Understanding Design File Formats

April 13, 2020
Understanding Design File Formats

As a design studio, we often send our clients a variety of files, ranging from working files, to final raster images.

More often than not, some of the file types are not common and can lead to confusion so we’ve put together a list of the most common file types which we may send you and what they are used for.


Raster Graphic File Types

What are Raster Files Image

What does Raster mean?

Raster images are composed of pixels or dots, which contain unique colour information that come together to create the image in question. Raster images are also set to specific dimensions which means it cannot be enlarged without pixelating, unlike Vector Graphics.

It’s important to remember that the more pixels or dots the image has, the better the image quality.


PNG: Portable Network Graphics

PNGs were developed in 1996 as an improved replacement for GIFs. What makes PNGs different to JPEGs is that they support semi or full transparency and are used for web use as they contain 24bit RGB colour palettes and grayscale images.

As they also support lossless data compression (Lossless compression means that as the file size is compressed, the picture quality does not deteriorate), they do tend to be a little heavier than JPEGs.


JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group

Unlike PNGs, JPEGs use a Lossy compression and are one of the most commonly used image file types for print and web.

Digital cameras and softwares compress RAW photographs as JPEG images to help keep the file size small which is crucial for quick and efficient loading on the web. However, they should be used for photographs and not complex, flat or geometric graphics as they can struggle with sharp edges and curves.


GIF: Graphics Interchange Format

GIFs were developed in 1987 as a way to animate images with small file sizes. GIFs are becoming increasingly popular on the internet, and are usually composed of a series of images or soundless videos that loop continuously.

GIFs are limited to 256 colours and support transparency.



Raw Image Files are the most unprocessed and uncompressed file types and are most commonly used by photographers as they contain direct image data from the camera sensors.

These image types are used for post-editing as they are non-destructive and the highest quality possible, You can easily correct or enhance photographs, which wouldn’t be possible with JPEGs or PNGs as you are not editing any of the original image data.


PSD: Photoshop Document

PSD is an extension used to save Adobe Photoshop files and can only be opened using Adobe Photoshop. PSDs support pictures, objects, images effects/filters, text and more. They can also support vector paths and shapes however, they are limited to 30,000 pixels in height and width.

If we ever provide you with PSD files, these will be our working files, and will have been used to create your final files, be it PNG or JPEG final image files.



Vector Graphic File Types

What are Vector Files Image

What does Vector mean?

Unlike raster files which are made up of pixels, vector graphics use paths which are defined by a start and end point and usually include other points, curves and angles.

As vectors are not made up of pixels or dots, vector graphics can be enlarged to any size without losing any quality. All of our logos and documents are made using vector graphics which means that they can be used at a small size for business cards all the way to large format prints, for example on Billboards or Signage.


AI: Adobe Illustrator

This is one of our most common working file formats which we will deliver to you. Adobe Illustrator is used by designers to create vector graphics and be used to export all sorts of file formats, including EPS, PDF, SVG, JPEG, PNG and more. AI files also support layers, transparency and have unlimited scalability.

We use Adobe Illustrator to create a lot of our design work like Logo Designs, Illustrations, Print Designs, and more.


EPS: Encapsulated PostScript

Similar to AI Files, EPS files are another vector graphic file developed by Adobe. EPSs are considered the best choice for high resolution graphics printing and can be opened using Adobe programs, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, as well as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint.

When delivering AI files to you, we’ll also provide you with EPS files wherever applicable.


SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics

SVG files are used for rendering 2D images on the internet. This format stores images as vectors which means they can be scaled to any size without compromising on quality.

SVGs have become very popular with web designers and developers as they are usually very light in size, and are written in XML (extensible markup language) which specify all of the shapes, curves, colours, and text. We usually use these file types for web assets like icons and illustrations.


PDF: Portable Document Format

PDFs are another very common file type and are mostly used to display documents online, or for print files. PDF files can be both raster or vector image files and are usually meant for viewing (not editing) as they preserve document formatting meaning they can be viewed consistently on any device.

You can open and view PDF files in Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, as well as any browser window. In most cases, if we’re providing you with your final print files, they will be vectorised/outlined PDF files.



How can we help?

We hope you’ve found this post useful but if you have any questions about the type of file formats we’ve provided to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!

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