Common image file formats and when to use them

Graphic of image file formats
With so many file formats to choose from, how can you be sure you're using the correct one? (Image credit: Future)

The world of image file formats can be overwhelming, but knowing your JPEGs from your PNGs is essential for creatives. As a designer, one of the most common questions you'll get asked is, 'what file format do you want?' closely followed by, 'will this do?' With such a diverse array of options, and names that would have Scrabble champions reaching for the dictionary, it’s no wonder that image file formats can be tricky to get your head around at first.

Using the wrong image file format can be disastrous, even if you've got one of the best cameras. What you're ultimately going to use the image for will largely determine the choice of image file format – ask yourself what quality you need, whether the image will be resized, how quickly you or others will need to upload/open it, and how much space you have to work with. 

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Matt Smith
Designer and Video Producer

Matt has worked for various publishing houses and design agencies, covering studio photography, video production, editorial design, branding, illustration and motion graphics. He currently works for Future PLC with brands such as T3, Woman&Home, Marie Claire, Music Week, TechRadar, Golden Joysticks, Cycling Weekly, Brand Impact Awards, Horse&Hound and Tech&Learning. In the past he has designed titles including Mac|Life, IQ, Bow International, Drummer, iDrum, Acoustic, Clay Shooting, Sea Fishing and GunTradeNews. He has experience across the full Adobe Suite and is currently spending a lot of time creating projects in Blender and After Effects.