Graphic Design Image File Formats – What to Use & When!

Does the sound of PDF, JPEG, PNG, EPS, GIF make you scratch your head and think WTF?

There’s so many different file types out there so we thought we’d give you a bit of a rundown on some of the most common ones and when you would need each one in your graphic design & web design project.

(Portable Document Format)

A PDF is a file format that was invented by Adobe to make exchanging and sharing documents easier.  You can output a PDF from any program and whether it’s viewed on Mac or PC, desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile, the content and layout displayed will always be the same. This is the file most likely to be requested by printers for items such as flyers, posters, brochures, booklets etc.

(Encapsulated Postscript)

These files are created and opened by vector based programs such as Adobe Illustrator.  If you are getting a logo designed, make sure that your designer provides you with an EPS file.  These files are high quality, vector images that can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

(Joint Photographic Experts Group)

A JPEG is a raster image file and this is the type of file you want to use for online/digital use such as social media images or web banners. They work well for photographs but not so much on drawings, text based images or line art.
JPEGs can be compressed at different image resolutions which is useful for creating smaller image sizes. It is however a “lossy” compression format so the lower the resolution, the lower the quality of the image.  They don’t support transparent backgrounds.

(Portable Network Graphics)

A PNG is another raster based file format and can also be used for online and digital use.  Being a lossless compression format, file sizes are larger than with a JPEG.
PNG files support both opacity and transparency which makes them ideal for logo files for online use as the background colour can be removed leaving only the required image.

(Graphics Interchange Format)

A GIF is yet another raster file format and is the second most common used for online purposes after JPEG.  It utilises lossless compression and is best suited for images that have large solid colour areas, text and simple shapes (e.g. buttons, icons and banners).  Like PNG files, GIFs also support 100% transparent backgrounds but not those with partial transparency such as drop shadows etc.  GIF files can also contain animations which is valuable in this video-driven online era.