PSD, JPEG, GIF, RAW, etc., are all image file formats that make no sense to anyone but graphic designers. How do you decide when to use a PNG instead of a JPG? The wide variety of formats are overwhelming to understand, and it can be madness. Fortunately, there’s a method to tackle this madness, which is explained below.
Since images are hugely popular and necessary for print and digital platforms, it is important to understand the difference between the formats. However, before that, you need to know the meaning of raster and vector images.
- Raster images
Raster images form an image after being constructed by individual blocks or a series of pixels. PNG, GIF, and JPG are raster image extensions. All the photos you find in print or online are raster images.
Since pixels have defined proportions depending on their resolution (low or high), images cannot be stretched to fill spaces they were not meant to fit. If they’re stretched, images become unclear or distorted. That’s why raster files must be saved at the precise dimension needed for the app.
- Vector images
Unlike raster images, vector images are quite flexible, and they’re not constructed using pixels but proportional formulas. PDF, AI, and EPS are ideal for creating graphics that frequently require resizing.
The beauty of vector file images is their ability to be sized as large enough to fit on an eighteen-wheeler or as small as a postage stamp.
Now, let’s look at the handy guide outlining the most popular image file extensions and their usage.
GIF (graphics interchange format) is a lossless raster format and is widely used for animated graphics like email messages, banner ads, and of course, social media memes. Even if you open WhatsApp today, you’ll notice there’s an option to share GIFs with your friends and family, along with emoticons.
GIFs are constructed from up to 256 colors in the RGB colorspace, and thanks to their limited number of colors, the file size is reduced dramatically. That is the reason why GIFs are easily uploaded across social media platforms and other digital channels.
Today, you can even convert video to GIF Mac or on Windows. The easiest way to convert videos to GIFs is by using converters.
- JPG or JPEG
JPEG (joint photographic experts group) is one of the most popular and widely used image formats online, especially for email graphics, images, and large web images. JPG pictures have a sliding scale of compression that reduces the file size and enhances the pixelation or artifacts as the image is compressed. Compatibility with various devices and high compressibility are some of the advantages of JPEG.
JPG is used when dealing with online artwork or photos because the format offers huge flexibility in compression and editing. Furthermore, use JPEGs when you wish to print photos or need to send a quick preview image to your clients. You can easily reduce the image size of JPGs, which makes them ideal for emailing.
- PSD (photoshop document)
Files created and saved in Adobe Photoshop are PSDs. The format is widely used because photoshop is a highly preferred graphics editing software used by both novices and experienced graphic designers. The file contains various layers, and this makes amending pictures much easier. But, one of the disadvantages of PSDs is that it works with raster images and not with vector images.
The least-processed image format on this list is a RAW image. It is typically the first format an image inherits when it is created. For instance, when you snap a picture with your camera, the image is immediately saved in a RAW file format. When you upload the pictures to a different device and edit, the image gets saved in any one of the formats explained above.
RAW pictures are valuable as they’re capable of capturing every subtle element of an image without losing tiny visual details. But eventually, you will have to package them into a vector or raster file so they can be resized and transferred for varied purposes.
The different types of RAW image files are:
- CR2 or Canon RAW 2 is created by Canon for images and based on the TIF file type. It is inherently of the highest quality.
- NEF is an image extension that stands for Nikon Electric Format, and it is a file created by Nikon Cameras. The file allows for extensive modification without changing the types of files.
- CRW is also created by Canon and precedes the existence of CR2.
- PEF stands for Pentax Electronic Format, and Pentax Digital Cameras created it.
These are a few image file extensions that you need to know if you are creating or editing images for the web or print.