Tuesday January 09, 2018

Image compression: what’s in a file format?

Topics: PDF, File Format

Printers and graphic designers rely on the right file format for correct image compression. And choosing the right format – gif, tif, jpg, jpeg, png, eps or pdf – needs careful consideration in order to ensure the right output. Do you find yourself confused every time you’re about to save an image file and your computer asks you to pick an extension? Help is on the way! Continue reading to find out which file format best suits your image.


GIF: The fun one

Developed way back in the eighties and still popular today, gif is a great file format if you want to compress linework for websites and emails. It enables fast downloading and, most fun of all, allows layering to create animated gifs, which are experiencing a revival, as we speak. Limited to 8 bits per pixel, gif files can only have 256 colors. Next to animated gifs, gif is mostly used for graphics with solid areas of colour, such as logos.

TIFF & EPS: golden oldies

Back in the day, many printers requested that files be submitted in a tiff or eps format because it kept image quality intact. Particularly difficult to alter and not containing any hidden data or links, tiff files were also unparalleled in terms of security. Contrary to tiff, eps is compatible with vector graphics, which can be scaled without loss of quality because the artwork is defined through mathematical formulas called ‘Bézier curves’. Nowadays, however, pdf is the new standard file format for print.

JPEG: lossy image compression

Compressing an image into a jpeg file format is a lossy compression technique, which reduces color information, but not as much as gif. Jpeg files can have up to 16.7 million colours, which make them ideal for compressing complex images, such as photographs. Keep in mind though, that jpeg is best used for web purposes only. Printing a jpeg file will result in a visible loss of quality.

PNG: a perfect marriage

Png files, sometimes called ‘pings’, are what you’d call a perfect marriage between jpeg files and gifs. Png files come with slightly longer download times than gifs – but still load quickly. Like jpeg files, png files can handle complex, colourful images.

PDF: the standard file format

In the case of advertisements that combine text and images, most printers specify high-resolution pdf files. In contrast to jpeg files, converting a file to pdf does not result in loss of quality. And, provided that there’s preflighting involved, you can rest assured that what you see is what you print.


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About Diana Albiol

Diana Albiol

Diana has over 20 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications. As head of content marketing, Diana takes care of all Enfocus content, including the coordination of writers, bloggers and analyst content for our site. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Diana directly at dianaa@enfocus.com.

Having worked in business publishing for over 10 years and subsequently run her own communications company for 10 years, Diana has first-hand experience of dealing with graphic arts companies from the customer side.

In her own words: “I wish I’d had PitStop in my publishing days… wow, life would have been a lot easier! As for Switch… I plan to use that to organize and automate as many areas of my life as possible! Switch is a no-brainer for any company, of any size, even outside of the graphics arts industry!”

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