File Types and Their Uses (Part 1)

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Being a Buffalo Printing company for more than a decade, we’ve seen our share of art files – some good, some very bad. When working with a print, video or online designer, you may encounter the need to work with multiple types of files. There are many, but they fit into two categories, bitmap and vector. Once you understand the differences, identifying the files a designer may need from you becomes easy and time is saved. This week’s blog discusses bitmap files.

Bitmap Files (BMP)

The BMP file type is the most basic of digital images. This file type can be used by print and electronic designers. Bitmap is also a broad term describing any image made up of pixels (small square dots that can be viewed on any screen type). It can be used for electronic design but it must be converted for use in print materials. Most of the file types discussed below are BMP files.

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)

The TIFF file is the optimal bitmap file type for printing but is far too large for the web. One will not usually have possession of this file type because it is usually the design­er who creates it using a program that can manip­ulate bitmap images, usually Adobe Photoshop. When the TIFF file is etched onto a printing plate (a flat piece of vinyl or aluminum that transfers ink to the paper), the printing plate will more accurately print the digital image.

Adobe Photoshop (PSD)

The PSD file is a file that can be used for print but cannot be used for the web; however, one can convert Photoshop files into many different bitmap file types that can be put on the web. Also, amazingly if there are paths (2D lines) created within the Photoshop file, one can even export a vector file.

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)

The JPEG is used very often on the web but should not be used for print due to a lack of necessary data needed to create an accurate printing plate from the JPEG – what the photo looks like on the computer screen will not look the same when printed.

Portable Network Graphics (PNG)

The PNG file was created to replace the GIF file. It can replicate far more colors than a GIF but has a larger file size. Despite this file size it is used on the web very often.

Graphic Interchange Format (GIF)

The GIFF file is a file used extensively for the web (largely because it is enabled to have a transparent background if needed) but not at all for print. It only supports 256 colors, far less than needed to accurately replicate colors on print. When putting a logo or some other solid colored graphic on a website, the GIFF is a good file format to use.

For more information, contact Marketing Tech for a free consultation at or (716) 332-4369.

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