All image files are not created equal.

Depending on where and how you plan to use an image, different types of files are needed to deliver professional-quality results.

It’s not a simple question of determining whether an image will be delivered to a printer or uploaded to the web or used on a sell sheet printed at the office. Because every platform has its own unique interface, the same image may need to be produced in multiple different formats to meet all your image requirements.

While photographers and graphic designers may produce some, if not all, of your image files, a basic understanding of the different types of images and their uses will help ensure seamless collaboration and efficient delivery.

Here are the four image file types commonly used in print and online:

.JPEG or .JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group

  • Low resolution in most cases
  • Most widely used format
  • Works best for web use
  • Small file size when saved at 72 DPI
  • Easily attached to emails or uploaded to platforms with file size restrictions

.TIFF or .TIF – Tagged Image File Format

  • Highest quality
  • Best format for print applications
  • File size is very large compared to most .JPG files
  • Usually files are too large to attach to emails
  • Not recommended for use on the web

.GIF – Graphic Interchange Format

  • Used to create animations for the web, not suitable for print
  • Limited color options
  • Can be used to create simple animations

.PNG – Portable Network Graphics

  • Exclusively for web use, not print application
  • Quite often used for images with a transparent background
  • Small file size, but with better quality than .JPG images

Color Formats

CMYK, RGB and Hexadecimal are three types of color spaces that are specified for the production of images and graphics. Although graphics designers usually select which color to use, a basic understanding of the key differences can help non-designers ensure the correct type of image files are prepared for final delivery.

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

  • Used for print applications
  • Make up approximately 2-3 million colors when blended

RGB – Red, Green and Blue

  • Used for display technologies that use light, such as your monitor
  • Can produce millions of color intensities when blended
  • Typically used for web images

Hexadecimal – Hex Triplet

  • Used for displaying web pages
  • Color designation is a mixture of three groups of two letters and numbers
  • A color tool (link to or graphics software is needed to convert RGB into Hexidecimal colors (for example, the color red is RGB (255,0,0), which
  • converts to Hexadecimal #FF0000

File size and resolution

  • The higher the resolution, the better the quality of an image and the bigger the file size
  • Image resolution must be at least 300 dpi for quality print applications
  • The larger the image file, the slower it loads on the web
  • On web platforms and for email attachments, file size minimum and maximum requirements often apply.

While most computers come with photo editing software that allows you to resize images, change resolution and convert images to some file formats, producing the best images for commercial use usually requires the services of a experienced graphics professional.

Need help developing an effective image file strategy? Give us a call at 847-541-4626 or send an email to