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Image Formats Mega Cheat Sheet

by Josipa Štrok25. September, 2015

There is no  universal image format that is the best for all scenarios. Every type of image format has their own advantages and disadvantages. Many of us are wondering which of the image formats should use to record the pictures that we take. The correct setting of this parameters depends mostly on what the purpose of the image that you need to process and store.

Image formats can be divided into two categories: raster and vector.

Raster Image Formats

Raster formats are those that display video data using a matrix of picture elements – pixels. Grid has a width and height in pixels, and these are the dimensions of the raster matrix. For each element of the matrix is ​​defined as information about color pixels. Pixel can be assigned the value of transparency and other meta-information. Raster formats commonly use RGB color spectrum, while for professional (printing and similar), use CMYK and other color spaces.

Although each raster image has its original dimensions on which provides the best display of images, it is possible to scale it (zoom). By reducing the image in relation to the original size, losing the image information (for example, if the image is reduced to 50% of its original size, it will be shown every other pixel) and comes to the appearance of the jagged display if there is not applied smoothing algorithm. By enlarging the image, details are lost and therefore image becomes cloudy. Examples of raster image formats include BMP, GIF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, TIFF and others.

Vector Image Formats

Vectors are those formats which display graphic content using meta-information, rather than a network of dots. The main advantage of these formats is that it keeps the original quality of the display content at all levels of scaling.

The main example of content in vector format is a computer typography or fonts. Each font has defined curves (vectors), in order to be suitable for display on a computer and print format in all desired sizes. Today’s vector formats has rich possibilities – drawing your own curve, coloring parts of the curve, toned coloring according to the color chart, animate parts of the curve and the like. In addition, some vector formats offer importing raster images to enable a mixed display of content that originally isn’t in vector. It is obvious that the vector format is provided only to display content that can be described by curves, geometric patterns and other meta-information. Therefore we can not expect a similar image display or raster content in vector format. Using vector graphics is ideal choice to display logos of some organization, typography, regularly shaped and similar content. Example of raster image formats are .svg formats.

We can conclude that not all image formats are created equal. All have different uses and different attributes. Know exactly what image format to use for web, print, social platforms, logos, and much more with this handy cheat sheet below:

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