November 25, 2020

design basics | file formats you should know

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a designer is what each file format you receive upon receipt is for – so let’s break it down. The graphic designer you’ve commissioned will send you a somewhat confusing array of file formats, some of which you may recognise immediately and almost certainly ones you are not familiar with and probably won’t be able to open on your computer.

It is extremely important to know what format you need for the job because each file is optimised for a specific purpose and using the wrong file for the wrong job can mean the quality of your designs at output could be severely compromised. Problems such as blurry prints, website lag, and poor quality images can be avoided if you know which file to use where.

This guide covers the file formats you are likely to come across when commissioning a designer to create a logo for your business.

Common Design File Formats

File Formats Used for Websites

PNG: Portable Network Graphics .png

.PNG is one of the most widely recognised formats for online imagery due to its low resolution. These files are high-quality bitmap images which use lossless data compression and can be created with a transparent background.

Use examples:

website logos
less complex artwork

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group .jpeg

A JPEG file is a compressed image file that can range in resolution to cater for varying outputs. It is typically used online for photos, larger web images that do not require a transparent background such as ads, and email graphics.

It’s worth noting that the quality is compromised significantly when these files are compressed repeatedly. The more a JPEG is compressed the more pixellated the output image will be.

Use examples:

email signatures
web images such as banner ads

SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics .svg

SVG graphic files built using vectors. These files can be scaled and compressed as much as you like without any quality loss making it a popular choice for responsive website design. It also supports interactivity and animation.

Use examples:

logo design
diagrams, charts and graphs
animated elements/microinteractions

File Formats Used for Print

EPS: Encapsulated Postscript .eps

EPS files are often used by designers to transfer artwork to another application.

These files are usually vector based meaning they are scalable to any size with no quality loss to the final output image and can be opened in an array of applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, etc.

This format is one of the most preferred formats by printers and other third party creatives due to its versatility when it comes to printing.

Use examples:

advertisement banners

PDF: Portable Document Format .pdf

Portable Document Format is a universal format which can be viewed, shared and printed using Adobe Reader Software on pretty much any web browser, operating system, or application.

This file format embeds designs, retains any typefaces, and/or formatting of any source document regardless of the application it was originally created in. PDFs are often the file format requested by printing companies.

Use examples:

web documents
images going to print

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format .tiff

Tiff files are a lossless raster file format primarily used for photography or desktop publishing and optimised specifically for print. These files are among the highest quality formats and allow you to print exceptionally large photos and graphics.

Use examples:

large scale photo printing
desktop publishing

Adobe Design Formats

AI: Adobe Illustrator .ai

This file format is exclusive of Adobe Illustrator and is a primarily vector based image format, however, it can include embedded or linked raster images within a composition.

Alongside Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator is one of the most common applications used in professional design.

PSD: Photoshop Document .psd

Designs created in Adobe Photoshop automatically save as .psd. These files are created exclusively within Adobe Photoshop and cannot be opened using any other application.

This format be converted into a variety of other file types, allowing files to be accessed easily in other applications. These files are raster based and allow for transparent backgrounds, multiple layers and image adjustments.

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