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File Formats


In a recent conversation at my workplace, it came to my attention that common file formats are not such a common knowledge. I have therefore composed this blog to provide an explanation based on information found online. This is just a few of the more commonly used formats in Graphic design.

Joint Photographic Experts Group(JPEG) is a Compressed, lossy file format, for raster (pixmap) data only. it is  mostly for photo-type images on the Web.  This format can hold RGB data; many compression levels and other options available.


The Portable Network Graphics (PNG) file format was created as the free, open-source successor to GIF. The PNG file format supports 8 bit paletted images (with optional transparency for all palette colors) and 24 bit truecolor (16 million colors) or 48 bit truecolor with and without alpha channel - while GIF supports only 256 colors and a single transparent color. Compared to JPEG, PNG excels when the image has large, uniformly colored areas.

Portable Document Format(PDF), also known as “Adobe Acrobat format.” Not really a “graphic file format,” since it’s designed to contain entire pages including graphics, type, vector shapes, and overall layout; but I include it here because it can, in fact, be used purely as a graphic file format (to contain one or more images).

Graphic Image File format (GIF) Indexed color file, for raster (pixmap) data only. Primarily for synthetic, somewhat flat images such as logos, diagrams, navigation buttons, etc. Graphic Image File format uses a CLUT (color lookup table) to define the colors as though they were individual color chips, and only supports up to 256 colors per image. Although it can simulate continuous-tone colors by dithering, that’s generally best left to the JPEG or PNG formats. GIF is rarely a good choice for non-Web use

Scalable Vector Graphics(SVG) is an open standard  created and developed by the World Wide Web Consortium  to address the need (and attempts of several corporations) for a versatile, scriptable and all-purpose vector format for the web and otherwise.


Photoshop Document(PSD) Photoshop’s native file format.

The Tigged Image File Format(TIFF) format is a flexible format that normally saves 8 bits or 16 bits per color (red, green, blue) for 24-bit and 48-bit totals, respectively, usually using either the TIFF or TIF filename extension. TIFF's flexibility can be both an advantage and disadvantage, since a reader that reads every type of TIFF file does not exist.

I know there are many other file formats available and a lot more explanation will be needed in other to fully understand this formats in its entirety. I hope however, that this introduction will be someone helpful in giving you a basic understanding of this subject.

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