Using TIFF Files For Graphic Designs

A Popular File Format for High-Quality Images

File type icon set: Design and Photography
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As a graphic designer, you will regularly save and use TIFF files. This is an industry standard file format that is used for high-resolution photographs, images, and other designs.

What is a TIFF File?

A TIFF file, or TIF file, stands for Tagged Image File Format. The format was developed in 1986 by Aldus Corporation and scanner manufacturers.

  • The file extension for a TIFF file is either .tiff or .tif.
  • TIFF files are a common file format for images, especially those used in graphic design.
  • TIFF files are universal to operating systems as well as most image and design software programs.
  • TIFF files can be saved without compression or they can be compressed to lower file size, similar to JPG files.
  • TIFF files are commonly used in print design and desktop publishing because they can store large, high-quality images such as photos.
  • Often, printers will prefer or require TIFF files over JPG images or other formats.

Working With TIFF Files

TIFF files are raster images and platform independent, meaning they will work on various operating systems such as Mac and Windows.

They are also universal to software programs. For instance, you can take create a TIFF image in Photoshop and place it into a design in CorelDraw. Likewise, you can export a CorelDraw file to a TIFF and work with it in Photoshop or Illustrator.

This is not as easy (though it is possible) with program-dedicated file formats like Adobe's PSD (Photoshop) or AI (Illustrator).

There are a number of advantages to working with TIFF files as well as a few things you should know.

File Size

It is possible to compress TIFF files into a smaller file size, though, for the most part, this should be avoided.

Keep in mind that whenever you compress a file, you are squeezing the data and will lose some of the information in the process.

TIFF files are going to be larger than JPG files. This is because JPG relies on compression and that increases the speed which it loads. That is why it's used for web designs. 

It is important, however, that you work in uncompressed file types such as TIFF because each time you save a compressed image, you are losing data. Save your working files in TIFF (or a similar uncompressed format) and only output to JPG, PNG, or BMP when needed for the web.

The Ability to Maintain Layers

Early versions of Photoshop only allowed flattened images to be saved as TIFFs but this has changed. Now, you can save a TIFF with layers in Photoshop and this is a great advantage to graphic designers.

This ability allows you to create designs that, for instance, have a transparent background and import them into another software program. It also allows you to use TIF for unflattened files rather than a program-specific file format such as a PSD.

It should be noted that just because you can save a TIFF with layers, it might not always work in a new program. Some software may compress that file during the import and others may not allow you to fully manipulate the individual layers.

As always, you will have to experiment with file types to get the exact image import you need for your project when moving between programs.

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Your Citation
Miller, Eric. "Using TIFF Files For Graphic Designs." ThoughtCo, Oct. 12, 2017, Miller, Eric. (2017, October 12). Using TIFF Files For Graphic Designs. Retrieved from Miller, Eric. "Using TIFF Files For Graphic Designs." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 24, 2018).