Common Design File Types - What They Are And How To Use Them
When talking image file types it can be easy to get confused, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the terminology. It’s one thing to know the designer lingo, but a whole other thing to actually know what each type is so you can decide which is best suited for your project.
Using the correct file type means that your design will comes out exactly as you intended and hopefully be everything you wanted (and more)! Use the wrong type and that could spell disaster for your design; quality issues, incorrect usage, etc.
Every graphic you see online, every design you see printed, cane from an image file. These files come in a wide variety of types, which are all formatted to be fully optimized for a specific use.
Let’s tackle these common file formats so you know exactly what you need, what you’ll get, and what to ask for...
Pixel based graphics
Used for photos and graphics
This is one of the most widely used formats and is typically used for photos, graphics, and large web images. Use if...you’re dealing with online photos/artwork, you want to print photos/artwork, or you need to send a quick view of your image (.Jpeg’s have the ability to be compressed in order to reduce the size to make it small enough to send via email). Don’t use if...you need a logo or graphic with a transparent background (.Jpeg’s only offer a solid background which means your logo will have a colored background behind it, making it difficult to add your logo on top of any materials).
No, unfortunately this is not a type of peanut butter (excuse us while we make a quick pb&j though haha). GIFs are animated images/graphics like web ads and social media memes. Use if...you need a web animation, you need a transparent background, or you need a small file. Don’t use if...you need a high quality image or need it to print.
These are web standard formats that have built in transparency. Use if...you need high quality transparent web graphics, illustrations with limited colors, or a small file. Don’t use if...you’re using a photo or artwork, you need to print.
Original and editable raster document file:
Layered Adobe Photoshop design document that contains the original, editable layers used to create an image or artwork. A .Psd can be exported into tons of different formats, including the ones listed above. Use if...you are retouching photos, editing digital artwork for web or print, creating a .Gif animation. Don’t use if...you need to create a logo, or if you want to print/publish/send your artwork (Export into a format like the ones above first!).
Curve based graphics
Logos, type, and icons
Can also support raster elements
Used to display and preview both print files and web based documents. Use if...you’re ready to print (many printers prefer a .Pdf because it’s easier to prep and view files before they get printed), or you want to display documents online (ebooks, posters, magazines, etc.) Don’t use if...you need to make edits. This is for display only and won’t allow for editing.
Original and editable vector document files:
Used primarily as a vector format but can include raster as well. Typically this includes a single element that can be used in a larger design. Use if…you’re working with a logo design and need a transparent background. Don’t use if...you’re working with or editing photos.
The original Adobe Illustrator design document. Used primarily as a vector format but can include embedded or linked raster images as well. All files can be exported to formats mentioned above. Use if…you’re creating and editing a logo/graphic/etc. and need a transparent background. Don’t use if...you’re working with or editing photos.
If you are working with a designer on your logo, make sure to ask them…
Do they create vector-based designs?
Will I receive the original vector file (.eps or .ai)? (Not all designers do this but some may include this in your off boarding files in case you need to take your designs to an outside printer)