From print-ready PDFs to .pngs and .ai files, as a designer we are fluent with these acronyms at the end of file names. But, to many of my clients, those tiny little letters can be the most confusing and intimidating things in the world.
With a handful of different file types to choose from, each with their own pros, cons and purposes, it’s good to understand what each does and when each should be used.
First, there are two types of files: raster and vector.
Raster is made up of lots of little dots also known as pixels. It is resolution dependent and used for photos and graphics.
Vectors are made up of fancy math equations and can be scaled. They are usually logos, type and icons but can also support raster elements.
File Types & Formats Glossary
.PNG – RASTER – PORTABLE NETWORK GRAPHICS
Best used online for text and graphics with high quality and high image size. Transparent backgrounds allow for users to see graphics behind it. Not meant for scaling larger than its pixel width.
.JPEG – RASTER – JOINT PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPERTS GROUP
Commonly known as the default file type. Used for high quality photography (for its low file size) and low-resolution images online. Not recommended for print use and does not support transparency online.
.GIF – RASTER – GRAPHICS INTERCHANGE FORMAT
Specifically for online use. Mostly known for their ability to be animated. Low file size and lower quality.
.PSD – RASTER – ADOBE PHOTOSHOP PROGRAM FILE
Raster file to be modified in Photoshop.
.AI – VECTOR – ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR PROGRAM
Adobe Illustrator program file. Creates vector type files that are completely scalable.
.PDF – VECTOR – PORTABLE DOCUMENT FORMAT
Good for both print and digital. PDFs often contain raster or vector. Can be compressed as necessary and can be embedded online.
Save this graphic to easily reference file types!