Here is a quick list of the most popular file extensions used in graphics and what each of them stands for, and how the file format should be used.

  • 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. PDF files can be shared, viewed and printed by anyone with the free Adobe Reader software. Some PDF files can be used for commercial, digital, and/or desktop printing. This tends to be the most popular format when sending between designer, client and potentially printer.
  • 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. When compressed repeatedly the overall quality of a JPG image is reduced. This format tends to be the most accepted format that people use for saving and sending images either from their camera, scanner to the Internet.
  • 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 uses a compression scheme to keep the file size small. GIF files can be created with a transparent background and work as animated graphics for the web. Often default format when saving images out for the web.
  • PNG: Portable Network Graphics 
The PNG file format is most commonly used for use online and on websites due to their low resolution but fast loading without quality loss. PNG files are bitmap images that employ lossless data compression, and like GIF files, PNG files can be created with a transparent background making them great for images of text and logos.
  • BMP: Bitmap Chances are you’ll have only ever come across bitmaps if you use the Paint program on your PC. Its default ’Save As’ setting is the bitmap file. Bitmap files are perfectly suitable for professional or desktop printing (although the above formats are more common), but — as with JPEGs and GIFs — rescaling a bitmap to a larger size will result in loss of definition.

Typically these file types the average person will not be able to open are the files with the extensions AI, EPS, and PSD. Each of these three file types requires professional software programs used by designers, printers, signage manufacturers, and promotional product manufacturers, and finally photographers.

  • 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 designers and printers. PSD files can only be opened using Photoshop and may be created with different elements in separate layers.
  • AI: Adobe Illustrator
 AI files are vector files used by designers and commercial printers to generate files of different file formats and sizes. AI files can only be opened using Adobe Illustrator and may be created in layers. An AI file is one of the most preferred formats by printers, promotional product companies, silk screeners, banner and sign companies for capturing the full extent and quality of the file.
  • EPS: Encapsulated Postscript
 EPS files are files 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 file is one of the most preferred formats by printers, promotional product companies, silk screeners, banner and sign companies for capturing the full extent and quality of the file.
  • RAW: RAW Format Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited Raw image formats are intended to capture as closely as possible the sensor’s individual photo-receptive elements known as pixels rather than points in the expected final image. Filename extension file formats i.e. nef (Nikon) crw, cr2 (Canon), pxn or sr2 (Sony) all different manufacturers have different extensions. This Raw format is normally set as the highest setting on a camera, and normally what most professional photographers will use, however, most camera users will have the camera set at default being JPG format.

I do hope that this has enhanced your education regarding the formats used in design and photography, it was important for us to write this article as part of our articles and tutorial series, as so many of our other articles have mentioned file formats and therefore it is always important to have the full complement of resources at your disposal.