Decoding Graphic Design File Types

File extensions like .JPG and .PNG are significant indicators of how you can use a file — and when it comes to graphic design, understanding the differences between file types is essential to ensure that you are using the suitable file for the job. Below is a glossary to help you navigate file extensions and other helpful information.


While these are not file types, it is essential to understand color modes when choosing the correct files.

  • CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, all inks used in 4 color printing processes. If you see CMYK, Print, or Full Color in a file name, it should be used for printing.
  • RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are light colors. If you see RGB. Digital, or Web in the file name, it is intended for digital uses like TVs, phones, and computers.

Vector vs. Raster Images

A vector file contains lines (based on math) that are infinitely scalable, meaning no matter how much you zoom in or out, the lines will remain clear. Examples of vector formats include .AI, .EPS, and .SVG. Most logos are created as vector files.

  • .ai – (Adobe Illustrator) A design software graphic designers use to create vectors.
  • .eps – (Encapsulated PostScript) A vector-based file format commonly used for printing. It works great for logos and illustrations. If a graphic designer asks for your logo, provide an EPS.
  • .svg – (Scalable Vector Graphics) A vector-based file format commonly used for web graphics. If a web designer asks for your logo, provide an SVG.

A raster file is made up of pixels. When you zoom in on a raster image, you can see the individual pixels, which if low quality can make the image look blurry or pixelated. Raster images are usually used for photographs because they can capture the details of the image more accurately. Examples of raster formats include .JPG, .PNG, and .TIFF.

  • .jpg – (Joint Photographic Experts Group) A compressed raster file type that can be used for print or web. It is often a smaller file size, so make sure it is a high enough resolution to use in your printed pieces (at least 300 dpi). They have an opaque background.
  • .png – (Portable Network Graphics) A compressed raster image. PNG files are commonly used for web graphics as they have a small file size and support transparent backgrounds.
  • .tiff – (Tagged Image File Format) A raster image used for printing purposes. The benefit of a TIFF is its high quality, but a drawback can be its large file size.

We have compiled this guide to help you with image size and resolution.


  • .pdf (Portable Document Format) is for sharing documents. PDF files can contain both vector and raster images and can be opened on any device with a PDF reader. PDF is the most common file type for sharing proofs or sending a final file to a printer.
  • .doc or .txt – Best for word processing applications like sending your project text to a graphic designer. Images should be sent as individual files, not embedded in a Word document.

Did you know? We can make a PDF accessible to screen readers. Suppose your project will be both printed and posted digitally. In that case, you will need two different PDFs – one that has CYMK inks and images for printing and one that has RGB images for digital applications that have been edited for use by a screen reader. For more information about our Document Accessibility Services, check out our blog.

Have more questions about which file is best? Ask the designer working with you or connect with us here.



Posted: September 1, 2023

Category: UF/IFAS Graphics

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