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Get to know your file formats

Ever wondered why there are so many file formats? Each type has its own features and there’s a place for all of them in the design world.The reason we really wanted to share is because we often see people who don’t understand the differences between file types and/or are often not supplied with what they need. In today’s post, we’re going to go through six formats you will encounter most often and what the differences between them are.

Let’s dig in…

JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group

All right, let’s start with the most common file type. This would be a JPEG. I’m guessing that you have heard of a JPEG before or maybe you’ve just seen those three or four letters at the end of your file. This is the most common type of file seen across the board. JPEG’s are often used in many ways… they can be for logos, images, infographics, and much more.

JPEG is a handy file type because it can be in CMYK or RGB. These different color types are important to know whether or not your graphic will be on the web, or printed. The advantage of the JPEG is it so versatile and anyone can open it. Another benefit of the JPEG’s that you can reduce the size of the graphic if you are using it for a website. You can have a very large image, reduce the quality, and this allows for a quicker page load on your website (good for user experience and SEO!).

The disadvantage is that it loses quality over time. Unfortunately, another disadvantage is a JPEG cannot be transparent. This is really important when you’re getting logo files because a JPEG cannot be placed onto a color background without the hideous white box around it. Please don’t do this! (This leads us to our next format…)

USE IF: You want some quick and easy, image quality isn’t as important.

PNG – Portable Network Graphics

Our next file is a ping, also known as a PNG. And the design we’re on some people refer to it as a ping file, while others use PNG. You may hear them both versions, but they are the same. It’s like a “bubbler” or a “drinking fountain”. A PNG is a really handy file type because it allows for transparency. As we mentioned before that hideous white box around your logo, can be avoided by using a PNG. They also tend to have higher file sizes compared to the same file as a JPG. So keep this in mind as you’re designing on the web if you don’t need transparency go ahead and use the JPEG. Another important thing to note is that PNGs are always RGB, because pings are often used as digital graphics, such as social media graphics, web elements, or PowerPoint presentations.

USE IF: You need a transparent background.

PDF – Portable Document Format

Our next most common file type you’ll encounter is the PDF. It’s possibly the most versatile file format in our opinion and used very often in our business. Often we will use a PDF to show proofs to our clients and often times these are the final files we send to a printer as well.  One of the really great things about PDFs is that you can save them at different qualities. When we send large files off for a client proof, we can reduce the size so that we can email them. (Pro Tip: Most email systems limit file scaring to 25 MB, If you have to send something larger, we suggest www.wetransfer.com) When it’s time to send the final art files to a printer, we can still save the same PDF as a high-resolution print file. Love technology!

PDF’s have so many great features, the list goes on. They are also great for applications and forms because you can have fillable fields that allow users to type in information. Another benefit of PDF’s is that you can embed links. This means if you’re sending a file to a customer, you can link your URL, your email address, a download button, and much more! One of the biggest features of a PDF that designers use daily is the markup capabilities. Clients are able to add little sticky notes to your files to note revisions and/or text corrections. It can be such a helpful tool to use.

Lastly, a PDF is SO VERSATILE that you can use almost any program and output as PDF.  This allows it to be so wide-spread and also allows for anyone to open it on their own computer.

USE IF: You want something easy to share or sending to someone for review.

EPS – Encapsulated PostScript

The next file type we are going to discuss is an EPS. An EPS is a really important file type in the design world, because this saves your files with all the vectors. (Not sure what a vector is? New post coming soon!) And EPS is often used as the universal file for vector graphics. This file type can be opened only programs used to read vector files, but the importance of maintaining the vector art. If you’re sending a logo to a designer, this is what they will like to have. You’ll also use a vector file if you’re sending your logo to a printer for things like screen printing T-shirts, making promotional materials, or signage for your business. Another similar file type for designers is an .AI file. This is Adobe Illustrator’s version of the EPS and has a few more customizations within. However, it’s not a helpful file type for someone who does not have Adobe Illustrator.

USE IF: You want to maintain your vector points or need something that’s scalable.

SVG – Scalable Vector Graphic

Another file type is an SVG. This is another great web file because it allows for scaling on the website. In the world of responsive web design ability to scale a graphic is really important. And SVG is kind of like a blend of a JPEG and a EPS.  This file type is relatively new to the design world, and you’re starting to see it more and more.  Many web and graphic designers like to use SVGs on their designs so that they can scale without pixelization.

USE IF: You want vector graphics on the web.

TIFF – Tagged Image Format File

Another file type which will talk about is the TIFF. A TIFF file is similar to a JPEG, but is often used for higher resolution photos and can have more features. For example, a TIFF file can have layers in it. This is important for someone working in Photoshop and would like to maintain their file layers. (Sidenote: layers are used in Photoshop to layer elements on top of each other. For example, if you’re looking at a graphic it would have a background layer, content layers, perhaps text, and commonly some layers for color correcting and/or photo editing.) The TIF file type comes in handy when you want to send a file to someone who does not have Photoshop, but you still want to maintain the editable layers. Is “editable” a real word? IDK, but we use it a lot. lol…  And another file type that goes along with the TIFF, is a PSD file. This is basically an Adobe Photoshop file and can maintain it’s layers but can only be opened by those with Photoshop.

USE IF: You have a large photograph or layers.

So there you have it! Is your brain ready to explode? Sorry, we tried to make it as easy as possible, but there’s a lot to know. Hope this helps, happy designing!

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