Ever wondered the difference between a PNG and a JPEG? Or when to use an AI versus EPS? It can be pretty technical and overwhelming if you won’t work in the design space. As a graphic designer of 20 years, I will help guide you through what the most common file types, a brief explanation of them and where they are best to be used.
But first, we need to talk about Vectors and raster files
Vector vs. Raster
This is a very important difference and is the key to how you use the files in your business.
A raster file is a pixel file. Its any image made of small blocks of colour, like a photograph. Files like JPEG, PNG and GIF are all raster files. There is a limit as to how large a raster file can be increased before the image is blurry or pixelated.
A vector file is a graphic that can be scaled infinitely. It uses control points and Bezier curves to construct the image. EPS, AI and PDF examples of vector files. Vectors are the ideal file type to get your logo in.
If you are getting signage, uniforms embroidered or stationery printed, a vector file is the highest quality and the best format for the job.
For your website, social media or email newsletter, raster files are the best format.
JPEG (or JPG) – Joint Photographic Experts Group.
Jpegs are the most common web based file used as they can be used on websites, social media but are flexible enough to go into MS Word and still maintain its quality. Where possible, ask your designer for a hi res Jpeg so the quality is good.
- PNG – Portable Network Graphics.
PNG files are also great for web based applications and are popular because they have a transparent background which is ideal for websites.
- GIF – Graphics Interchange Format.
The GIF format is popular with web animations. They are not hi quality though so would not be a printable file type.
- TIFF – Tagged Image File.
A TIFF file is a raster file, usually used for photography in printing as it maintains its hi quality. Not suitable for the web as the file sizes are too large.
- PSD – Photoshop Document.
Another raster file used for photography but also because of its layering and transparent backgrounds for hi res images that need printing.
- PDF – Portable Document Format.
Popular with designers that can send files to be viewed without the clients having the programs. A PDF has good compression and its also very popular in email. They can be vector or raster depending on the content.
- EPS – Encapsulated Postscript.
A vector file that produces hi resolution artwork. A file format that is nearly as flexible as a PDF
- AI – Adobe Illustrator Document.
Generally, this vector file is what your designer will design your logo in. Its also a design industry standard program so printers and designers can easily pass files between them for editing.
- INDD – Adobe Indesign Document
If you ever receive this file format, more likely it’s a mistake as only designers and printers would use these files. Indesign is a great multi page program, popular for creating magazines and newsletters.
High Resolution vs Low Resolution
Knowing the difference is very important as it will affect the quality of your work. In designer terms, DPI refers to “dots per inch” and the higher the DPI, the higher the resolution of the image. A basic hi res size we work in is 300DPI for print output. For web, the most common DPI is 72DPI as they load faster and optically they can be a lower quality online.
I hope this has helped to understand the file types and when to use them. Also to educate you on what files you need your designer to send to you so you can use them yourself.