GIF, JPEG, and PNG: What’s The Difference?

Not a graphic designer? No problem! You can still easily master when to use different types of images for different purposes just by understanding some of their individual benefits! So find out below what each image type is good for:

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format
Images with a .gif extension are commonly used for the web because they compress quite well. They function by allowing you to restrict the number of colors that make up the image, with a maximum of 256 allowed. GIF images also allow for layering, which is commonly used to create moving images that you may often see in the form of internet ads or moving smiley faces. GIF images also allow for transparency so that items can be seen that appear beneath them.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group
Images ending in a .jpg or .jpeg extension are the most versatile images around. They have different levels of compression and are compatible with both RBG and CMYK color formats, making them suitable for both web and print. They have no color limitations, which can make their file sizes much larger than GIFs.

PNG: Portable Network Graphics
Images ending in .png only allow the RGB color format, meaning they are not suitable for print. Their biggest benefit is fantastic transparency capabilities that GIF images can’t match. They also tend to have a large file sizes because their compression isn’t always as successful as that of GIFs or JPEGs.

To help you decide what format to use for your images, try out this table:

Image Description GIF JPEG PNG
Black & White Photo
Full Color Photo
Black & White image for print
Color image for print
Small Icon
Image w/ just text
Moving image
Image w/ complex transparency
i.e. curved lines or drop shadows
Image w/ simple transparency
i.e. straight lines

If you have any specific questions or examples you’d like to ask about, don’t hesitate to ask!

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