Top 8 Graphic File Formats and Best Use

Have you ever received an email with an image attached that appears fuzzy or “pixelated” when you open it? Or tried to enlarge a favorite photograph and see it distorted? Suppose someone asks you to send them a PNG file. Do you know what that is? 

Your branded materials often make the first impression of your company, and should reflect a commitment to quality and professionalism. So it’s important for business owners, not just graphic designers, to know the different graphic design file types and what kind of image files are needed for different projects. Whether you’re designing your website, revamping a brochure, or reordering business cards, having the proper file type will ensure the best quality image.

It’s easier to understand file formats if you know about resolution and raster or vector file types:


When taking photos for marketing purposes, consider the resolution. For web applications, images should be 72 DPI (Dots Per Inch), which is a lower resolution allowing for quicker load time. Printed materials require high resolution, at least 300 DPI, to prevent a distorted or pixelated look. 

Raster or Vector 

Image files generally fall into two categories: raster format or vector format. 

Raster files have a defined resolution size and are composed of pixels. Sometimes referred to as bitmaps, they are widely compatible and give attention to detail. However, the disadvantage of raster files is that resizing can compromise quality. Typical raster files are JPEG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF. 

If resizing an image is needed, a vector file would be the way to go. Vector files are images built by mathematical formulas that establish points on a grid and can be resized as often and in as many different dimensions as necessary without compromising image quality. Common vector files are PDF, EPS, SVG, and AI. 

The big difference between raster and vector files is utility. Once you have determined what the image will be used for and the size needed, you can select what file type works best. We have listed eight common design file types and the important differences. 

8 Common Graphic Design File Types

Knowing the different design file types can save you time and maintain quality standards. Having the correct format also allows you to share files efficiently. We’ll explain the raster files first (1-4), then the vector files (5-8).

  1. JPEG: Pronounced “jay-peg.” 

The most-used image compression standard by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) allows users to make large photographic files smaller (compressed). It can be used for print and web. Because of the small file size, JPEG can be quickly transferred and accessed. Did you know a JPEG file can display 16.8 million colors while staying relatively small in size? JPEG is the go-to format for graphic design files. It is the same as a JPG file, the only difference is the letter “E” deriving from when the format was developed. 

  1. PNG: Pronounced “ping.”

A Portable Network Graphic (PNG) makes sense when you need a transparent background, especially in logo design. PNG files are widely used but are best used for web, not printing, due to the lower resolution. 

  1. GIF: Pronounced “Jif” like peanut butter according to the creator, but “gif” with a hard “g” sound as in the word gift, is also common.

This file type supports multiple images and can be animated. Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is the typical format for web graphics and is popular for memes on social media. Transparency can not be faded like PNG files but they are relatively quick to create. Therefore, a GIF file is best used for small, simple animated files. 

  1. TIFF: Pronounced “tif.”

Tag Image File Format (TIFF) files are suitable for formatting images and maintain their quality regardless of how many times they are manipulated. Popular with graphic designers and photographers, TIFF files can also be container files holding multiple JPEG files with lower resolution. Best used for high-quality professional photos. 

  1. PDF: Pronounced as individual letters, “P. D. F.”

As the name implies, Portable Document Format (PDF) works in any format, which is why the Adobe team created it. PDFs can be both vector-based and raster-based. A vector-based PDF uses line segments to define all of the geometry on the page. To see if your PDF is vector-based zoom in on a detailed section of the image at 400% or greater. If the file is raster-based image will become pixelated while a vector-based image will maintain smooth lines.

  1. EPS: Pronounced as individual letters “E. P. S.”

Not ESP, though we wish we could file the sixth sense. Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) files are mainly used for printing large graphics, like billboards, and are ideal for scaling images. These files retain their resolution no matter the size. EPS files are best used with tools like Adobe Illustrator. 

  1. SVG: Pronounced as individual letters “S. V. G.”

It is what it says it is, a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG). These files are more popular with graphic designers because they are written in code. We won’t go into the details, but it’s important to know these files are saved as text rather than shapes. Why does this matter? It means that when searching on Google, SVG files are like keywords and can sometimes help a website improve SEO (search engine optimization). SVG files are best used with web graphics like charts and other illustrations. 

  1. AI: Pronounced as individual letters “A. I.”

Adobe Illustrator (AI) is the exclusive Adobe file type for vector images. The image needs to be created, edited, and saved with Illustrator but can be viewed on many programs. AI files are great if you need to layer different web graphics and use them for print assets. 

If you’re still asking, “Is this image big enough?” or “Why doesn’t the image print as clearly as it looks on the monitor?” Not to worry, Lucky Tamm Digital Marketing can help. Branding design and development is one of our many marketing services. We help you select the appropriate graphic design file types – and so much more – for a brand identity that’s always in focus with your target audience. Connect with us today!