Image file type guide - 5 most popular types and when to use which

Image file type guide - 5 most popular types and when to use which
  • Frida Bosma
Frida Bosma
June 19, 2019

Which are the best image file types? As online merchants, we all use images to convey different messages. Whether it’s adding image background, adding a logo, posting a product pic, pinning images, etc. it’s important to know what image file type to use. The difference in image file types mainly results from image compression requirements. You need to be aware of the most important file format for printing, scanning, camera, and internet use.

Considerations to choose an image file type from:

  • Quality of compression: compression degrees vary, lossy types for smallest files or lossless for best quality images.
  • 8-bit, 16-bit,24-bit, or 48-bit RGB colors or CMYK colors popular with commercial print.
  • Indexed colors largely used with graphics.
  • Animation or transparency quality.
  • Printed image material or web destination image material.

5 most popular image file types

1. JPG

This is the most commonly used image file type. It’s the file extension for JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group). Web pages and digital cameras use JPG image file format as they use lossy compression to compress the images into very small file sizes. If you are focused on preserving image quality and have a small image size - use a high-quality setting to create a larger JPG file on a digital camera. Don’t edit and save your image repeatedly as this lessens your image quality each time you save it as JPG.

Pros of JPG

  • Has a small file size
  • Supports 24-bit color grade
  • Recognised by any internet search engine
  • Compatible with the various OS (Mac, Windows, Linux)

Cons of JPG

  • Quality of the image is lost while compressing
  • Quality of the image is lost while re-saving
  • Don’t support animation and transparency

When to use JPG

  • Used for images with various different colours e.g. photographs
  • Use in need of very small size images e.g. to use online, sending an email, etc.

2. GIF

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) was specially designed for video screening. It uses lossless compression but it’s always an indexed color file. They have a 24-bit colour palette mainly used for images that have low colour variation.

Pros of GIF

  • Supports animation
  • Supports transparency

Cons of GIF

  • It only supports 256 colours
  • It has a very large file size

When to use GIF

  • Use for simple image icons with few colours
  • Use for animated pictures

3. PNG

It was the most recent image file invention to bypass GIF compression patent issues. A very modern file type supporting both indexed and RGB colours from 1-bit to 48-bit. The indexed 256 GIF colours are replaced with 8-bit mode and 24-bit mode PNG providing over 16 Million colours for photographs. PNG is a superb option for lossless quality images.

Pros of PNG

  • The image quality isn’t lost after compression
  • Transparency is supported at a better quality that with GIF images
  • The images file sizes are smaller than GIF

Cons of PNG

  • All web browsers can’t support PNG
  • Animation isn’t supported with PNG
  • One can’t store large files as they increase in size when they are saved

When to use PNG

  • Works well with transparent backgrounds
  • Used for small images e.g. logo
  • When you want the best quality image regardless of the size


Tagged Image File Format is the most popular image file format used by designers and photographers. It's the most versatile and the best quality to present commercial work. TIFF images aren’t compressed making them the best for post-processing. These files can be comfortably used with any photo editing software.

Pros of TIFF

  • Produces very high quality images
  • It supports layered images
  • All colour and image data is stored

Cons of TIFF

  • Very huge file size
  • Takes a long time to be transmitted over the internet
  • Loading TIFF files takes a while

When to use TIFF

  • Images that require to be printed
  • Images that need to be stored without any loss of details or quality

5. PSD

Adobe Photoshop has gained so much popularity over the years. PSD is a photoshop document. It maintains image quality for a long period of time which makes it good for printing photos.

Pros of PSD

  • Uses all photoshop features like blending modes, shapes, layer styles, clipping paths etc.
  • Can open and edit layered files
  • Maintains transparency
  • Very well integrated with Adobe products as you can effortlessly import an image into Illustrator, Indesign, etc.

Cons of PSD

  • Huge file size
  • It is proprietary to Adobe and isn’t supported with other apps
  • Not suitable for web

When to use PSD

  • When you need to edit the image with photoshop
  • To retain quality of print image

In conclusion there are many different formats for images and photos to choose from. By using the the above guide the choice will hopefully be clearer. And converting between various image formats is easy with a professional conversion tool like FileStar. Try it out yourself and download it here

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