Image files are one of the most common digital file types in personal computing. They can also be used in many business lines, such as marketing, web development, and graphic design.
Images files play an important role in digital experiences, from JPEG to BMP and GIF to application-native like PSD.
This article will explain the 12 most popular image file formats. This article also discusses key features and how they work.
Features of Image Files
Regular computer users most often encounter image files. Users are familiar with image files at the beginning of their digital learning curve.
They can be found in many formats and used in different situations, including personal sharing, photography, and social media. Image files have become more important in recent years for two reasons.
Instagram and Pinterest are growing rapidly: These platforms rely heavily upon images (and other visuals) to attract traffic. Digital ads are also on the rise, using embedded images to attract users.
The software-as-a-service (SaaS), and the web app revolution: Image files are ubiquitous with many productivity and personal applications being moved online. To interact with users and improve user experience (UX), productivity apps heavily rely on file types such as icons.
Despite their widespread use, image files can be more complicated than they appear on the surface. Digital images have been around since the 1980s. Image file types have changed over time to keep up with new trends. We have witnessed the widespread adoption of 3D file types since 2021-2022. These file types can capture and represent depth using a 3-camera setup and the appropriate encoding of file information.
In the 1960s, the first digital images were created thanks to advances in medicine, satellite imagery, and aerospace research. These digital images weren't yet linked to computing at that time and personal computing would take many years.
Software applications such as Deluxe Paint and PC Paintbrush were only available for computers in the 80s and 1990s. These applications allowed users to create and save images on their personal computers. This was the beginning of image file types that we now know as "image files" outside of industrial use.
Deluxe Paint used the Interchange File Format image extension (.iff), while PC Paintbrush used PiCture Exchange (.pcx). These formats are no longer in use. It was replaced by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpeg), and Bitmap (.bmp), which were both formats that could withstand the test of time. They are still used today.
Many image editing software programs have file extensions. These extensions have evolved to match the software. For example,.stl and. obj was created to store and transmit 3D printing information within 3D files. These files are distinct from images.
After we've looked at the meaning and purpose of image files, let us now discuss their key features.
1. Encoded Information
Digital images, just like other files, encode information from the real world in a format that computers can understand. This is usually done for an image by creating multiple dark levels and marking pixels that are darker or lighter than the threshold with either 1 or 0. For more complicated image types, you can use data processing tools such as MATLAB to create more complicated algorithms.
Digital images can store and transmit information. Output devices can read and display image files in a visual format. It is possible to edit an image file that has been created if you have the right software.
2. Includes Header and Image Data
The header and data are the two main parts of all image file formats. The header includes essential metadata about the file. This includes its format, compression type, and whether it is a color or grayscale image. It also contains information such as the image's dimensions, version, editing information, and other details. The file header's length is usually fixed to only contain the essential data. The image data inside will contain the encoded visual representation. You may also find a color map, which aligns pixel-level information with a range of colors.
3. Uses a Raster Format or Vector Format
The regular 2d digital images we see every day are called raster formats. These formats are used in graphic design to edit photos and images. Vector image files contain paths, while vector files are made up of pixels. Vectors are made up of many parts that form clear shapes. These paths can be used independently of the resolution. Raster files, on the other hand, are an array of pixels that form a complex image.
4. Can be Resized Without or With Quality Loss
An image file's most distinctive feature is its ability to be resized. This means that it can shrink or expand while still maintaining its dimensions. This is possible with lossless compression algorithms. However, it can increase the file's size. Lossy compression means that the image file is compressed, but it can cause a loss of quality.
The application, the use case, and the available resources (e.g. memory) will determine the image file type that you choose.
12 Types Of Image File Extensions
Below are the 12 most popular image file types, along with their extensions.
1. Adobe Illustrator (AI).
An overview: is Adobe Illustrator (AI), the proprietary format that allows you to create vector images using Adobe systems. AI files are small and easy to scale. Vector files are built using an infinitely expandable, graph-like formula. They don't lose resolution when scaled. These files allow layering and transparency. The filename extension for.ai is the filename.
