Digital Image File TypesThere are many different file types by which we, as artists, can save our artwork digital photographs.

It helps to know the advantages and drawbacks of different digital image file formats, to ensure your artwork photograph does not lose any quality. Some file types are very large, and are not recommended on a website. Others may not be supported by some web browsers. So, to make the file selection simple for all of you, I will explain a few different formats used for images, and let you know which ones you should be using for each purpose.

Best Digital Image File Types

  • Photoshop - .PSD

    PSD files are only used for manipulating photographs in Photoshop. Similar digital imaging software have their own file types that serve the same purpose. This is best used when working on an image in Photoshop, and saving it for further photo manipulation at another time.
  • Compu Serve - .GIF

    GIFS are commonly used for animations and icons. You can see them used for smileys and banners all around the web. They are great to use if you have an irregular shaped image, and want to achieve a transparency around it. GIFS do not lose any quality for any image that has less than 256 colors. But, since your artwork has many more than that, it should never be saved as a GIF file.
  • JPEG - .JPG

    With JPG’s, you have the option of choosing a file size. The quality you choose depends on your purpose for the photograph. If using the image for a website, use a smaller quality (lower file size). On the other hand, if the image is for printing purposes, use the highest option available.

    When using JPG’s, save them only once. With each additional save over the same file, the quality is lower.
  • PNG - .PNG

    PNG’s are becoming much more common for use on the web, since they are fast loading. They do not lose the image appearance through repeated saves either. PNG’s, along with JPG’s, are recommended for web digital images of your artworks.
  • Photoshop RAW - .RAW

    RAW is only used on digital cameras, and are lossless (do not lose quality). They are only used for photo manipulation in Photoshop, and similar software. RAW files can be saved over without losing any of its appearance.
  • TIFF - .TIFF or .TIF

    TIFF files are recommended for printing purposes, since they do not lose any quality when saved. They are very large, and cannot be used on websites.


Recommended Digital Image File Types Chart

  1. For Printing:
    Use TIFF or high quality JPG
  2. For web sites:
    Use lower quality JPG or PNG
  3. For photo manipulation:
    Touch People with your Art - Click Here! Use RAW or PSD


If you missed any of our  previous photography and Photoshop tutorials, you may find them here:

How to Photograph Art for the Internet

How to Use Photoshop to Optimize Photographs of Art – Part 1

Optimizing Images With Photoshop for the Web – Part 2

Photographing Art - My Camera Settings

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