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JPG, GIF, and PNG: when to use the different image file types

Lesezeit: 10 Minuten Autor: Thomas Veröffentlicht: Zuletzt aktualisiert:
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Contrary to the assumption of conspiratorial circles from creative and marketing agencies, different image file types such as JPG, PNG, and Co. don’t exist to unsettle or annoy you. Instead, each of these image types are specifically designed for various application areas. They save you time and energy when utilized correctly. Therefore, knowing how to use these different image formats to improve the graphic display and get the best out of your work can be meaningful.  

Inherently, all images undergo a digital compression procedure that preserves a picture's specific properties and discards others. The goal is to enhance the image accordingly to its later use while reducing the file to an appropriate size. For this reason, the fundamental prerequisite for choosing a suitable image format is knowing what you will use it for later.  

What image formats do I apply and when? 

You don’t just yet have the confidence and knowledge when dealing with image format types? 

No worries!  

In the following segments, we’ll discuss the JPG, GIF, and PNG, whose properties are customized explicitly for the internet (e.g., websites). As always, we keep things clear and simple for you. That’s we decided to limit ourselves to JPG, GIF, and PNG. Image formats such as TIFF, PSD, or RAW are excellent for image editing as well, but they are not intended for websites - Though they are often falsely placed here.   

After reading, future image formatting will be a breeze, so let's get to it!  

JPG – the universal compression wonder 

The JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographics Experts Group) is one of the most used image formats due to its ability to be opened up and converted by almost any standard program - all while file size remains relatively small. Additionally, the JPG particularly fits complex photos of various shades and depths due to its extensive color spectrum (up to 16 million colors). 

Still, the devil lies in the details here: Although the JPG process allows image files to be reduced in size many times, this compression process always means loss of image quality. Despite smaller files having the apparent advantage of consuming less storage space, a compromise between image quality and file size is best when compressing. 

Advantages of JPG include: 

  • Flexible use across programs  
  • Rather low file size  
  • Extensive color spectrum 

Disadvantages of JPG include:  

  • Less suitable for displaying graphics such as logos or infographics 
  • Repeated compression often accompanied by unwanted effects (e.g., image distortions) 
  • Impossible to save JPG files with a transparent background  

Did you know? Most scanners and digital cameras also turn images into JPGs by default. 

   A magnified section of a photo: Above as JPG, below in GIF format.

GIF – the leading expert for animations and graphics 

Picture the following scenario: You just prepared a delicious Caesar salad with your own creative twist and now wish to complement your food blog with a picture of just that salad with all its brilliance.  

Before posting, you may ask yourself: What format type is best to apply for such an occasion?    

Well, the answer is: you may want to avoid GIF formatting.    

Why? GIF is limited to 256 colors, meaning the display of complex photos in this format is unfortunately mostly grainy and not very qualitative.    

However, there is a solution!

When it comes to simple color areas with little depth, such as logos, buttons, and infographics, GIF is a real hero. Even in compressed form, sharp edges of fonts or graphic shapes are displayed more precisely by GIF than JPG. Another advantage of this format is its small file size. Hence, showcasing simple animations incredibly quickly, with little loading time, is possible. Besides, GIF masters the layout of layers and transparency, making it a helpful tool when using graphics on a homepage.  

Advantages:  

  • Great for graphics
  • Small file size 
  • Supported animation 

Disadvantages: 

  • Finite image quality 

PNG – loss-free and versatile

The PNG (Portable Network Graphics) combines most of JPG and GIFs' strengths while dispensing with their weaknesses. Like the JPG, the PNG format displays images with a broad color spectrum. In contrast to its more widespread sibling, a PNG is lossless when compressed, meaning that even the most delicate shades and nuances of a photo stay preserved. However, one major downside of PNG is the file size. Such a file can be up to ten times larger than a comparable JPG after compression. Therefore, the JPG is still preferable to the PNG using high-resolution, non-graphic images on a website where storage space and loading times are prioritized.   

The case is different for photos that must contain a considerable proportion of transparency (e.g., detail and quality). Through the so-called "alpha channel" of a PNG, color parts of a photo are made entirely or partially transparent. Because a PNG can also be saved in 256 colors, it is well suited for displaying graphics and simple color areas. Therefore, PNG especially has its strong points in the free and exploratory use of pictures. Additionally, compression is even more efficient than that of the GIFs', so files are even smaller.    

Wouldn't that mean the death of GIF?    

Don't worry; it doesn't.     

Since the classic PNG doesn't support animations, we'll continue to find memes on 9GAG and in our WhatsApp groups in GIF format.   

Advantages:   

  • Lossless compression  
  • Higher image quality and clearly readable text  

Disadvantages:  

  • Large file size   
  • Sub optimal for high-definition photos 

So which format type is the correct one to use?

As they say in marketing: "Well, it depends...."   

After reading this short piece, you've probably noticed that this post's topic is quite extensive, while time is scarce.   

Don't fret!   

We'll summarize everything without diminishing its importance: the proper image format choice depends primarily on its intended application. Each format covered above has known advantages and disadvantages – but JPG, GIF, and PNG can only exhaust their full potential when considering each's unique characteristics. Finally, it would be best if you always tried to find a healthy middle ground between quality and compression in principle.   

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Complete explanatory graphic "Images on the Web" incl. Quick check and SEO tips free download here.

Images and media in companies: avoid unnecessary work with digital asset management

Whether in marketing, communication, or PR, the media pool in companies and agencies is often huge. Hence an image management software is helpful here. Media files store centrally; every user can access media files, download media in the desired format, and share anything quickly and securely with other employees and external companies. The benefit: Media is found, organized, and disseminated much quicker. Thanks to the integration of Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Office, and CMS such as WordPress or TYPO3, the entire media workflow is accelerated when organizing media and documents, ultimately leaving employees more time for essential work.  

In part 2 of “Images on the web – all about the powerful marketing tool,” come to know what role images play in search engine optimization and what tricks to adopt to better your website ranking. 

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In part 2 of Images on the web – all about the powerful marketing tool,” come to know what role images play in search engine optimization and what tricks to adopt to better your website ranking. 

Thomas
Thomas

As a game editor, Thomas has had experience producing engaging and SEO-compliant content, ultimately bringing him to pixx.io. Quickly taking on digital marketing responsibilities, he is now in charge of business intelligence and other processes. Thomas enjoys winding down with video games or an occasional hike outside of work.

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