Design Quickies – File Formats

So you have finished all the manipulations on your file and saved it, but when you open it back up, things are all jacked up. You may be saving to the wrong file format.


JPEG is a compressed file format that works by averaging the colors across an image and uses compression to save file space by using the same color for large flat areas instead of coloring each individual pixel. This is a great format suitable for posting to social media or putting family pictures or vacation photos in a digital frame. Large amounts of compression can cause artifacting where large areas of unlike colors meet. Below is a closeup image of JPEG artifacting.

JPEGs support both CMYK and RGB color spaces, but do not support transparent backgrounds. If that is a feature you need, check out the below file formats.


PNG is the big daddy of the Web world because it features compression that doesn’t cause artifacting, RGB color space (but not CMYK), and transparent backgrounds. This make files saved in this format useful for placing almost anywhere on a web page since they are small in file size, and the body of the image does not interfere with the background color. They are also used for saving sprites in use for 2D game development. Below is and example of sprite with a transparent background used in a game development environment.



TIFF is the image format of choice for the print industry because it supports a very specific set of features. It has compression that doesn’t cause artifacting, supports both CMYK and RGB color spaces along with an uncolored single channel color space, supports transparent backgrounds, and is generally very accurate at recreating digital images when there are resaved from their native format. The overall size of the files is MUCH larger (I mentioned compression earlier, but it is limited) than the other file formats. If you need to set up a design for Merch at your favorite online T-shirt company, this is the file format for you. Below is an example of a shirt with a Tiff image.