Graphic design is all about communicating and solving problems through creative imagery and formatting. These days, everything is done using specialized computer programs and tools. Designers work with digital images more than anything else, and these images come in all kinds of formats with their individual pros and cons. To really connect with graphic designers, you’d have to understand the types of image files that they use and why.
This guide attempts to explain the most common image formats, their basic pros and cons, and when they’re used.
General Image Formats
These are the general categories that images tend to fall in.
Vectors. This type of image format is ideal for resizing purposes. They are created from formulas and algorithms that keep all of the details in fixed proportions, regardless of the size of the actual image. This means that vector images can be shrunken to the size of a postage stamp or blown up to the size of a billboard and still retain the same level and ratio of detail and color. When it comes to company logos and other business graphic design, vectors are the way to go because they allow the highest level of flexibility. AI and EPS are some examples of vectors created in Adobe Illustrator.
Rasters. Rasters, on the other hand, are images created from hundreds, thousands, or millions of little building blocks called pixels. Unlike vectors, rasters have fixed proportions based on their original resolution. This means that any resizing will warp the proportions and quality of the images. Raster images should only be used in their original forms to maintain their quality. Most images used online are rasters; GIF, JPG, and PNG are the most common examples.
Specific Image Formats
Here are some of the most popular image file types around.
JPG. The Joint Photographic Experts Group file, also known as JPEG or JPG, is probably the most common image type around. JPGs are seen all over the Internet, and they can be easily imported into word processing, media presentation, and other office documents. Documents containing JPEGs also print quite nicely, as long as the images aren’t too small. When JPEGs are shrunken, they lose much of their detail, so when using JPEGs, make sure to use them at their original size.
GIF. The Graphics Interchange Format is most commonly seen as an animated image that replays over and over. It’s popular for banner ads and humor websites. GIF images can also be of the traditional static form, but they are usually smaller with less detail. GIFs will load quickly, so they can reduce the loading time of a website.
PNG. The Portable Network Graphics file is ideally suited for websites. PNGs can be resized and edited without any noticeable loss in quality, but they are often smaller, lower-resolution images. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be clear and crisp. PNGs have the added bonus that transparency can be used – making them ideal for use on the web. Many company logos are done in this image format.
TIF. The Tagged Image File is most commonly used for images that are meant to be printed in high-definition. Wedding photos are usually stored as TIFs. The TIF is a jumbo-sized pixelated image that does not compromise detail when edited. Due to its large size, it’s never used on the web because loading would take a lifetime.
PSD. The Photoshop Document is a layered image file for the most mainstream photo editing software around – Adobe Photoshop. PSD files are often large, and, unless you are skilled and well versed in Adobe Photoshop, very difficult to work with. PSDs are usually converted to another format, such as JPG, PNG, or GIF, before finally being used or printed.
EPS. The Encapsulated Postscript is a high-definition vector file used for images to be put in print. Most design software can create this image file. It’s a more universal format used by graphic designers and artists around the world and stands as the “default” file for graphic design.
Hopefully, when your graphic designer starts talking mumbo-jumbo about file types to you, this guide will put you on the right track. In most instances, graphic designers know when to use a certain file type, but armed with this information, you can now ensure you receive the correct image format for the purpose you want.