Learning About the Graphic Design Industry, Part 4.

Breakdown of File Types

What do those file extensions really mean? And do you need all of them?

AI: Adobe Illustrator: Since Illustrator image files are saved in a vector format, they can be enlarged without losing any image quality. You want to be sure that your designer gives you the original vector format (.AI or .EPS will meet the needs)

EPS: Encapsulated Postscript: EPS files are most commonly used by designers to transfer an image or artwork, generally a vector file into another application. Vector-based EPS files are scalable to any size. EPS files can be opened using Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or Adobe Photoshop. A vector EPS is more commonly and preferred by most creatives.

PDF: Portable Document Format: A PDF is a universal file format that preserves/embeds the fonts, images, layout and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application used to create it. This is a good way for designers to share a draft of the file with their clients.

PSD: Photoshop Document: The PSD file format, usually a raster format, contains graphics and photos created in Adobe Photoshop image editing software. Most commonly used by designer and printers. Working in PSD format allows the designer to work with the images' individual layers even after the file has been saved.

JPG: Joint Photographic Experts Group: A JPG file is a compressed image file that does not support a transparent background. The level of compression in JPG files can vary in resolution with high quality for desktop printing, medium quality for web viewing and low quality for email. If you’re wanting to share a photo from your camera on Instagram, Twitter, etc. your best bet is to use a JPEG. It’s smaller in size, it’s optimized for photography, and it’s widely supported across almost every platform and service imaginable.

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format: GIF files are low resolution files most commonly used for web and email purposes. Almost all browsers can support the use of GIF files, which use a compression scheme to keep the file size small. GIF files can be created with a transparent background.

TIF: Tagged Image File Format: The TIF/TIFF file format is most commonly used for storing images, photography, or art. TIF files are most commonly used in professional environments and commercial printing. The TIF format is the most widely supported format across all platforms. It is the standard format for high quality images. TIF files also support multiple layers.

PNG: Portable Network Graphics: The PNG file format is most commonly used for use online and on websites due to their low resolution. PNG files are bitmap images that employ lossless data compression, and like GIF files, PNG files can be created with a transparent background. This makes PNG great for logos, particularly those with text, used on a website. PNG also handles detailed, high-contrast images well. It’s for this reason PNG is more often than not the default file format for screenshots, as it can provide an almost perfect pixel-for-pixel representation of the screen, rather than compressing groups of pixels together.

SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics: SVG is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation. SVG is really a text file in its details.

INDD: InDesign: An INDD file is a professional page layout project created with Adobe InDesign. It includes page formatting information, page content, linked files, styles, and swatches. INDD files are commonly used for creating and formatting books, magazines, newspapers, flyers, and brochures.

Now when a designer shares source files with you, you should know how to utilize each of the files. Most business owners will not need to utilize AI., .EPS, .PSD or .INDD files, but should you part ways with your designer. You should own these files so that when you hire a new designer, you’ll be able to pass on the original files to the new designer.


Erin Perkins