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Mike’s Technical Tip: It’s All About the File Format

JPEGs and PDFs and GIFs – oh my! Those and many other graphic file formats can be found out there in the wild, and unless you know the differences among them, the results can be… unpredictable.

The following is a chart with a rundown of the most common file formats for graphics and images and what they’re good for.

.ai (Adobe Illustrator)

Illustrator Vector File

Usage: Native Illustrator file, typically exported as an EPS. Can be spot and/or process color(s). Without imported bitmaps, is fully scalable.

 

.bmp (Bitmap)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Good for importing into Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint. Although it can be high-resolution, it shouldn’t be used in high-quality printing because it is always RGB.

 

.eps (Encapsulated PostScript)

Illustrator Vector File

Usage: Can be spot and/or process color(s). Without imported bitmaps, is fully scalable. Best for logos and other line-drawn graphics that are imported into a page layout application.

 

.gif (Graphic Interchange Format)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Low-bandwidth web image that can have transparency and animation. Never to be used in high-quality printing; is RGB.

 

.jpg (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Primarily a format for web use in low-resolution and RGB, but can be used to send images of great size due to its compression ability.

 

.png (Portable Network Graphics)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Good for importing into Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint. Although it can be high-resolution, it shouldn’t be used in high-quality printing because it is RGB.

 

.psd (Photoshop)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Native Photoshop file. Once artwork is complete, file is exported as TIFF, PNG, JPEG, BMP, etc.

 

.pdf (Portable Document Format)

Acrobat Vector and/or Raster File

Usage: Enables a document to be distributed on different systems while preserving the layout. Can be created in low- or high-resolution. Like an EPS, it is natively vector but can contain placed raster images and/or RGB elements. Caution should be used when sending PDF files to commercial printers.

 

.tif (Tagged Image File Format)

Photoshop Raster File

Usage: Leading high-resolution four-color and black & white format for images, although can be saved at lower resolutions and in RGB.

Like anything else in life, there are exceptions to almost every rule. But in the majority of cases, graphic files will fall under one of the above categories and will follow those rules.

If you’d like a PDF of our Tips, Tricks, & Tidbits – a handy handbook of graphic design FAQs with easy-to-follow answers, terms & definitions (including those found in the above chart such as spot, process, vector, and raster), standard sizes & conversion charts, and other useful stuff – please jump over to our Contact Us page and choose it in the Request a Document pull-down.