Which file type to use ? / 16 May 2017 - 15:19:32

Which file type to use?
JPG, PNG, GIF, what is the difference?
web design

This article will be your guide to using different file types, it will give you an insight as to what they are and where they work best. Some of these file types, if not all, you should be familiar with, if not just sit back and enjoy.

Let’s start with JPG (or JPEG) which is a Joint Photographic Experts Group. This format can blend together red, blue and green light and display millions of different colors. These are the primary three colors that are able to create others by transitioning into each other. For example, red transitioning into blue makes all shades of pink and purple. This color scheme makes JPEG a perfect format for photography, which is why it is a standard type for most digital cameras on the market today. JPEG is not recommended if you plan on further editing a certain image, because exporting or making a photocopy of a JPEG file can result in loss of quality.

So, JPEG format is best if used for:

    • Still images • Photos • Images with a large and complex color range

    GIF is another popular format for displaying images. It is known as the Graphic Interchange Format. Unless this is the first time you’re exploring the depths of internet, it is very likely you already know of this format. Unlike other formats, this one has a limited color palette able to display only 256 colors and is unable to mix them to create new ones. While when drawing 256 colors may sound like a lot, professional photographers have thousands of colors they work with, this is why they avoid using GIF format for color photos. Another downfall to using some other format first, is that they lose the original color range and get limited only to those 256 colors during conversion.

    So why use GIF format when all its disadvantages are so clear?

    • • They take up a little bit of space – the 256-color limit keeps file sizes fairly small, which means this format is ideal for even the slowest of internet speeds.
    • • Supports animations – this format allows up to 8 bits per pixel for each image, being able to separate this not-so-wide palette for each frame.

    Shortly, use GIF for:

    • • Simple animations
    • • Images with low pixel-to-pixel variation, (i.e. with lots of flat, solid colors)
    • • Small icons

    A newer format than both GIF and JPEG is a PNG (Portable Network Graphics). Thanks to its two versions, it is like a unity of GIF and JPEG. PNG-8 is more similar to GIF and PNG-24 to JPEG. PNG-8 has a color limit of 256 colors, exactly like GIF, but it doesn’t have an animation function. PNG-24 has millions of different colors and unlike GIFS and PNG-8, it takes up a lot of storage space. If your priority is quality over file size, then this should work just fine for you. PNG-24 also allows you to preserve image transparency.

    So, what exactly should PNG be used for:

    • • Color-loaded and complex photos
    • • Web graphics that need transparency
    • • Images that require re-editing

    As you have seen above, different formats are best suited on different kinds of images. It’s not a question of whether or not one format is better than the other, it’s a question of what your priorities are. If you have a black & white image and you want it to be animated surely a GIF is the superior choice, but if you want a color heavy photo and you don’t mind its big size, then use JPEG.




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