Beginner’s Guide to Image File Types and Formats

Guide written by aiming to educate beginners on how useful or detrimental various image file types and formats can be.


What one could gain from using the proper ones, and what one could lose if file types are neglected? How to differentiate between them and what are the best ones? We are going to give answers to these questions and more in the below paragraphs.

Image File Formats and the Difference Between Them

File formats have been changing for years, as newer ones substitute older ones. The reason is that formats are evolving to serve better the purposes of people, be it developers, businesses and quite simply put, users of the Web.

Below you will learn about the difference of file types and formats in general, as well as what are the 10 most popular file formats that we as users of the Internet love to still use in modern times.

The changes that make file formats and types different are closely connected to the capabilities of each format – how fast it loads, what is its size, maximum DPI and resolution, what quality does it portray of an image and so on and so forth.

We will go into more specifics of each of the ten file formats in the following sub-headings below, which reveal the information in concise paragraphs.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG is the most popular of image file formats, proven by it is used by many cameras and photos as the default output format.

Most cameras as well as online tools and websites, use a compressed version of the JPEG format to store more pictures. Thus, as a result there is a loss in quality and in detail of the images.

Most websites use JPEG images for their pages in a highly optimized format, without losing much of the quality and portray the intended graphic of each image to the users. You should also read about Tips to Optimize Your Images and get the best of them.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

PNG or also known as Portable Network Graphics is a lossless raster image format. PNG as a format has built-in transparency, but can also display higher color depths, which translates into millions of colors.

PNG allows for partial and total transparency, which is ideal for overlays and logos and allow for web pages to load fast.

Designed in the 1990s as an improvement on the GIF file format, PNG files are ideal for use on the Internet. PNGs are a web standard and are quickly becoming one of the most common image formats used online.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

GIFis a lossless raster format that stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It is a widely used web image file type, typically for animated graphics such as banner advertisements, email images and social media memes. If you want to show an animated image, the GIF format is your go-to hero:


Regardless of the fact that GIFs are lossless, they can be exported in a number of highly customizable settings that reduce the amount of colors and image information, resulting in reduced file size.

APNG (Animated Portable Network Graphics)

APNG files are Animated Portable Network Graphics, or to put it simply, animated PNG files. APNG files support 24 bit color as well as 24 bit transparency. A GIF file has an 8 bit transparency. What that means is that APNG files can handle color better and look a lot smoother when transparent.

APNG has a lower file size than both GIF and WebP image formats, while retaining at least the same level of animation quality.

WebP Images (Google Format)

WebP is an image file format which contains image data with both lossless and lossy compression. Developed by Google, WebP basically is a derivative WebM video format. The format is capable of reducing image file size up to 34% smaller than JPEG and PNG images while retaining high-quality.

The compression process of WebP images is based on the prediction of pixels from their surrounding blocks. This allows pixels to be used multiple times in a single file. Google might add more features to the file format in the near future.

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics or the short term coined by many users Vector images. It is an XML based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics.

SVG can be searched, indexed, scaled and compressed. Thus, results of SVG images can get smaller file sizes than other file formats. SVG files can be edited in graphic editing programs as well as text editors.

PSD (PhotoShop Document)

PSD is a file type that the software Adobe Photoshop uses as default for saving images and data. The big advantage of the PSD format is that it allows for manipulation on specific individual layers, rather than on the main image itself.

This makes PSDs absolutely essential for any sort of extensive manipulation of the original photograph, such as retouching. PSD image file format gives far more flexibility and allows fine-tuning an image, due to its layer to layer approach. Layers can be added, removed, or edited at any time without affecting the original photo.

Know that once an image is flattened, i.e. saved on the hard drive, its changes cannot be undone.

BMP (Bitmap Image File)

BMP or also known as Bitmap Image File is a format developed by Microsoft specifically for Windows. There is no compression or information loss with BMP files which allow images to have very high quality, but also very large file sizes.

Due to BMP being a proprietary format, it is generally recommended to use TIFF files.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

TIFF is a lossless raster format that stands for Tagged Image File Format. Because of its extremely high quality, the format is primarily used in photography and desktop publishing. TIFF files appear when you scan a document or take a photograph with a professional digital camera.

TIFF files can also be used as a container of JPEG images. However, the difference is that TIFF files are saved in a much bigger file size to retain quality. TIFFs can be used interchangeably with PSD files in Photoshop editing and while there are no other differences, TIFFs remain with a bigger size.

ICO File Type (Windows Icons)

ICO are image file types used as an icon for representing an application on Microsoft Windows with a single image. Said image can showcase a logo, brand, symbol or something that represents a certain application or program.

These come in different size, colour support and resolution to suit the requirements of the display. You will not find this image file format anywhere else but in a Windows environment or as downloadable files off of the Internet.

Benefits and Drawbacks of File Types

Let us provide you with a list of the Drawbacks that you could encounter with file types:

  • Limited Colour Choice
  • Flat Image Formats
  • Large Storage Capacity
  • Slow Loading Times
  • Big File Size
  • Specific Prerequisites to be Met
  • Lossy Compression
  • Editing Only Possible with Paid Software
  • Limited Compatibility with Browsers

Now let us see what Benefits you could get with the proper file formats:

  • Lossless Compression
  • Possible Animations and Videos
  • Small File Sizes
  • Short Loading Times
  • Transparency is Supported
  • Full Colour Spectrum Support
  • High Compatibility
  • Widespread Use
  • Extensive Editing of Layers
  • Raster and Vector Graphics
  • Conversion and Compression Possible

As you can see using modern image file types and formats can be highly beneficial and should be done. If you want faster loading pages and a good image ethic, then you should by all means, use the file formats we have mentioned in the previous section and get to know them well.

How to Choose the Most Suitable?

The answer to this question actually depends on the situation and for what purpose you want to use an image. If you are running a website, you would want an image that is low on size before anything else.

For the purposes of keeping sizes low, JPEG might be the most suitable one as its inherent low size capabilities, but PNG, BMP and GIF might be suitable as well.

The format is a quarter smaller than PNG and makes it highly preferable. Furthermore, there are programs and online tools that can lower the size of an image while keeping most of its quality intact.

Nowadays it is becoming more and more crucial and beneficial to go with the WebP format as it is much smaller in size than the most widely-used formats.

WebP provides both lossless and lossy compression for images. By using WebP, webmasters and web developers are able to make tinier, but quality-richer images, thus enhancing loading and browsing speed.


Different image file types and formats are used for various purposes and goals. One cannot simply live with using only one type. Using protected images for work, while wanting better quality regardless of the size for home use, we are bound to use many formats.

Regardless of the use and the needs of the variety of formats, it would be best if we compress all images to save space and make both our disk drives and the Internet a better place for images.

There are countless other file types and formats that are old and obsolete, or a variation of the ones mentioned in the blog post above. Some have very specific purposes of use, while others are no longer used because other formats are preferred.

We at, wanted to give you a solid ground into the world of image formats and wanted to provide you with the most popular ones, which are still used in modern times.

You should educate yourself further. Here are some of our other pages that can aid with that:

Sites Running a Vulnerable Version of File Manager Plugin

How to Add Viewable, Downloadable PDF Files to Your Website

What is WP-config.php (WordPress Configuration File)

10 Steps to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

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