The Ultimate Guide To File Types

Have you ever saved a document on your computer and noticed ALL of those strange looking file types to choose from? You’re not alone if you’ve been thinking ‘what the heck is a TIFF or an EPS anyway’?

I’m not afraid to admit it has taken me a few years working professionally as a designer to figure out what all of those file types mean and exactly why it’s SO important to use the right file type when saving work. Here’s a quick guide to help you through…

Ultimate Guide to File Types

Why is it so important to know your PNGs from your PDFs?

Most people don’t really know the difference between saving a file for print or saving a file for web and there is actually a lot to consider when you’re choosing to save your documents or art work to ensure they look their absolute best. If you don’t use the correct file type for a particular project your work may not look how you intended – images may be pixelated and colours may be skewed and all of your hard work will be wasted!

PDFs (for print)

Most of my work in the design field these days is based for print so I work a lot with PDFs. A PDF (or a Portable Document Format) is the most commonly used file format for viewing (not editing) documents. Because of the nature of the PDF file, they are great at preserving document formatting, which means once you send it to a friend, colleague or client the file will look the same on any device.

All of my completed print design files are saved as PDFs and sent directly to printers for printing. They are simple and easy to create and the perfect option for print design. Occasionally you might be sent a PDF document that allows you to edit slightly (like an online form from the bank) but the general rule is PDFs are made for viewing and not editing documents.

Cafe'N'Ate is Parkes NSW's newest coffee shop and eatery. Branding package designed by The Darling Design Co.

PNG and JPEGs  (for web + graphics)

We live in a digital age and almost everything we do in our businesses tends to be either online or needs to have the ability to be shared digitally. My pet hate is seeing an image or graphic that looks pixelated and not presented at its very best – this is why it’s important to know which format to save images and graphics in to ensure they look crisp and clear for your blog, website or Facebook pages!

My go-to file format for web is PNG (Portable Network Graphics). A PNG file is a file type that allows designers like me to create low-resolution images (in a smaller file format) that will load quickly online but still look clear and top quality. The reason I use PNG files is because they are considered “lossless” which means they wont lose any quality during the editing process. I use PNGs for things like social media posts and blog graphics. PNGs are great for vectors, line art or graphics.

An alternative to a PNG is the well-known JPEG. Usually when anyone thinks of image file formats they are most familiar with the JPEG. The main difference between the PNG and the JPEG is the JPEG is a ‘lossy’ file format which means it’s great for storing images at a smaller file size but will lose quality if they are enlarged (that’s when they start to look yucky and pixelated – a big no-no!) JPEGs are great for photos and images.

Wedding card

What is an EPS file and why would I need one?

An EPS file or Encapsulated PostScript is a file type useful to those who create graphics or vectors in Adobe Illustrator like me! Designers often use the EPS file type when sharing completed vector designs such as logos with clients as the file can be re-sized without losing any quality. Similar to a PDF, the EPS file format allows designers to transfer information across different operating systems which means you don’t necessarily need an Adobe program to open the file!

TIFFs (for images)

Just to throw ANOTHER type into the mix, I thought we better touch on the old TIFF (Tagged Image Format File). Just like out friend the PNG, the TIFF is a file type generally used because it is also ‘lossless’ but is most commonly used for photography  or vector graphics.  The TIFF was originally created back in the ’80s for scanned documents so companies would all have the same file type for their documents. These days the TIFF is a good file type to use much like your PNG although the TIFF files wont be compressed as they are intended to preserve quality which means they will take a long time to load online.

There you have it! A fool-proof guide to the main file types you need to know about when saving your precious work! Still confused? Send me an email or drop me a comment and I’ll try my best to clarify.

Ellie xx

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Ellie is a freelance graphic designer, business and lifestyle blogger, health and wellness enthusiast and the founder of The Darling Design Co.

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