Different File Types: Everything You need to Know

You’ve hired a graphic designer for a project. Awesome! You’ve gone through the planning stage, and you have all of the colors, designs, and everything else figured out. Depending on the project you’re working on, a couple of things can happen now. Either your designer will ask you for your logo in a particular file type, or they might ask you what file type you want from them when they’re finished with the work. If you have no idea what kind of file you need or how to get a specific file type, we’re here to help! Here’s everything you need to know about different file types.

First, let’s break down the most common file types and what they mean.

  • JPEG – This is short for Joint Photographic Experts Group. This file type is commonly used in small print ads and is created when taking pictures on your smartphone. These images are made up of thousands of tiny pixels, and unnecessary information is lost to keep a small file size. If you’ve taken a picture off social media and tried to print it in a larger format, it most likely became blurry. JPEGs cannot be scaled up for large print items.
  • PNG – Short for Portable Network Graphics. This file type isn’t great for large print projects either, but this is the only file type that gives you a transparent background. Ideally, this will be used for websites or if you need a graphic, logo, or text over other visual elements of an asset without having a white background.
  • SVG – This is a vector-based file used to display graphics on the web. This file type does not use pixels to create graphics. It speaks code languages making it scalable, editable, and scriptable with code languages. It also allows them to be indexed and searchable on the web.
  • PSD – This stands for Photoshop Document. Adobe Photoshop is one of the most widely used programs graphic designers use to create graphics. Photoshop allows designers to use images, text, filters, and layers to create images. This file type is only used to save images. You can’t post a PSD file to the web or social media. If you turn a PSD file into someone for large-scale printing, you’re also giving them access to edit your design.
  • AI – This is short of another Adobe product — Adobe Illustrator Artwork file. These files are also vector-based, allowing them to be resized without losing quality. These are great for small or large-scale prints. However, opening or editing the image will be very difficult if you don’t have Illustrator.
  • EPS – Is short for Encapsulated PostScript. Another vector-based file is designed for high-resolution graphics and is great for printing. This file type is very similar to an AI file, but it’s universal, so you don’t have to rely on having a single program to open the file; it can be shared and edited across multiple programs.
  • PDF – A Portable Document Format is probably familiar to many people. PDFs are used in a lot of offices for signing documents via email. These files are great for sending documents and can be read-only or editable.

Those are the most common file types that your designer might ask for or send to you. If you want to have a little more information, let’s talk about different terminology commonly used in the graphic design world. We’ll start with hi-res vs. low-res. These refer to high or low-resolution images. Low-res images will look blurry or pixelated when scaled up, and hi-res images are clear. The resolution is measured in either dots per inch (DPI) or pixels per inch (PPI); if you’re posting an image to the web, it will have a lower resolution of 72 DPI, whereas an image used for print will have a higher resolution of 300 DPI or more.

Lossless vs. lossy refers to how data is compressed in a file and how much information it retains. Lossless files preserve all of the original data, and the data is reconstructed perfectly after it’s been compressed. Lossy files don’t maintain all of the original data once compressed or converted. PNG files are lossless, and JPGs are lossy. Depending on the type of project, your designer will know whether they should provide you with a lossy or lossless file.

Finally, there are raster files and vector files. Images that are rasterized are composed of pixels, and their proportion is determined by their resolution, also called bitmaps. If a file was created in a certain size, it can’t be stretched or altered from that size without distorting the quality of the image. JPGs, PNGs, and PSDs are all raster graphics. Vector images are made up of vectors, which define the path and fill or each line and color as a logic so it can be editable. Think of a vector image as using math to map out how the image should look instead of dots or pixels coming together to create the image. If you have an image that will need resizing, you want it in a vector format. AI, SVG, PDF, and EPS are vector files.

Yes, a lot goes into knowing what file type you need and what each one does. The graphic designer you choose to work with should be able to tell you what file types will work best for your project. When you work with Design Spinners, we make sure you know what we need and what we plan on giving you. It’s our goal not only to create images and graphics that are stunning but also to educate you on the process, so you know what to expect. If you have any questions or want to work with us, contact us today.