Formats and resolutions for images
Understanding this difference between various art file formats can be daunting, but we hope this article will help to explain the differences and help you to understand the best art file type to use for your specific need.
In this article
Art Files and Resolutions
There are two major types of image files:
Bitmap files are pixel-based images, and include those with .tif, .jpg .png and .gif extensions. All three types “draw” images by specifying the number of pixels (tiny squares in a rectangular grid) and then specifying what color those pixels will be. Imagine a piece of graph paper with certain squares filled in with various colors to create a picture.
At normal size the squares are unnoticeable, forming a smooth-looking picture. When a bitmap is enlarged, so are the pixels. Because the squares are more noticeable, curves and angled lines take on a "stair-step" look. This jagged characteristic means that if you enlarge a bitmap image, it won’t look as good as when displayed at its original size or when reduced in size.
The way bitmaps build images lends itself to photographs and detailed illustrations that have significant shading or texture.
Below is a list of the formats and the resolutions that we provide.
- JPEG (.jpg) - 600 dpi (images older than Sept 2017 are 300 or 150 dpi)
- TIFF (.tif) - 600 dpi (images older than Sept 2017 are 300 dpi)
- WMF (.wmf) or EPS (.eps) - varies per image
- PNG (.png) - 600 dpi
- GIF (.gif) - 96 dpi (older images are 72 dpi)
TIFF (.tif) is a widely used standard that we provide the MOST for color art. However, sometimes a TIFF’s file size is huge, which slows printing and gobbles disk space. In those cases, we offer the image as a JPEG, which renders the same-sized art in a smaller file.
JPEG (.jpg) files compress the file’s information, which makes the file size smaller. JPEGs are used primarily for photographs or artwork that has a lot of shading or gradations. JPEGs can be displayed on the Web.
TIF and JPG files are usually recognizable by both Windows and MAC-based Operating Systems.
PNG stands for Portable Network Graphic and is a newer file format that is meant to replace GIF files. It allows for more colors within the image (unlike GIF files) and offers a transparent background. This is great for clipart! If you have a colored background you'll want to choose the PNG format if it's available so that any background colors can show through.
Also, those working on your website may request that PNG files be used.
GIF files are intended only for use on Web sites or for screen display. Because our GIFs have a low resolution (72 dpi, the resolution of computer monitors), they are not meant to be printed. We include GIFs so you can put them on your Web site.
Vector" artwork ends with extensions such as WMF, EPS and AI. Vector images are made up of objects or groups of objects. These shapes are formed by a series of points connected by straight or curved lines. Vector file sizes are typically smaller than bitmaps. The curves and angled lines of a vector are much sharper and don’t create the "stair-step" look, making them much better for enlargement.
With any resizing, vector images retain their clarity and detail. By contrast, other images (such as JPG) often look stair-stepped, ragged or blurry when enlarged. So when you're enlarging a picture for banners, posters and other large items, use a vector file if one's available.
We try to include every image in WMF format online, but some art styles and designs just don’t work as WMFs. Complex, detailed, stippled and crosshatched illustrations, continuous-tone photos, and textured images are often troublesome as WMFs. WMF files are recognized usually only by Windows users and EPS only by MAC users.