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This is a section of our article on file formats explained that describes different image file formats. Learn what enables your web browser to show you images quickly, and find out how different image formats suit different types of images and color types and are compatible with different devices. We cover jpeg, tiff, raw, png, gif, bmp, psd, and psp. If you have a question about an image file format that you don’t see listed here, please comment below.
The JPEG image format is otherwise known as the Joint Photographic Experts Group and the name actually refers to the compression method utilized to store the image data. JPEG is the most commonly recognized file extension for image files and is supported by digital cameras as well as they generally output in .jpg format. The size of JPEG images varies depending upon the content of the image as well as how highly it is compressed. High compression in JPEG images creates a grainy look and an overall poor quality image. JPEG images are characterized by a 24-bit total, meaning that they carry 8-bits per color.
The TIFF image format is also known as the Tagged Image File Format and while it is not generally utilized online due to the large size of these images, it is widely accepted in other fields including print and photography. Some digital cameras allow for .TIFF files to be saved directly to the memory of the camera rather than JPEG formats. Where JPEG files only allow for a 24-bit total, the TIFF format can allow for either 24 or 48-bit totals making them much larger.
RAW file formats are image formats that are produced by digital cameras with this function. RAW format is just what it sounds like and a raw format of a picture that is not optimized or compressed making them extremely large. RAW images still compress data but they do so to a smaller extent resulting in far less data being passed over. Working with RAW image files utilizing image editing software can be particularly time-consuming due to the sheer size of individual files.
The PNG is also known as the Portable Network Graphics file format and was produced as a successor to the GIF as it supports many more colors than the GIF extension. PNG files tend to be larger than JPEG images; however, they have the ability to incorporate transparent backgrounds making them useful when incorporating them in to web design elements.
The GIF file extension is also known as the Graphics Interchange Format and is a particularly limited image extension in that it only allows for 256 colors. Such a limited color palette makes it difficult to work with photographic images in GIF form; however, hand drawn elements such as clip art are much more supported by this extension. The most commonly used method of using the GIF extension is to use it for animated images such as flashing banners and advertisements.
The BMP file format is also referred to as the Windows bitmap file extension and is utilized by the Windows operating system. At one time BMP files were popularly used; however, due to their large size they are rarely utilized anymore. Bitmap files are easy to work with on Windows operating systems; however, their size makes them impractical and they can be difficult to work with when utilizing Mac based operating systems.
PSD files are not so much image files as they are graphic source files that belong to the Adobe software Photoshop. Photoshop documents allow for saving of images along with any editing adjustments that have been made to the original image. PSD files cannot be directly displayed in browsers and must be exported in another image format; however, they are utilized with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator (as well as a variety of other Adobe based software) to make adjustments to images before exporting. Adobe Photoshop image files can be worked with on both Windows and Mac operating systems and allow for a wide range of photo edits and adjustments to be made to an existing image as well as for original images to be created.
PSP image files are similar to Adobe Photoshop documents only they are created for the Corel Paint Shop Pro software. Paint Shop Pro is not as widely utilized by professional designers and image editors; however, since it is often included in software packages when purchasing a new computer where Adobe Photoshop is not, many home users utilize this image editor.