File Formats Demystified

Pixels, Vector, Raster, and Bitmap… Oh My! So What's the Difference Between JPG, PNG, and PDF?

How to know what File Formats to use

File Formats Demystified: File formats are just part of digital media’s ‘nature’. Below is a simple list of files types to help you understand the formats that you will most likely encounter (and what they are best used for).

Why do we need different file formats?

Each file type has a specific purpose and is optimized for that said purpose. Websites use digital screens and don’t need the same high-quality resolution as a large glossy magazine. Each file tyle contain specific things (technical term) that serve specific purposes. For example, those “GIFs” are animated and can hold only 256 colors, making them very small and quick to load, whearas a properly-created PDF is a combination of text, vector graphics and/or bitmap images (for documents). Even a simple RTF or CSV file has it’s unique styling for it’s specific abilities.

What is a PDF, PNG, and what do you use for a website…

Below is a list of file types/formats that you’ll most likely need to work with when you are creating a website, presentations, video, or print media.

document icon - Adobe Illustrator file

Adobe Illustrator (graphic-file.ai)

A vector-based graphic made of shapes. Mostly used for print, this is a scalable format which can be used for any professional purpose. Used for: Brochures, Logos, Apparel


Encapsulated PostScript (graphic-file.eps)

This was the original vector file format. Still in use today, anyone who can work with a PDF and AI can work with an EPS. Mostly used for print like .AI and .PDF and best for embroidery, t-shirts, etc and printing where scale is needed. Used for: Brochures, Logos, Apparel


Portable Document Format (document-name.pdf)

Adobe created this wonderful file-type to allow us to maintain layout and design across all platforms. We use PDF files to show a finished product. It is never a good idea to edit a PDF, or to save a bitmap image into a PDF. Used for: Designed Documents, Logos, eBooks


Scalable Vector Graphic (graphic-file.svg)

Just like an .EPS and .AI, but using HTML-like code, and mostly used for web. The perfect use is for logos that can scale on websites for desktop and mobile. SVG can also be used for mobile apps, websites, and print. Used for: Logos, Scalable Graphics


Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG) (image-name.jpg)

Websites, slideshows, presentations, digital. The JPEG standard (ISO/IEC 10918) was created in 1992 (latest version, 1994) as the result of a process that started in 1986. Most commonly used for photos and graphics with a lot of different colors. Used for: photos, website.


Portable Network Graphics (PNG) (image-name.png)

Websites, slideshows, presentations, digital. The PNG file supports transparency, including gradient transparency. Most commonly used for websites video, and slideshows, where there’s a need to have the background show through. Best for logos and graphics. Not needed for photos. Commonly Used for: logos, flat graphics.


Breaking It Down:

For Websites &
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