Image File Extensions & When To Use Them

Nov 7

2022

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As a business owner, unless you are a designer yourself, you probably have no idea what image file extension or file format you need to give the t-shirt printing company that’s producing your company swag, or your business card. I can tell you that those files are very different.

If you want to be knowledgeable enough to send the right file to the printer or publisher, then keep reading. My branding clients can also use this article to understand their logo assets, and where to use them.

Raster Image File Extensions

When you see photos in the digital and print, they are raster images. Raster images contain pixels that form an image and end with the file extensions JPEGGIF, and PNG. When it comes to pixels and photo quality, size matters! Pixels are limited in raster files, so you can never gain more pixels than you started with. If you try to stretch a raster image beyond its set dimensions, it will become pixelated and unclear.

Vector Image File Extensions

Vector images are my FAVORITE. They are constructed using proportional formulas rather than pixels. You can resize these images and retain their quality no matter how large or how many times you resize them. They come with the extensions EPSAI and PDF. Your important branding files like your logo should always come with a vector format file. Don’t worry, all my clients get all of the vector formats!

Now that you know the basics about the types of images and file extensions, it’s time to go over the 10 image file extensions I found from this awesome Hubspot article.

10 Image File Extensions

  1. JPEG (or JPG) – Joint Photographic Experts Group
    • JPEGs are the most common image file extensions. You’ll see them online, they have a background, and they must be the right size for what you intend to use it for or it becomes distorted.
      • You can use JPEGs online, in word processing documents, or for projects that require printing at a high resolution. Just be sure that you have the correct file dimensions for your intended use.
  2. PNG – Portable Network Graphics
    • PNG image files are the best for online use, especially for logos. These images can have a transparent background (bye-bye white or black block behind your logo).
      • The reason PNGs are used in most web projects is they make for a sharper, web-quality image.
  3. GIF – Graphics Interchange Format
    • I share a lot of these files. When I share GIF image files, they are animated and part of a meme. These are typically smaller file sizes, so they load quickly online.
      • This is a common file type for web projects where an image needs to load very quickly, as opposed to one that needs to retain a higher level of quality.
  4. TIFF – Tagged Image File
    • A TIF is a large raster file that doesn’t lose quality. TIFF files are known for using “lossless compression.” No matter how often you copy, resave it, or compress the file, the original image data is maintained. I know this is contradictory to the above raster section, but this little guy is an exception and not the rule.
      • Compared to its raster friends, these files are of better quality because they are larger files. This means they aren’t ideal for the web. There’s nothing worse than having a website that is slow to load. You will commonly use TIFF files when saving photographs for print.
  5. PSD – Photoshop Document
    • PSDs are files you create and save in Adobe Photoshop. This type of file contains “layers” that make modifying the image much easier to handle.
      • Since these files have layers, most designers like myself will create mockups and templates using photoshop. When you see a mockup of a T-shirt or product packaging, the mockup was done in Photoshop.
  6. PDF – Portable Document Format
    • PDF files are universal. You can view PDFs on any of your devices no matter your operating system, how old your device is, or what application the original file was created in.
      • I always provide my clients with a vector logo in PDF format so they can view it even if they don’t have design software.
  7. EPS – Encapsulated Postscript
    • This is my favorite file format to create and share because it is the best quality no matter how many times you resize it. Back in my tradeshow days, I lived and died by my EPS files. EPS is a file in vector format that has been designed to produce high-resolution graphics for print.
      • You can use the universal file type, EPS extension to open vector-based artwork in any design editor.
  8. AI – Adobe Illustrator Document
    • If you have a vector file or need to create large scale print or custom digital designs, then it’s happening in Adobe Illustrator.
      • Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for creating artwork from scratch (I design all my client logos using AI).
  9. INDD – Adobe Indesign Document
    • I think of Adobe InDesign as my layout platform. When I design a document (that doesn’t have a form), I create it with the program Adobe InDesign. You save your files in Illustrator in INDD format.
      • You use Indesign is to create larger publications, such as newspapers, magazines, and eBooks. If you create a complicated layout, you use InDesign. No designer is using Microsoft Publisher or Word for complex layouts.
  10. RAW – Raw Image Formats
    • A RAW image is honestly a photographer thing. I have a fancy camera, but I never think about this file type, since I’m ultimately saving my images in JPEG format. When you take a photo with your camera, your camera saves it in a raw file format. You have to edit it in software like Photoshop to save it in a useable format.
      • RAW images are valuable because they capture every element of a photo without processing and losing small visual details. You will want to package the photos into a raster or vector file type so you can transfer and resize them for various purposes.

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