I have an art blog where I post a lot of my work, and I always want to make sure that based on the type of art I’ve done, whether done digitally or scanned into my computer, I edit and save it in the best quality. Personally, I’ve always found it hard to distinguish the differences between the most supported image formats on the web: GIFs, PNGs, and of course, JPEGs. Apparently, all of them are great to use, but serve different functions for different kinds of images.
JPEG is short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the original name of the committee that wrote the standard. JPEG is one of the image file formats supported on the Web. JPEG is a lossy compression technique that is designed to compress color and grayscale continuous-tone images. The information that is discarded in the compression is information that the human eye cannot detect. JPEG images support 16 million colors and are best suited for photographs, images with a lot of colors and gradients, and complex graphics, but do not support transparency. The user typically has to compromise on either the quality of the image or the size of the file. JPEG does not work well on line drawings, lettering or simple graphics because there is not a lot of the image that can be thrown out in the lossy process, so the image loses clarity and sharpness.
GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format, another of the graphics formats supported by the Web. Unlike JPEG, the GIF format is a lossless compression technique and it supports only 256 colors. GIF is better than JPEG for images with only a few distinct colors, such as line drawings, black and white images and small text that is only a few pixels high. With an animation editor, GIF images can be put together for animated images. GIF also supports transparency, where the background color can be set to transparent in order to let the color on the underlying Web page to show through. However, the transparency is not completely clean.
PNG is short for Portable Network Graphics, the third graphics standard supported by the Web (though not supported by all browsers). PNG was developed as a patent-free answer to the GIF format but is also an improvement on the GIF technique. It works ideally with graphic images, like logos, especially for transparency purposes. An image in a lossless PNG file can be 5%-25% more compressed than a GIF file of the same image. PNG builds on the idea of transparency in GIF images and allows the control of the degree of transparency, known as opacity. Saving, restoring and re-saving a PNG image will not degrade its quality. PNG does not support animation like GIF does.
So in conclusion, depending on the kind of art I want to post, I need to pay attention to what each file format supports best. To upload a complex, colored piece I made, I should use JPEG, which supports the most colors. If I only have a line drawing, or if I want to upload an animation, GIF is the way to go. If I want to make sure that all of my transparent sections of my image are clean, and it’s something like a graphic or logo, PNG is my best bet.
Fellow artists, take heed! To make sure your work is shown in the quality it deserves when uploaded online, pay attention to the file you decide to save it in.
By Mary Rose Fiondella