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What formats do we use?
Where, When, and How To Use Them

As a graphic designer, I often send the logo design files for the projects I'm hired to do to the client or to a printer for final output. Often, a client will call me or send me an email in a panic because they can't open one of the files or don't know what the file type is for.

Most people can't open GIF, EPS, or PSD files, which have extensions that end in ".gif," ".eps," and ".psd." Designers, printers, people who make signs, and people who make promotional products all need special software to work with these three types of files.

Here is a quick list of the different file extensions you might see when working with a graphic designer, what they stand for, and how the file format is used.

Portable Network Graphics (PNG)

Because PNG files have a low resolution, they are most often used online and on websites. PNG files are bitmap images that use data compression that doesn't lose any information. Like GIF files, PNG files can have a transparent background.


 Joint Photographic Experts Group

A JPG file is a compressed image file that doesn't support a transparent background. JPG files can have different levels of compression based on their resolution. High quality is good for printing on a desktop, medium quality is good for viewing on the web, and low quality is good for email. When a JPG image is compressed over and over, its overall quality gets worse.


PDF: Portable Document Format

A PDF is a universal file format that keeps the fonts, images, layout, and graphics of the original document, no matter what program was used to make it. With the free Adobe Reader software, anyone can share, view, and print PDF files. Some PDF files can be used for digital printing, commercial printing, or both.


Encapsulated PostScript, or EPS

Encapsulated PostScript, or EPS, files are most often used by designers to move an image or piece of artwork, which is usually a vector file, from one program to another. EPS files that are based on vectors can be made any size. Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, and Adobe Photoshop can all be used to open EPS files. A vector EPS file is one of the most popular formats for printers, promotional product companies, silk screeners, banner and sign companies, and other third-party creatives.


PSD: Photoshop Document

The PSD file format, usually a raster format, contains graphics and photos created in Adobe Photoshop image editing software. Most commonly used by designer and printers. PSD files can only be opened using Photoshop and may be created in layers.


Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)

GIF files have a low resolution and are most often used on the web and in emails. GIF files are supported by almost all browsers because they use compression to keep the file size small. GIF files can be made with a background that is clear.


TIF: Tagged Image File Format

Most of the time, the TIF/TIFF file format is used to store pictures, photos, or art. Most of the time, TIF files are used in professional settings and for commercial printing. The TIF format is the one that is most commonly used on all platforms. It is the standard format for pictures that look good. TIF formats are thought to be the best way to store high-quality images, even though they are big.

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