Image File Types Explained

What is a PDF, PNG, EPS, GIF, JPG or a SVG? Image file types are so confusing! There are so many different version for different uses. How is a person supposed to know which is which? This might make you feel a little better about your ignorance, but I'm a graphic designer by training and I still get stumped sometimes. DPI? LPI? I'm not even going to go there today. This is a brief primer on the most popular image file types so you don't have to suffer as much.

Unfortunately, the size (pixels x pixels) and resolution (72, 150 300 etc.) still has much to do with the final use of your image. Often, the person requesting the image will tell you what is required for their purposes. Saving files for websites or online media is usually best at the smallest file size possible. This very nerdy article does a great job walking you through the discernment process if you feel lost.

How To Save Files

Most applications and image creating programs will have these options in the "Save as" command.

Vector vs Raster Images

Vector Images

• Vector images are zoom and resolution-independent

• Vector graphics use lines, points, and polygons to represent an image.

• Can be scaled any size and not lose quality or look pixelated

• .eps files are vector


• Raster images should be used for complex scenes with lots of irregular shapes and details.

• Represent an image by encoding the individual values of each pixel within a rectangular grid.

.jpg or .jpeg

• Use for still Images & photographs

• Images with complex colors

• NO transparency

• “Lossy”, which means each iteration loses quality with each export (like a photocopy of a photocopy)


• Web graphics that require transparency

• Use in color heavy and complex photographs and graphics

• Use for images that require re-editing and re-exporting

• Lossless


• Files limited to 256 colors

• Use for simple animations

• Good for flat graphics and no gradients

• Transparent backgrounds


• Does not pixelate at larger sizes

• Can be edited as a live graphic file

• Use for flat graphics, logos & geometric shapes

• Can be transparent


• Can be edited as a live graphic file

• Use for flat graphics, fonts, logos & geometric shapes

• Can be transparent in background


• Portable Document File

• Can be saved as a low resolution file for screen viewing and emailing proofs

• Can be saved as a high resolution file for final print quality.

• Use for multi-page documents

• Good for both photographic images and text.

I hope this helps clear up the mud a little. If you ever have any questions, jump into the Creative Juice Facebook group and ask away. Someone in there always seems to know what you need.

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