Best Graphics File Formats for Desktop Publishing

Choose graphics file formats based on task

Insert the Baby Vector picture (.eps)
Inserting an EPS graphic file into desktop publishing software. Microsoft Publisher 2010 Screenshot includes free vectors at All Vectors; CC BY 3.0

Graphics come in many flavors but not all file formats are suitable for all purposes. How do you know which is best? In general, there are graphics formats suitable for printing and those for on-screen viewing or online publishing. Within each group there are also formats that are better than others for the same task.

 

  • Use GIF, PNG, and JPG for online publishing.
  • Use EPS and TIFF for print publishing.

    If all your printing is sent to your desktop printer, you may be able to use JPG and other formats including CGM and PCX with acceptable results; however, for high-resolution output EPS and TIFF will provide the least hassles and the best quality. They are the standards for high-resolution printing.

    In addition to the formats in the chart, below, there are proprietory graphics file formats. These are bitmap or vector formats used by specific graphics programs. Although some desktop publishing software will recognize the more common formats such as PSD from Adobe Photoshop (bitmap) or CDR from CorelDRAW (vector) it is generally best to convert these images to TIF or EPS or other common graphics file formats.

    If you are sending files out for commercial printing, your service provider may not tell you this but it's likely they are charging extra (and adding time to your print job) to convert your graphics to a print-friendly format. Save time and money by using the right format for the job.

    This simple chart outlines the best use for several common formats. Match the format to your job either by starting with graphics in that format or by converting other artwork to the desired format.

     

    Format:Designed for:Top choice for:
    Screen display under WindowsWindows Wallpaper
    EPSPrinting to PostScript printers/ImagesettersHigh resolution printing of illustrations
    Screen display, especially the WebOnline publishing of non-photographic images
    JPEG, JPGScreen display, especially the WebOnline publishing of photographic images
    PNGReplacement for GIF and, to a lesser extent, JPG and TIFOnline publishing of illustrations with lots of colors and transparency
    Intermediate image-editing stages for JPG or TIF images
    PICTScreen display on Macintosh or printing to non-PostScript printer 
    TIFF, TIFPrinting to PostScript printersHigh resolution printing of images
    Screen display under Windows or printing to non-PostScript printerTransfer vector images via the clipboard
    Pick Your Path to Desktop Publishing
    Get Started:Basic Guidelines and Requirements for Desktop Publishing
    Choose Software:Desktop Publishing and Design Software
    Make Something:Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
    Tips & Tutorials:How to Do Desktop Publishing
    Training, Education, Jobs:Careers in Desktop Publishing
    In the Classroom:Back to School With Desktop Publishing
    Use Templates:Templates for Print and Web Publishing

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