There are instances when even relatively experienced designers start doubting themselves about what file type to use.

To prevent confusion, having a reference to guide you and avoid doubts is useful.

Generally, graphic design files are classified into vector, raster, and hybrid types. Raster is pixel-based and has defined proportions, the vector does not lose resolution when resized, and hybrid allows for vector and raster images to be mixed in the same file.

Having said that, let’s delve deeper into separate file types commonly used in graphic design so you know which one to pick.

Vector file types

Vector files don’t use pixels. They are created with mathematical equations, curves, and lines, with points fixed on a grid. Users are free to enlarge or reduce the image size without sacrificing the resolution.

1. AI

The name AI comes from Adobe Illustrator, which many dub the industry-leading vector graphic software.

They support transparency and are scalable to different sizes without sacrificing quality.

If you need to design a logo or edit a vector design, AI is often the go-to option.

One notable disadvantage is that you will need to use Adobe Illustrator if you want to edit the file.

2. CDR

Another example of a file getting its name from the software. Corel Draw is not as popular as Adobe apps, but you can still rely on it for various graphic design tasks.

CDR excels in printing work, but it can still serve just as fine for general design tasks, like banners or logos.

The drawback is similar to AI files in the sense that you have to use specific software to edit the file.

3. EPS

Encapsulated PostScript files fall in the vector category, but they are flexible enough to process raster image data as well.

One more advantage is the fact that you can export EPS files to different formats.

However, if you want to upload an EPS file online in its original format, you will not be able to do it without changing it to other formats, such as JPG or PNG, which can be annoying at times.

4. SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics are essential for web design these days. Website owners want to limit the resources consumed by media, so they look to use minimal-size images. This is where SVG excels. You can reduce the file size without sacrificing the quality.

SVG is also easy to edit with coding languages like CSS or JavaScript, so web developers have fewer hassles to worry about.

If you need to publish a graph or a diagram directly on a website, use SVG. Note, though, that this file format is relatively new in web design, which is why certain browsers will not support it.

The browsers that support SVG include:

  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Opera

The browsers that do not support SVG include:

  • Maxthon (on Android)
  • CM Browser (on Android)
  • Konqueror

Raster file types

Tiny color squares called pixels make a raster file. The pixel number determines image quality. The more pixels an image has, the greater its quality.

1. PSD

Photoshop Document comes directly from Photoshop. You create an editable file with multiple layers and adjust it depending on your needs.

The format also supports vectors, but it is mostly used for raster images. Even though Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based tool, you can still modify vector files as a smart object or rasterized file.

Photo retouching tasks, such as color correction or additional text, call to use PSD. It works for animations, videos, and pretty much anything else you can do with Photoshop.

2. PNG

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. As the name suggests, the file format is relied on when one has to transfer images on the internet.

PNG is also great when you are working with graphics that come with limited colors. Lastly, PNG files are small in size, which is an advantage for those working with limited storage.

Overall, the PNG image quality is not optimized for prints. While the file format ensures good quality on a smartphone or computer screen, it will not look appealing as a print. You are better off using other file types for printing.

3. GIF

Graphics Interchange Format is popular all across the web, including social media, messengers, and other apps and websites.

Unlike other image file types,GIFs are not static images. They are animated, which makes them more appealing and engaging to the viewers.

GIFs are lossless, though there are numerous ways you can adjust their size to make them more web-friendly. For instance, you can resize them by removing some of the frames or reducing the number of colors in an image

4. JPG

JPG or JPEG is a widely used image format. Thousands of pixels make a single JPG, which is why the image does not retain the quality when you rescale it.

Try uploading an image in a Google Doc and dragging it around to increase the size. The drop in quality is immediately noticeable.

5. BMP

Bitmap Image Files do not support background transparency and lack compression, which makes them relatively large in terms of size.

Nevertheless, BMP is the go-to option for niche instances, such as 3D UV textures. If you ever see a high-quality image on display somewhere, the odds are it is BMP.

Hybrid file types

The hybrid type receives benefits of raster and vector formats, letting one mix both in the same file. Designers usually encounter hybrid files when using apps like Sketch or Adobe Illustrator, when their work involves both raster and vector elements.

1. PDF

The Portable Document Format file format is universal in how it is used. PDFs are compatible with virtually every device, which is why many ask to receive a final version of a file in this format.

Graphic design tools like Photoshop let you export files directly as PDFs, but you can also find a plethora of various converters online. The sheer popularity and accessibility of PDFs make it easy to find a way to turn a file into a PDF, even if you have no access to professional designer software.

Keep in mind, though, that you need specific tools to edit a PDF, and even then, it is tricky.

2. SKETCH

Designers use SKETCH to create mobile and web application UI as well as app icons for Android and iOS devices.

Sketch, the software used to create the designs, has a basic toolkit, including fill, border, mask, and text addition.

SKETCH is the default file format for saving files locally. Unfortunately, the Sketch app is exclusive to macOS.

If you do not have macOS and want to view the file on MS Windows, you will need to use Icons8 Lunacy, a standalone viewer for SKETCH files on MS Windows.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, a lot goes into managing your digital files. From understanding how to open .rar on Mac to choosing the right image format for your graphic design projects.

Knowing your BMPs and PSDs is crucial if you don’t want to waste your time (and image quality) converting from one file type to another.

In short, vector file types are irreplaceable for stylized digital art, and raster image formats are unbeatable for hyperrealistic photographic images.

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