So Many Graphic File Formats, So Little Time

File Format Quick Reference Guide

BMP (Bitmap)
Windows operating system image file or DIB (Devise Independent File) for Graphical User Interface.

Used in offset printing, and vector images. Can be sized upward.

Used on the Web. Only reads 256 colors in line art. Not for photos. Can store simple animation. Cannot be sized upward.

JPEG (Mac created), JPG (PC created)
Used on the Web. Reads millions of colors for photos. Cannot be sized upward.

PNG was created to improve upon the GIF format

TIFF (Mac created), TIF (PC created)
Used for high resolution printing of images. Pixel-based, large file size. Can be sized upward.

By Lisa Gullette, CreatiVisibility, November 2007

Ever wonder why CreatiVisibility requests specific file formats and images for use in certain designs and publications being developed for you?

JPEG, JPG, TIF, TIFF, GIF, PNG, BMP. These are graphic file extensions that are associated with different file formats. There are many graphic file formats, and for many people, not enough time to learn how each file format is to be used. This article takes a quick minute to lay out the differences.

First, choose graphics file formats based on type of publication, then, by type of image.

Graphics come in many formats but not all are suitable for all purposes. There are graphic formats suitable for printing and those for screen viewing or online publishing. Within each group there are also formats that are better than others for the same task.

Use GIF and JPG for online publishing or screen viewing for presentations. These files are compressed and low resolution. Low resolution files are smaller files that load into your browser faster since your monitor can only output 72 pixels per inch (Mac) or 96 pixels per inch (PC). Although PNG formats for online publishing are sometimes employed, at present GIF and JPG are the most commonly used. Web pages require JPG, GIF or PNG image files because that is all that browsers can display for static images.

Hints: Images from the Web cannot be used in printed publishing. They look good on the screen but will be pixelated or blurry when enlarged for use in a printed publication. The image on the screen at 72 dpi is a very small image at 300 dpi. Very large JPG images saved at 300 dpi from your digital camera can be printed with digital printing devices without loss of image quality.

Use EPS and TIF for print publishing. These files should be saved as high resolution files. 200-300 dots per inch (dpi) or pixels per inch (ppi) for photographs and 600 dots per inch (dpi) for graphic images. The high-resolution format of EPS and TIF will provide the least hassles and the best quality. They are the standards for high-resolution printing, and MUST be converted if your work is being printed by a professional commercial printer using offset presses and printing plates.

There are also proprietary file formats that can be opened only with their associated software. These are pixel-based or vector formats used by specific graphics programs. PSD files are opened with Adobe PhotoShop, AI files with Adobe Illustrator, CDR files with CorelDraw to name a few commonly used formats. You must convert these images to TIF or EPS or other common graphics file formats within the software program to publish.

The list below outlines the best use for several common formats. Match the format to your job either by starting with graphics in that format or by converting other artwork to the desired format. CreatiVisibility can convert these files for you if initially provided in an appropriate format.

BMP (Bitmap)
BMP is most commonly associated with Windows operating system graphics. Bitmap imagery is the basis for other graphic formats.

EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)
Generally considered the best choice of graphics format for high resolution printing. An EPS is best for vector (mathematical based) images and can be resized well if the original image is created as a vector image in software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)
Used for online publishing of solid color graphics with text or sharp lines and edges; GIF files can only read 256 colors or less. Not used for gradients, drop shadows, or complex images or photographs.

JPEG, JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
Used for online publishing of continuous tones or photographic images; JPG files can read millions of colors, as found in all photographs.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
Bitmapped image format with data compression. PNG was created to improve upon the GIF format.

TIFF, TIF (Tagged Image File Format)
Used for high resolution printing of images. It is the preferred bitmap graphics format for high-resolution postscript printing. These produce very large files, but can be sized in most cases without pixelation.

For more information about CreatiVisibility and how it can help you create, build, efficiently publish your marketing pieces, please contact us through the Web: