Understanding File Formats

Images and logos have various files formats and platforms. Knowing the difference between the different output types is very important in having the highest quality final products. There are several important formats to be aware of; PDF, JPG, EPS, PNG, TIFF and GIF. Each have a specific purpose and output type they are best for.

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PDF – If we take a look at pdf first, this would be the one of the masters of document formats. PDF holds the power to embed one large document with enough information that it can store rasterized files, vector files and text information. It is seen as a universal file format, it can be opened on may different programs, including free ones regardless of the program it was designed with. A PDF can easily be transferred from users so mac and window users do not need to fight one another. Plus, when saved properly printers can print high quality documents from it, without the hassle of multiple source files. PDFs best uses would be for file sharing and printing items such as business cards.

JPG – JPG is a very common and known format that most people will know instantly. JPGs would be one of the most common formats saved on digital cameras and therefor is usually what you will find your personal photos labeled as when you bring them on to the computer. These types of photos are great for printing when they straight from you camera, they do however have certain key points that need to be considered. JPGs are rasterized images, so they are made up of tiny blocks of information, which means they do not resize well. Images will easily become damaged and appear unclear or granulated when they are edited, they do not welcome lots of editing or adjustments as they will lose this information. One thing to keep in mind is that JPGs cannot display transparency. 

EPS – Taking a look at a vector based file type we shift our focus to EPS. It is excellent for creating logos or files that would need to be printed and resized multiple times. As the files is vector based it is made up of a formula rather than tiny information blocks and because of this it has no trouble with resizing. It can hold both graphics and text. EPS is a great file type to have and be able to provide to others because of its versatility. If you have a logo created, getting an EPS version is of the utmost importance!

PNG – The PNG file type is a popular alternate to a JPG, and is quickly becoming my favourite (aside from EPS). It has similar properties to a JPG as it is rasterized and uses a lossless compression, which basically allows for the images data to be reconstructed from compression without losing any of the data. PNGs are great for web and small graphics as it can also have a transparent background, so the user can create icons and buttons for a website and they will fit perfectly on any style background.

TIFF – TIFF is another rasterized file type. It is a large file that produces high quality prints. TIFFs can be opened and edited with Adobe Photoshop, and many preview programs will also be able to display a TIFF image. It is a larger file type and is typically used in commercial spaces for photography. As it is larger it is great for editing, but would not necessarily be ideal for web as its size may cause page loading issues.

GIF – The final format we will be looking at will be GIF. Like several before it, it is a raster-based file and it’s a smaller file type. GIFs can use up to only 256 colours, which makes them ideal for simple graphics such as banners, charts or buttons. They would not be a good option for photography or large images, because of their colour limitations and size.

Overall, each file format serves its own purpose and by understanding its capabilities both you and your designer will be able to produce the best quality work possible. Next week we'll discuss why having an eps version of your logo is the most important version!