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  Graphic File Formats Learn all the different formats for graphics best for your print job, webpages, etc A little knowledge goes a long way.

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Graphic File Formats

What a lot of us just call "pictures" can exist electronically in any of more than 40 different file formats. They are identified by the "extension," the letters that follow the period in the file name.

When you scan something or edit a digital photo, you're working with a bitmapped or pixel-based image. It's made up of tiny blocks of color – pixels – and you edit by erasing, replacing or changing those pixels. Bitmapped graphics tend to be larger files (more bytes) and they get grainy or fuzzy if you enlarge them very much. File types include .tif, .bmp, .gif, .jpg and .png.

If you draw in a program like Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator, you're creating a vector image. GIS maps and engineering (CAD) drawings are usually vector images.

They are much smaller files (fewer bytes), can be blown up to billboard size and still be clear and sharp, and are edited by selecting and altering individual lines or shapes in the drawing. Vector graphics have nice smooth lines and colors, but lack the shading and color details of a photo. File types include .ai, .eps, .wmf, .drw, and .dxf.

Graphics for high quality printing need to be higher resolution (300 dots per inch for photos) which means they will be larger files. (A full-page color photograph, at 300 dots per inch, would fill up 20 floppy disks). Graphics for the web or Powerpoint presentations can be much lower resolution, usually 72 or 96 dots per inch, the resolution of most computer screens.

For graphics that will be printed, TIF (tag information format) and EPS (encapsulated postscript) are the best formats to use. (The .bmp format is okay too, but more specific to Windows based computers).

TIF's are bitmapped images and are an industry standard for photographs and fine art.

For web graphics, the formats of choice are GIF (pronounced JIFF), JPG and, more recently, PNG. To make the file size smaller, they are all "compressed." Once you compress the image, you lose a little of its quality. The more youu compress, the more youu lose, which starts to show as fuzzy edges and edetails or a dirty/blotchy look. Because GIF's have limited colors they are best for clipart type graphics (and okay for black and white photos). For color photographs JPG's are best. PNG is a new, improved replacement for GIF that is gaining popularity.

Luckily, many current programs will recognize and accept a lot of the different graphics formats. But if you want to minimize troubles with transferring or printing graphics, you should try to stick with these recommended and most common types.

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