Choose Your File Format Wisely

Here’s a quick users guide to some of the most commonly used formats. BMP (bitmap): Developed for Windows® applications, BMP is a common format. Because the BMP format is lossless, it’s good for saving pictures that you want to manipulate or enlarge at a later date.

BMP images are recognized by virtually all image editing programs, including Adobe® Photoshop, Adobe PhotoDeluxe, and CorelPhoto-Paint. While bitmap images usually print well if they’re large enough, they’re usually not recommended for sending images out for professional printing.

Pros: Maintains a great deal of image information

Cons: Produces large to very large files

EPS (encapsulated postscript): EPS is a metafile format that can be used for vector or bitmap images. When you place an EPS image into a document, you can scale it up or down without information loss. This format contains PostScript information and should be used when printing to PostScript output devices. EPS files are excellent for printing, especially for logos and vector line art.

Pros: Delivers consistent printouts

Cons: Produces large files

GIF (graphics interchange format): Designed specifically for compressing computer-drawn images and graphics, GIF files are popular for use on the Web. GIFs can consist of up to 256 colors, although the fewer the colors, the smaller the file. Because of their limited color range, GIFs are not recommended for high-quality printing or archiving, especially since many GIFs are optimized for the Web and therefore have low resolution.

Pros: Is ideal for web pages with small graphics

Cons: Limits spectrum to 256 colors

JPG (joint photographic experts group): JPG (or JPEG) file compression is lossy, which means that you lose detail but gain file compression. JPGs support 24-bit color (16 million colors), but each time you change and save a JPG, you lose a little more detail, which makes JPG a poor choice for archiving. High-resolution JPGs are great for printing, but low-resolution ones, while great for use on the Web, will look blocky and print with less detail.

Pros: Is ideal for large photos, especially on the Web

Cons: Reduces quality with each re-save

TIF (tagged image file format): TIFs (or TIFFs) can be comparatively large files, and the image quality is excellent. Originally developed for the Apple Macintosh, TIFs have
been widely adopted among Windows users as well. TIF files can store any color depth level from 1 to 32 bits and are almost certainly the best format to use if you’re going to edit or print an image at a later date. TIFs often provide the most consistent image quality and color definition, which makes them idea for archiving.

Pros: Maintains excellent quality

Cons: Produces large files

In simple terms, your best approach is probably to save originals of your favorite images as TIFs, then work from a JPG copy if you want to manipulate it. Remember to save the final file as a TIF before printing.