File Types & Formats
Helping users to better understand: the different digital file types used in the design industry, their uses, and compatibility during the production process.
If you’ve ever received files from a designer but couldn’t open or preview them on your computer, it’s most probably due to file format incompatibility with the program you are using. These weird files may be in EPS, AI, TIFF, or PSD format. Other more common file types such as JPEG or PDF are compatible with basic programs and email.
Computer graphics are created as either raster or vector images.
Comprised of colour pixels which collectively form an image. The quality is relative to the total number of pixels (resolution measured by WxH) hence the higher the pixels, the more detailed or sharper the image.
Increasing the size of a raster image means enlarging the pixels. This leads to loss of quality or pixel density in relation to the screen resolution.
Comprises lines and shapes filled with solid colours or gradients to form graphics and illustrations. This is the sharpest, clearest form of graphics. It retains the clarity regardless of how much resizing is done.
Because the image is made of lines rather than pixels, the quality is unaffected when the image is enlarged.
JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group
This is a standard format compatible with a wide variety of platforms, using superior compression techniques. JPGs do not support transparent backgrounds. Their level of compression can vary in resolution with high-quality for desktop printing, medium quality for web viewing and low quality for email. When compressed repeatedly, the quality of a JPG image is reduced.
PSD: Photoshop Document
PSDs are the industry standard files for working with high quality photo images. These files are compatible with layers which make them ideal for image editing and manipulation.
TIFF: Tagged Image File
Used for high-quality images, TIFFs are common in photography and commercial printing. They are preferred for their wide compatibility with the various imaging solution softwares.
GIF: Graphics Interchange Format
A GIF is a low resolution graphic file format commonly used for web and email. Almost all browsers can support the use of GIF files, which use a compression scheme to minimise file size and electronic transfer time. GIFs are also animated using various compatible software.
PNG: Portable Networks Graphics
PNG files are high-quality bitmap images that employ lossless data compression. PNG supports 24-bit images and produces background transparency without jagged edges. However, some web browsers do not support PNG images.
PDF: Portable Document Format
Use: Web/ Print
A PDF is a universal file format that preserves and embeds the fonts, images, layout and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application used to create it. PDF files can be shared, viewed and printed by anyone with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. PDF is extremely versatile and can be used for either proofing or printing high-resolution files.
EPS: Encapsulated Post Script
EPS files are used by designers to transfer an image or artwork, generally a vector file, into another application. EPS files can be opened using Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or Adobe Photoshop. Printers prefer EPS format files, they are completely scalable.
AI: Adobe Illustrator
These are vector files created using the Adobe Illustrator program. They are used by designers and printers to generate files of different file formats and sizes. AI files can only be opened using Adobe Illustrator and may be created in layers. An AI file is one of the most preferred formats by printers and is completely scalable.
SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics
Use: Web/ Print
A vector image format which generally has the same build qualities as an AI vector file. The main difference is that SVG files are XML based, allowing them to be searched, scripted, compressed and indexed. This make them ideal for online use, animation and interactivity.