent, meaning they can be resized infinitely without losing a fraction of their quality. No matter how big or small, the image does not lose any resolution.
The 10 Different Image Files: When Do You Use Them?
Now that you understand the difference between Rasters and Vectors, it’s time to dive into the ten different image files that fall under either category and learn about what they bring to the table.
1. JPEG (or JPG)
JPEGs are among the most common image files you’ll come across on the web. In fact, the images you see on letterheads and documents are most likely JPEGs. These image types are perfect on mediums that don’t require any scaling. They’ll sit pretty just fine!
However, JPEGs are also known for their compromising compressions, meaning that the image loses quality with a decrease in the file size. Pay attention to their resolution and file size to ensure a proper, quality image.
JPEGs are great for:
- Article and blog images
- Product images
- High-resolution printing
JPEGs are not great for:
- Any visual with small lettering
- Any graphic that requires scaling
PNG image files are excellent choices for interactive pages, such as websites and infographics, as you can scale and edit the images without losing quality. The downside here is that PNGs are still considered low-resolution files, which are unsuitable for print or merchandise products and packaging.
The great thing about PNG files is that they provide sharp web-quality images, so if you’re dealing exclusively with digital visuals, PNG has your back!
PNGs are great for:
- Articles and blogs
- Any digital visual that includes text
PNGs are not great for:
- High-resolution photos
- Print and packaging
If you are active on Twitter or Tumblr, you must have come across a bunch of GIFs in your midst! GIF images have become somewhat of a pop culture reference, adding a kick of animation to engaging content.
At its core, a GIF is formed with up to 256 colors, and due to the limited number of colors, its file size is significantly reduced. With these files, quality and resolution are not priorities. Instead, it’s fast-loading speeds and engagements.
GIFs are great for:
- Web projects
- Spicing up content
- Task walk-throughs
- Tutorials and guides
GIFs are not great for:
- High-resolution images
- Purposes that entail more than 8-bit color images (go with JPEGs for this, they support up to 24-bit)
TIFF image types are large Raster files that don’t lose any quality. The original image is maintained regardless of how much you compress, copy, and resave the file. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? But there’s one little hiccup here. TIFF files are not suitable for images on the web.
The perks are good, but unfortunately, it takes up a lot of loading time, potentially slowing down websites and platforms. On the bright side, TIFF image files are perfect for saving photographs for printing and packaging.
TIFFs are great for:
- Print, products, and packaging
- Photographs to be developed
- Storing images for material publication
- Scanned images and documents
TIFFs are not great for:
- Articles and blogs
- Any digital page that requires fast loading speed
PSD files are created and saved with Adobe Photoshop, a well-known graphics software. These files are Rasters, meaning they thrive in mediums that do not require any scaling. High-quality visual projects like logos, infographics, and banners should not be saved as PSDs as it would compromise the integrity of the images.
On the bright side, PSD files contain “layers” that allow you to make easy modifications to images that don’t need to be scaled, making it a great tool for simple edits.
PSDs are great for:
- Images that don’t need scaling
- Images that need simple alterations and edits
PSDs are not great for:
- High-resolution, scalable images
- High-resolution design variations
One of the best universal files for sharing graphics, PDFs provide an easy sharing of information from any application from anyone and anywhere. If you’ve created or distributed PDFs before, it’s no secret that it’s a pretty straightforward and convenient manner of sending out high-quality data.
PDF files are the best options for creating interactive and professional visual reports. Plus, PDFs are Vector formats, meaning they cannot be manipulated to diminish quality in any way whatsoever.
PDFs are great for:
- Important documents
- Interactive content and reports
PDFs are not great for:
- Easy edits
- Text alterations
- Mobile-friendly purposes
An EPS file is a Vector image that is specifically designed to produce high-quality graphics for printing purposes. In fact, almost any type of design software can create an EPS file.
Similar to PDFs, EPS files are quite universal, specifically for accessing Vector-based artworks and digital projects in almost any design editor on the web (usually in Adobe Illustrator).
EPS files are great for:
- Storing and saving high-resolution images
- Printing illustrations
- Working with various design software applications
EPS files are not great for:
- Page layout applications
- Articles and blogs
AI files are saved with Adobe Illustrator, a credible design standard for creating images and illustrations from scratch. This one is a favorite among many graphic designers as it provides a reliable format for images from digital to print.
By nature, AI files are easy to alter and manipulate, and because they fall under the Vector format, they also boast high-resolution and scalable imagery. It is one of the most valuable image file types in a designer’s graphic arsenal.
AI files are great for:
- Saving and storing Adobe Illustrator projects
- Banners and logos
- Digital and printing purposes
AI files are not great for:
- Intuitive visual creations (there is a learning curve here)
- Raster graphic needs
- Limiting file sizes
SVGs are files with a markup language to render two-dimensional graphics within the browser. An SVG image file is a Vector format, so it doesn’t rely on pixels like Raster formats but instead employs XML text to outline lines and shapes similar to how mathematical equations formulate graphs.
This essentially means you can scale SVG images infinitely without losing any quality, making it the ideal choice for icons, logos, simple illustrations, and any visual that you want to scale with a responsive design freely.
SVGs are great for:
- High-resolution and scalable designs
SVGs are not great for:
- Displaying detail compared to standard image formats
- Legacy browsers (IE8 or lower)
RAW images are valuable as they are the least-processed image file on this list. Most of the time, it is the first format an image has when it comes into existence. It’s the origin of a picture.
For instance, when you take a picture with your camera, it is automatically saved in a raw file. Once you upload the photo to a new device and start editing it with design software, it gets saved as one of the different image files stated above.
RAW images are essential because they capture the elements of a picture without the hubbub of processing, which may end up with the loss of small visual details. Eventually, you will have the choice of formatting them into a Raster or Vector file type, so they can achieve the specific purpose you set out for them.
Different Image Files And Their Impact
There will never be a shortage of different image files that you may need for various projects. There will always be one that suits your visual intentions flawlessly, no matter what they are.
Choosing the right type among different image files types for their respective tasks can not only help improve your pages’ loading speeds but also decrease bandwidth and server loads. Overall, pretty helpful information, huh?