Web Image File Formats
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    GraphicsAcademy.com  >  Tutorials  >  Web Image File Formats



    How to Choose the Right Image File Format for Web Images

    There are numerous different file formats that can be used for storing images. However, as far as images for use in web pages, there are really just a few different file formats (plus some special cases) that you need to be concerned with.
    • JPEG:

      This format is optimized for use in storing photographs, and photographic-type images. It uses a lossy method of compression which discards some fine detail of the image, but allows large and detailed pictures to be stored in relatively small files. The loss of detail is not usually noticeable for photographic-type images, but makes the format unsuitable for images with sharp edges, large areas of solid continuous color, or cartoon-type images, and computer-drawn graphics.

      Finally, JPEG files can not contain transparency or animation, but they generally can be read by all web browsers (although there are some advanced variants of JPEG that may not be readable).

    • GIF:

      The GIF format was only originally created by Compuserve, Inc. (GIF is a trademark of Compuserve) for storing small images and animations, and actually first came into common use in the 1980s, even before the internet became widely used. The format uses a lossless compression method which can efficiently store computer-drawn graphics, cartoon-type images, but which is unsuitable for photographic type images.

      A major limitation of GIF is that it can store images with a maximum of 256 colors, which is far less than more video hardware allows.

      On the plus side, GIF is supported by all web browsers, includes a basic transparency feature, and can be used to efficiently store a sequence of images which can be shown as an animated (including a looped animation). These features have led to GIFs continuing popularity, and it is especially common to find GIFs used for banner advertisements.

    • PNG:

      The PNG format was originally created as a successor to GIF, and while it has become popular, it has not supplanted GIF. Like GIF, PNG uses a lossless compression method which can efficiently store computer-drawn graphics, cartoon-type images, but which is unsuitable for photographic type images.

      PNG supports a wide range of different color depths in keeping with modern hardware, and also has more advanced transparency features than GIF.

      PNG is today supported all recent web browsers, although some web browsers, particularly Microsoft's Internet Explorer, have struggled with limitations around some of PNG's more advanced features. Unlike GIF however, PNG does not support animations (there is an optional extension for this, but it is not in common use).

    • WebP:

      WebP is a relative new image format devised by Google. It supports both lossy and lossless compression, as well as many advanced features such as animation, alpha transparency, and tiling many WebP images to produce large composite images. At the time of writing, browser support is somewhat patchy, and you may have to use special techniques to make web pages containing WebP images display properly on all popular web browsers - so we can not unequivocally recommend this format - at present. However, if you need the extra features that WebP provides, it is worth looking at. Furthermore, it is quite likely that WebP will grow in important in future years due to Google backing the format.

    • ICO

      The ICO format has its origins in Microsoft Windows. It was originally used (and modern versions are still used) for storing icons - small graphic images used to represent programs and data. In the case of the web, the ICO format is used for FAVICON's - icons used to represent web sites. See How to make a FAVICON for instructions.

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