The best file type: AI files can be used primarily by illustrators and designers in digital and print media. AI files can only be used with Adobe Illustrator and other professional editing software. However, they have fewer capabilities.
Pros: AI files have infinite resizing options. These files are a great choice for reproducing logos and illustrations in print.
Cons: The AI file formats are not supported in browsers or by most default image viewers.
2. Bitmap (BMP).
Overview Bitmap (BMP): files were created to display high-quality images on Windows computers. However, they are compatible with Macs and Android devices. BMP files can store two-dimensional images in either monochrome (or color) format. Filename extensions are either. BMP,.dib.
Best suited to BMP files are compatible with most browsers, standard image viewer software, and editing software. BMP files are used by designers and photographers to store and print high-quality digital photos.
Pros: BMP files can be saved across multiple devices and without quality loss. They are also capable of handling multiple color depths, profiles, and alpha channels.
Cons: BMP files contain only red, green, and blue (RGB), images. This is not suitable for those who use cyan magenta yellow and black (CMYK). BMP files that are not compressed are not suitable for sharing, storing, or use on websites.
3. Encapsulated Postscript
Overview: An encapsulated Postscript (EPS) is a vector file that can be used to store illustrations in Adobe Illustrator and third-party illustrators like CorelDraw. As text-based documents outline shapes using code, EPS files allow for lossless scaling. File extensions include. eps, eps, and. Pepsi.
EPS extension is best suited for this. This universal file type can open vector-based artwork in any design editor. Artists and designers use EPS files for high-resolution graphics. EPS files can be used to create icons, logos, vector art, illustrations, or logos.
Pros: EPS image files can be printed with many printers because they are backward-compatible with printers.
Cons: EPS files cannot be supported by major web browsers. They cannot be edited once saved. Designers must use the original design file before making any changes.
4. Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).
Overview: GIF stands for graphics interchange format. It is a raster file format that uses lossless compression. It has a lower quality because it can only contain 8 bits per pixel and 256 colors. GIF files can be used to create animated banners and memes using the animating support. The filename extension for GIF is.gif.
GIF files are best suited for. They can be used with many image viewers and web browsers. GIF files are used by content creators to create tutorial guides.
Pros: GIF files allow animation support, allowing images and frames to be combined. GIF files are smaller and load more quicker on web pages.
Cons: GIF files can only contain 256 colors. Images may be blurry or have low resolution. GIF files are complicated to edit because they combine multiple images.
5. High-Efficiency Image File (HEIF)
Overview: HEIF stands for high-efficiency image format. It's a better alternative to JPEG, with nearly twice the efficiency. HEIF is a compressed lossy format that uses less space but maintains the same image quality. Filename extensions include. heif(s),.heir (s), and. avci.
HEIF files can be used with Apple devices. Major browsers do not support HEIF files. Professional photographers use HEIF files because they offer high-quality images and a 16-bit color scheme.
Pros: HEIF files can store image sequences. This allows you to store multiple images in one format such as live photos or burst images.
Cons: HEIF is a format for raster images that causes a loss of quality when scaling them up. Many social media platforms don't support HEIF files, so uploaded images lose quality.
6. Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG/JPG)
Overview: The most commonly used file type on the internet and in photographs is the joint photographic experts' group (JPEG) or JPG file format.
JPEG files are lossy compressed to reduce images for sharing and storage. They can also store up to 24-bit color. Filename extensions include.jpg,.jpeg..jpeg..jpe. Jif. jfif. and. jfi.
JPEG files are best suited for. They can be used by all browsers, image viewers, and web editors. They are used by photographers to display small photographs. Bloggers can also display images using JPEG files for faster page loading.
Pros - JPEG image file allows for easy post-processing, as white balance or saturation can be set with the shutter's click.
Cons: Lossy compression may result in artifacts like noise, blooming, and aliasing around the edges of images. This can affect image quality.
7. Portable Network Graphics (PNG).
Overview - Portable network graphics (PNG), a raster format, supports lossless data compression. Because they can save images with greater color variation and a transparent background, PNG files are ideal for high-quality digital images. The filename extension for PNG is.png.
