Image File Formats

And then there was one. The last installment of this three-part series focused on PDF, AI, and EPS. If you need a quick refresher of the pros and cons of vector image formats check out Image File Formats: Part 2. If not, let proceed with the last and final lesson.

As discussed in part 1 of this series, raster image formats are created with pixels and range from complex photographs to simple illustrations. To avoid flooding your brain with too much information this article will focus on the most popular raster image formats, JPG, GIF, and PNG.


JPG (aka JPEGs and JPEG) is the most common raster file format. It is compatible with all forms of digital media (colorful images, photographs, patterns, gradients, shadows, etc.). The popularity of JPGs is due to the following:

  • The majority of devices, operating systems, and applications are compatible.
  • The most flexible when it comes to compression and editing.
  • It does not take up much storage space.
  • Image quality ranges from low to high.

Despite the popularity of JPG, there are several cons:

  • Less suitable for working with text or monochrome graphics with clear boundaries
  • Transparency is not supported for designs (drawing templates, logos, buttons, icons, etc.)
  • Image compression degrades the quality of the image.



PNGs (aka Portable Network Graphic) are a lossless raster format. They are most commonly used for high-quality transparent web graphics. PNGs give users the ability to:

  • Resize an image without affecting the image quality.
  • Create images with transparency or opacity. This is important for sharp edges and smooth background transitions such as logos.
  • Display a range of color depths.
  • Work with 24-bit RGB and 32-bit RGB color.

Let’s bring on the cons:

  • PNGs can have larger file sizes compared to JPG, especially when they have a high resolution.
  • PNGs are optimized for the screen causing printed materials to lose some of its quality.



Next up we have GIF, the raster format that floods everyone’s social media timeline. Like PNG, GIF is a lossless format that stands for Graphics Interchange Format. GIF is a widely used raster format that is typically used for animated graphics. The pros are as follows:

  • Capable of supporting transparency.
  • Ability to create animations.

The downside of GIFs is:

  • Limited color palette. Colors outside of the 256-color palette will display as the color that is closest to it, yielding low image quality.
  • Flat image format. All edits are saved to one layer and cannot be undone.


Final Thoughts

JPG, PNG, and GIF all have pros and cons and it is important that you know when to use each file format. The general rule of thumb for saving images is as follows:

  • Use JPG for colorful images, photographs, patterns, gradients, shadows, etc.
  • Use PNG for drawing templates, logos, buttons, icons, etc.
  • Use GIF for animations

Keep in mind circumstances can occur that may cause you to negate the general rule of thumb. If such circumstances occur use your best judgment when saving image files.

Rely on an Expert

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