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12/12/2016

File types - What do they mean? (3 of 3)

In our final article of this series, we talk file types and what they are typically used for.


Why do we have different file types?

When designing for different formats, you come across many different file types. From JPGs to SVGs, each one has a preferred purpose and qualities that suit them for different needs. For example, a PNG is very useful if you desire a transparent background on an image, whereas a JPG does not have this capability. Each file type has it's purpose. We aim to explain to you some of the key file types we use in the Martin Hopkins studio for our design work and why they are important.

 

JPEG image
JPEG image at 60%

 

Raster images vs vector images

When talking about images, you may hear the words raster or vector. As designers we generally prefer to work with vector images for things like logos whereas we would require raster images for photography. But what are they? Raster images are probably what you would typically think of for an image; they contain pixels of colour that make up an image. The more pixels in the image, generally the crisper it'll be as there will be more detail (see our article on DPI and PPI). When you scale or zoom a raster image, eventually it will pixelate and become distorted / blurry. Digital photographs (i.e. taken by a digital camera) or scanned in images are raster images. Vector images are very different; they are made up of a mathematical formula rather than pixels. This mathematical formula determines the shape / colour of lines and areas. The specifics of the image detail are determined by the number of points and complexity of the curves between the points. Because of this, when a vector image is blown up in size, the quality will not change or worsen in any way. Generally, simpler graphics like logos and illustrations are created in a vector format, making them scalable to any size without any sacrifice on quality. As such, this is usually the preferred format for designers and printers whenever possible.   

 

JPEG, JPG - Joint Photographic Experts Group Extensions (.jpg, .jpeg)

The most common image format you will have heard of or used is JPEG, which is commonly used on digital cameras. It was originally designed for electronic use. The main disadvantage to a JPEG is that it is lossy, which means that every time the file is edited and resaved as a JPEG, the quality degrades more and more. However, if you are editing from the original file, saving as a JPEG can allow you to reduce file size of an image without harming the quality too much. You can often use programs such as photoshop to preview the JPEG quality at different percentages (i.e. 60%).

 

JPEG low quality
JPEG image at 40% - As you can see the quality of detail is quickly sacrificed as you reduce the file size.

 

GIF

Above is a vector logo, meaning it is made up from a mathematical formula (meaning this is a vector shape) as opposed to dots. Because of this it will never distort regardless of zoom which makes it a completely scalable vector graphic. Where possible, we love using vector graphics to ensure the print is as crisp as possible. However, it is not possible to use a vector for photography.

These scalable graphics need to be supplied to us in either an .EPS, .AI or an .SVG. Look out for next weeks post about file types, what they mean and how you can achieve them. 

 

TIFF

TIFF stands for Tag Image File Format and are used for storing raster graphic images. They are typically much larger than JPEG file formats. You can then compress them losslessly, allowing you to keep the quality but reduce the file size. This essentially means you can perfectly recreate the data for the image whilst reducing its file size, so you can maintain image integrity/clarity without using up too much disk space. As such, they are commonly used for professional photography purposes. We are big fans of the TIFF file format in the MH office, as they are much more flexible for our needs and allow us to create higher quality work. 

 

EPS / AI

These are so vital to any designer. EPS / AI files usually mean we can convert the content to vector and make it infinitely scalable (unless it is an image inside of a EPS or AI - sneaky!). If we have access to the outlines and shapes, it makes the work so much more flexible and also allows us to export it to any of the above file types we like as we need them. Generally these file types are our best friends in the studio. Similarly, PDFs can be used in this way also, depending what the content is (again, images are a no no).

 

So there you have it!

Hopefully this blog post has been informative and helped you understand more about file types and what they mean!

 

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