When you download a picture, animated graphics, logo or other image files to your computer, it takes a specific file format. While you can often convert these initial file formats into a different type, doing so is not always a good idea.
Let’s explore the most common image file formats used in web design and take a look at what each one is intended to do.
Why Do Image File Formats Matter?
First, let’s talk about why it’s important to choose the right image format.
It’s easy to think that all file formats are created equal; after all, most of them will get an image onto your hard drive or rendered on a webpage.
However, the specific image format you choose does matter quite a bit when it comes to quality performance.
Take a look at this image as an example.
Look at the fox’s eyes in the example on the left, then look at the example on the right. Look at the color difference and the way the lines around the perimeter of the graphic render.
As you can see, there are sharpness and clarity issues in the JPEG graphic that aren’t present in the PNG version.
The PNG is sharper, clearer and more professional looking. That’s because it is specifically designed to handle vector graphics or also known as computer-generated graphics like the one in the example.
Which File Format Should I Use for Vector Graphics on the Web?
If your goal is to have sharp, clean and smooth graphics PNG is the recommended way to go. However, PNG has a heavy file size and can slow down the load time of your web page.
In the graphic below, you can see the difference between file sizes for different formats of the same image we have tested.
Ultimately, the different file formats serve specific purposes. They render the same graphics and images in different ways and carry different file sizes.
Knowing what each one is for and when to use them is the key to proper design rendering and performance in the digital space.
So, let’s see the differences between each in detail.
How Should I Choose the Right Image File Format?
First, think about these questions:
- What are my goals? Better quality or speed?
- Where are the graphics to be used?
- Do I care about browser support?
When it comes to choosing the correct image file format, the best first step is to determine what kind of image you have and go from there.
Use for photography
Use for logos or complex Illustrations
Use for simple logos and Icons
Use for animated graphics