4 Different Image Formats and When to Use Them

image format jpg gif png tiff

The various image formats and how and when to use them can be a source of aggravation for many people. Different image types require different format options when uploaded to websites, or any digital device. Avatar New York discusses four different image formats and when to use them.

  1. JPG. JPGs are the most universally accepted image format, as they are compatible with most operating systems. They also produce photographs that have vibrant colors, making them a good choice for images with a lot of color detail. JPGs utilize 24-bit color, with 16 million colors. One of the format's biggest negative factors is that there's a great deal of data from the original image that gets discarded when saving to JPG to maintain small file sizes. Other negative aspects of the format include artifacts after compression, inability to animate, and they don't support transparency. There's also some image quality lost when saving to JPG. Despite these issues, JPG is the standard for image formatting. Digital cameras can shoot and save in the JPG format, making it easy to upload files. The JPG format is also highly effective for web-use, due to its small file size and easy transferability.

  2. GIF. GIFs are frequently used for small images and animation effects. They have an 8-bit palette and are limited to 256 colors, making the format a popular choice for the internet. GIFs compress by reducing the number of colors and by replacing multiple occurring patterns with one. This format is best when used for graphics, cartoons, logos, or anything with limited colors. GIFs are better for animations than JPGs due to their simplicity.

  3. PNG. PNG was originally intended to replace GIFs. PNGs support transparency, 24 bit RGB color images, and grayscale images, but cannot support CMYK color spaces and therefore shouldn't be considered for print graphics. PNGs maintain high quality and image detail post-compression. The format tends to create smaller file sizes than GIFs, but larger than JPG files, making them better for smaller images than for large. PNGs cannot be animated, and not all web browsers support the format. Two-dimensional interlacing results in super quick-loading, and color-information saving abilities make PNGs a great choice for animations and graphics with rich color detail.

  4. TIFF. TIFF is one of the most flexible formats to use for images, making it a top choice for graphic designers and photographers. The format supports various types of compression, high-quality imagery, full color and data information saving, and can be saved with layers. The downside to TIFF use is long transfer time, slow loading time, and disk space utilization, due to large file sizes. TIFF is, however, the best choice when working with high-quality images, publishing, or photo manipulation.

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