PNG files are best suited for. They can be used by all major browsers and software as well as image editors. PNG files are used by designers for logos because they allow transparent backgrounds.
These files can also be used for websites to display charts and detailed graphics.
Advantages: The PNG file has a greater color range than GIF files, and can therefore store more detailed images.
Cons: PNG files preserve original data even after compression and are therefore larger than GIF or JPEG. They are not suitable for printing media because they do not support the cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMYK), color modes.
8. Adobe Photoshop (PSD)
Overview: PSD is an image format that can be used to save image files and work in progress in Adobe Photoshop. PSD files can contain layers and masks.
Designers can credit images with multiple transparency levels by stacking layers on top of each other. The filename extension for PSD is.psd.
PSD files are best suited for. They can be used with both browser-based apps as well as professional editing software like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. PSD files are used by artists and designers to create and edit high-quality images.
Pros: PSD files can store up to 30,000 pixels in height or width.
Cons: PSD files can grow up to 2GB after manipulation making it difficult to share or store. PSD files should not be used on the internet.
9. Raw or Camera Uncompressed Format
Overview: Digital cameras store raw images in file formats that allow for full-quality, unprocessed images. Because raw files contain uncompressed images, they can be quite large.
Raw files can contain up to 14 bits of color per image. This gives photographers more freedom when post-processing. Raw files can have several extensions such as.3fr and. are.
Best suited to Raw files can only be edited with relevant software like Lightroom or Photoshop. Photographers convert and edit raw files before printing.
The Pros: Because raw files are not compressed and highly detailed, designers have more options. They offer a wider range of colors and higher RGB tonal values.
Cons: Large raw files may need additional space. These files are not suitable for use on the internet.
10. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
Overview: Scalable vector graphics (SVG), an extensible markup language (XML), vector image format for two-dimensional graphics that supports animation and interactivity, is Because it stores text information in a search engine-discoverable format, the SVG file format is common in responsive web design. The filename extensions for SVG files are. svgz and. svgz.
SVG files are best suited for. They are supported by most browsers and all illustration software. SVG files can be resized by designers without affecting the quality. These files are used to display icons, logos, and simple illustrations.
Pros: SVG files are readable by search engines and describe images and graphs. They are therefore used in SEO optimization.
Cons: The code contained in SVG files can be confusing for beginners. Because they lack pixels, they cannot display high-quality images.
11. Tag Image File Format (TIFF)
Overview: TIFF stands to denote tag image format. TIFF is a raster file format that can be used to store and edit photos, graphics, and artwork for printing.
TIFF can be compressed in both lossy or lossless formats. They are often large and uncompressed. Transparency is also possible with TIFF files. TIFF and.tif file extensions are available.
The best file format is TIFF. These files can be used with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. They are not compatible with Edge and Safari. They are used by professional photographers and editors to store and produce high-quality photos before printing.
Pros: TIFF files can be used as containers for smaller JPEG file sizes and can store multiple images within a single raster graphics.
Cons: TIFF files are not recommended for the internet. TIFF files can be difficult to store or share because of their high resolution and detail.
12. Web Picture (WebP).
Overview: The WebP format allows developers to create smaller images with the same quality and file size as JPEG files. The web file format allows digital images to be compressed in both lossless and lossy ways. The WebP format supports transparency and animation. The filename extension for WebP is. web.
WebP is best suited for: It works with all major web browsers as well as professional image editors like Photoshop. Web developers, designers, and other users of WebP files can compress images and graphics without reducing their quality.
Pros - WebP files are small in size, which allows for faster web loading speeds and improves user experience. WebP files also help to save space on websites' server disks.
Cons:- WebP files need a strong internet connection. Sometimes compressions can result in lower-quality images.
Images are an essential piece of technology in today's world. They facilitate information sharing and can help increase productivity in various software programs, depending on which file type is chosen.
These are just a few of the many image file types that we have discussed. There may be more if you use other photo editing or visual design tools.
The right image file type can optimize memory usage without compromising quality or reusability.