The Basics of File Types

For graphic designers, photos make a huge difference in their layouts. With over 20 different file types, it can get confusing what files to send when. Unless you are a graphic designer, you probably never needed to understand the difference between a JPG, TIF, PDF or GIF.  Since each file serves a different purpose, it’s important to understand the basics in order to provide your designer with the proper files to create the perfect layout.


A raster image is made up of a series of pixels (or little squares) to form an image. JPG, GIF, PNG, TIF, RAW are all raster images. Every photo you find online is a raster image because they are used for web graphics displayed on screen. Based on the resolution, when the photo is resized it can compromise the quality and can make it blurry. So, it’s best to properly save or resize them at the dimensions needed for the specific application.

JPG  (Joint Photographic Group)

The most common file type; commonly used for web and print photos and quick previews.


GIF  (Graphics Interchange Format)

A small file that sizes great for web use. Animation and transparency in limited colors.


PNG  (Portable Network Graphics)

Best for web use, interactive documents and web pages but are not suitable for print. Transparency with millions of colors.

TIF  (Tagged Image File)

A large raster file that doesn’t lose quality. Used for high-quality print graphics and scans.



Unprocessed data from digital cameras.


PSD  (Photoshop Document)

Layered Adobe Photoshop design files. This is also the program that generates all the other file types mentioned.


Vector images are far more flexible than raster images and are constructed using formulas rather than pixels. EPS, AI and PDF are all vector files. They are great for creating graphics that are being resized regularly. You can make them as small as a stamp or blow the image up for large displays such as
a billboard.

AI  (Adobe Illustrator Document)

Original Adobe Illustrator design files. (The program in which your logo was originally created) Produces vector artwork, the easiest type of file to manipulate.

EPS  (Encapsulated Postscript)

Designed to produce high-resolution vector graphics for print. They can be used to open vector-based artwork in any
design editor.


PDF  (Portable Document Format)

Able to  be viewed from any application, on any computer, these are the best universal tool for sharing graphics. They are print-ready files and web-based documents.


Has you designer ever told you your image isn’t high-res? That all has to do with the DPI or PPI.  DPI is ‘dots per inch’ and PPI is ‘pixels per inch’. They are units of measurement for determining the clarity of an image. When designing, or asking your designer for a file, it is very important to know if you are using the image for web or print. Web images at 72 dpi (which is low-resolution) will look clear on the web but will not look the same for print. For print, all images must be no less then 300 dpi. (which is considered high-resolution). If you try to take a low-resolution image and make it high-resolution you will end up with a pixelated image that looks blurry.

Now that you understand the different file types, where they work best and how to know which to ask for, you can streamline your production processes to ensure you have the best file for every instance.


Amanda: A jpg