File formats and acronyms: .jpg .gif .png .pdf

Many of my clients get confused about which file format to use when uploading items to their web site or when using files for print. It is hard to explain, but I am going to try my best in order to help out any non-techies out there. These are not the only formats available, but these are the most widely used.

JPG or “Joint Photographic Experts Group” is commonly used for digital photography. This format has been around since about 1992. Maybe you use the format when uploading photos to your social networking site such a facebook. This format compresses the file size to manageable size for web transfer; however, it is a “lossy” format. Meaning, each time the file is saved as a .jpg, info is lost by compression. Do not save original source files from design programs to .jpg for this reason.

GIF or ” Graphic Interchange Format” has been around since about 1987. It is an 8 bit format, meaning it uses only 256 colors. It is a “lossless” format and supports transparency. You say ” what does that mean, supports tranpsency?” Well, for example, when you try to place your business logo on a colored background or predesigned web template with a cool background and you get that white box behind it—that is totally distracting—from the page layout, and makes your logo look like a brick… that file is not supporting transparency. Therefore, because it supports transparency, GIF is often the best file type to use for logos and icons. GIF even supports some minor animation.

PNG or ” Portable Network Graphics” is a “lossless” (no compression, no data lost) format that supports transparency and millions of colors. So it seems like this would be the best format hands down, why not just use PNG all the time? PNGs creates a large file size and are not supported by some of the older web browsers. As web standards progress, this will probably be the best choice for logos and icons.

PDF or “Portable Document Format” is used for printable files. It is used universally by MAC and Windows based computers. PDFs are what you would supply to your printer for business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. PDFs are exported from many different computer software programs like the Adobe Create Suite 5, also known as CS5. There are many different ways to save a PDFs from these programs. I would encourage you to find and build a relationship with a printer in your area. From my experience, a good relationship with a printer is invaluable. I like to use Arnie at Pronto Print in the Medford area. You can find more info about Pronto Print at or or email Arnie at for personal service. If all of this seems a little daunting and you would rather have someone who understands the design process to handle your printing needs, then call me at 541.899.7093. To view my portfolio check out the link on the left, or go to Holly Herick Design, or Holly Herick Illustration.

If you have any more questions about these file formats, give me a call or drop me a note at and I will try to answer them.

One last acronym for today,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s