Understanding the Different Design File Types and How to Use Them

By Published On: May 23, 2023

PDFs, SVGs, PNGs – so many options! What do all of these design file types mean and how do you use them? We have you covered in this latest Guide.


Why so many design file types?

Various design file types exist because of the information they contain, whether that be text, an image or graphics. From there, size and scalability come into consideration and each type deals with these elements in a different way.


Common Design File Types


PDF files, short for “Portable Document Format” files, are a commonly used file type that many of us work with on a regular basis. PDFs can be created and edited in many different programs, and are known for their versatility in being viewed. They are typically used for read-only documents, but some PDFs can retain information that makes them editable. PDFs typically contain text but can retain images and design aspects. PDFs are easy to email and most users have a program available on their computer or mobile device to view PDFs easily, making them one of the most useful design file types.


Short for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, this is likely a type you are most familiar with. JPEGs are raster images and are composed of hundreds of tiny pixels. They are known as “lossy” files because when a JPEG is created, to maintain a smaller file size, some unnecessary information is permanently deleted or lost. JPEGs cannot be scaled up but can be scaled down. JPEGs are great for social media and web based projects. If scaled correctly, JPEGs can offer optimum performance on your website, reducing the time to load files on your webpage.


Short for “Portable Network Graphics,” PNGs were designed as an alternative to GIFs. One factor that makes a PNG stand out most is that they support transparency. This allows you to have a transparent background on a logo file, instead of the file having a white background that cannot be altered. PNG file compression is lossless, so there is no loss in quality, giving them the ability to handle detailed, high contrast information. PNGs are great for use on the web but are not ideal for print.


GIF is actually defined as a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images. Short for “Graphics Interchange Format,” GIFs are an image file that is sometimes animated. GIFs are commonly used in the digital space, where images need to load quickly: like digital banner ads, websites, or emails. You might also recognize GIFs because of their recent notoriety in their use in social and SMS communications. Sharing GIFs is easy!


An AI file, short for “Adobe Illustrator Artwork file” is a single-page vector-based graphic file. AI files are commonly used to create logos and printed assets. A great advantage to AI files is that they are flexible vector-based files, allowing them to be resized without losing quality. Additionally, AI files can be saved or exported in many different formats too. Your printer may ask for your .AI file to make precise adjustments or to separate artwork layers prior to printing.


PSD stands for “Photoshop Document”— the program used to create and save this design file type. Some PSD files contain just a single image, but the common use involves multiple images, objects, text, filters, and more, stored in layers within the Adobe Photoshop file. This allows the user to work with those individual layers, even after saving the file. Photoshop is commonly thought of as a program to edit and alter photos, however it is also useful in standard design work, to create flyers, logos, and even animated images or GIFs.


An SVG is a vector-based file and is used to display a variety of graphics, primarily on the web. Due to its nature as a vector, SVG’s are great for their flexibility and versatility that goes beyond the abilities of other web safe files. An SVG speaks more code languages than other files, like PNG, GIF, or JPEG, and allows them to operate smoothly with web-based technology. Your website designer may request an SVG design file to display your company’s logo on your website.


An “Encapsulated PostScript” file or EPS is a vector-based file that is designed to create high-resolution graphics for use in print. Many kinds of design software create EPS files because they are a universal file type, which gives them a great advantage. Creators are not limited to a single program to create, unlike with AI files, and can share and edit across multiple design programs. If you are sending a design to your printer, you can earn some bonus points by including an EPS design file as a standard practice.


Design File Type For Your Project

Choosing the right design file type really comes down to how you plan to use this file. If you are looking to print a logo on a t-shirt or create business cards, the final file type may be in the form of an .EPS file, but may have initially been designed with an .AI or .PSD program. Some printers may also ask for a .PDF file and that is ok too. If you are looking to display a banner ad on your website, you will either use a .PNG or .GIF depending on if it has animation or is static. On social media, you will typically focus on .JPEG images, but can use .PNG for graphic based images. For your website, JPEG images scaled to size offer the best performance along with an SVG logo for scaling on multiple devices. 

At the end of the day, simply take into consideration the final use of the design, file size limitations and if it will need to be scaled further to determine the ultimate file type needed.


Need Help With Your Designs?

Our team can guide you through the design process to ensure you choose the most appropriate design file type for your web, social or print project. Contact us today to discuss your project more!


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