Image File Formats Marketers Need to Know

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The vast selection of image formats can be pretty overwhelming, but there's a method to this madness.

When creating or manipulating graphics, it's important to learn how the different image formats work. These are the most widely-used images formats today.

JPEG aka Joint Photographic Experts Group

Benefits

  • Feature 24-bit color, with as much as 16 million different colors and color combinations

  • Most widely recognized and accepted image format

  • Works well for most operating systems and is extremely web-friendly

  • Nearly every digital camera uses the JPEG format

Downsides

  • Tendency to shed off a great deal of information

  • May develop artifacts following a compression

  • Cannot be animated

Why Choose JPEG?

JPEG is the go-to format for online photos. It supports a full spectrum of colors, and almost all devices and programs can open and save to the JPEG format — making it the most universal of the three formats. JPEG files are ideal when you want to keep the file size down and don’t mind giving up a little quality to create a very small file.

GIF aka Graphics Interchange Format

Benefits

  • Supports transparency

  • Performs modest animations

  • Features lossless quality

  • Works well for graphics with restricted colors

Downsides

  • Limits graphics to only 256 colors

  • Considered to be somewhat outdated compared to other formats

Why Choose GIF?

Use GIF for simple web graphics with limited colors. GIF files aren’t recommended for files with a large range of colors, like photographs or other detailed imagery. But if you’re working with small graphics, like banners and charts or animations, GIF is the best format for the job.

PNG aka Portable Network Graphics

Benefits

  • Open-source

  • Created specifically to be patent-free

  • Features lossless compression

  • Arguably the best option for photos going through the editing process

Downsides

  • Unsuited for standard photographs

  • Produces extremely large files that require a lot of space

  • Unable to support animation

  • Unsuited for all browsers

Why Choose PNG?

Use the PNG format when you need a small file that maintains its original quality. PNG files support millions of colors, plus varying degrees of transparency — so they’re perfect for graphic image files, like logos, charts, and infographics.

Choosing the right visuals also means saving photos in their right format. This is crucial if you want to spruce up the image by changing its color tones or adding text. It's also important to note that licensing is a consideration you must look into.