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factfile2.12 File Formats


The number of file formats for images can be confusing. Both original bitmap and vector graphic types can be saved in different file formats, but you should also always keep a copy of the native file format for further editing. Use this fact file for reference.

A useful rule of thumb is to use JPEGS for photographs or images with a great many colours and GIFS for graphics with fewer colours. Both formats compress file sizes i.e. reduce them. This means that you lose a little quality whenever you open and change one, but unless you are a professional photographer who is producing photos for print, this is not usually a major consideration.

Six of the most common graphic formats you are likely to come across are described below. However, from the File menu of Serif programs you can also export images in PDF format, which is equally suitable for electronic or paper publishing and viewing on all platforms, whether PC, Mac, Linux, tablets or smartphones.

SD Card on FingerJPEG or .JPG - stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. This format is recommended for images with subtle tonal changes such as photographs or photo-realistic artwork, as it supports 16 million colours. It is called a 'lossy' format because some picture quality is lost every time you save a JPEG after editing. But, in most cases, selecting the maximum level when saving the file results in an image that is indistinguishable from the original. However, to minimise deterioration, it's best to save a copy of the manipulated file in a 'lossless' format like the native formats that you use for editing e.g. SPP (Serif PhotoPlus), PSD (Photoshop), or PSP (Paint Shop Pro). Save a version as a JPEG file only when you have finished editing. JPEGs do not support layers: they will be merged. All web browsers support JPEGs.

.GIF - stands for Graphics Interchange Format. This format is designed to compress file size and reduce electronic transfer time on the web. It is a 'lossless' format that is ideal for non-photographic images such as graphics with sharp edges and areas of flat colour, because it supports a maximum of only 256 colours. GIF format also supports transparency and is the best choice for static and animated graphics designed for web pages and multimedia presentations. It eliminates the usual rectangular frame around graphics. The format does not support layers: they will be merged. Web browsers also universally support GIFs.

.PNG - stands for Portable Network Graphics. This is a newer 'lossless' format that is recommended for web graphics, especially small bullets and text, because it allows a greater number of levels of transparency than GIFs and supports 24-bit images. Older browsers may not recognise the format, so if you save graphics as .PNGs, check them in different browsers.

.TIFF - stands for Tagged-Image File Format. Choose this format if you are exchanging files between different programs and computer platforms e.g. from Mac to PC. It is a bitmap image format supported by most paint, image-editing, and page-layout applications. It does not compress files, so sizes are large.

.EPS - stands for Encapsulated PostScript. It is a language file format that can contain both vector and bitmap graphics. It is most commonly used for transferring files between applications and for colour separation when sending work to be professionally printed.

.BMP - stands for Bitmap, which is not only a graphic type, but also a file format. BMP format does not compress, so file sizes are very large.

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