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There is an ocean of acronyms in graphic arts. I am going to break them down by raster versus vector, and then there are some hybrid formats that could contain either raster or vector or sometimes both. One of the most common image formats is JPEG. Now you have to keep in mind that JPEG is a lossy format. That means that it discards information because it's a compression. Repeated saving as a JPEG can erode data. JPEGs don't have any support for layers, and they don't have any support for transparency. Now, having an image that's a JPEG doesn't mean that it's a bad image, but there are some things that you might want to look for.
This image has plenty of detail, you can tell by the checkerboard background that the background has been eliminated, that he's floating on transparency. So this is a PSD. Personally, that's my favorite format for images. But sometimes I have to give an image to somebody that doesn't have Photoshop or can't use a PSD. And if I have to send them a JPEG, I am very careful when I make it. Here's one that was not made carefully. Now this is exaggerated, but it's to show you what goes on with aggressive JPEG compression, and you've probably seen images with this problem, with sort of rectangular artifacts.
If you just save an image as a JPEG with very slight compression, you're not going to see these artifacts. But the truth is that every time you open an image, modify it a little bit and then resave it as a JPEG, additional compression takes place. So I recommend that if you receive a JPEG from somebody, when you open it up, resave it as either a TIFF or a PSD, because those are lossless image formats and you're not going to lose any information. TIFF is one of the most common image formats of all. It can be accepted by a wide range of applications.
You can even have layers in TIFFs and transparency, although I'll warn you that some programs will reject a layered TIFF. Illustrator is fine with them, InDesign is fine with them. But here's another small consideration, a layered TIFF versus an equivalent layered PSD, the TIFF is going to be a bigger file size. Here I have a PSD that's 7.7 megabytes and exactly the same pixels, exactly the same layers, the TIFF is 12.3 megabytes. Now that's not a big deal, we have tons of RAM these days, and we have enormous hard drives, so may be it's not really a consideration at all, but I just thought you might like to know.
As I said, PSD is my favorite Photoshop format. It has support for layers, it's accepted by Illustrator and InDesign, and a cool thing that InDesign can do with a PSD is that it can manage those layers with object layer options. That means that InDesign can control the visibility of a layer without you having to go to Photoshop. Now PSDs are not supported by some versions of Word and some other programs, but as long as you're working in a largely Adobe workflow, I'd say PSD is the way to go. PNG, Portable Network Graphic, has support for transparency, it's a lossless format.
It's accepted by both Adobe and Microsoft Office applications, but it has a little bit of shortfall. It has no support for multiple layers. So here is a document that I've created in Photoshop, and you can see in the Layers panel that I have two layers. And if I turn off the top layer, you can see that the girl is floating alone. If I save this as a PNG, I will retain my transparency, you can see where she sort of fades off into the background. But what am I going to lose? In a PNG, I still keep the transparency, but look in my Layers panel, it's all been squished down to one layer.
So I lose the flexibility of having my multiple layers. But again if I have to send it to somebody that needs a PNG, maybe they are going to incorporate it into some web work, it's still a perfectly nice image and it's great that it maintains transparency. Now let's talk about vector formats. AI, which is Adobe Illustrator's native format, is very flexible. It has support for layers and transparency, it also has support for linked and embedded images. One of the neat things Illustrator can do is contain multiple artboards of different sizes. It's supported by InDesign and also by later versions of QuarkXPress.
And then there is EPS. Now that's sort of an older format that stands for Encapsulated Postscript. EPS has no support for layers, no support for transparency, but it's still a viable format, and you may be asked to submit an EPS. A lot of sign shops ask for EPSs, or if there are users of older workflows that just aren't comfortable with AIs, then you need to send them an EPS. But there's really no difference in the internal content when you compare an EPS version of an Illustrator file and the AI. If it's an EPS that was created out of Illustrator, when you open it back up, you still have all your layers and so forth.
But you have a larger file, generally speaking, with an EPS than you do with an AI. It's really just a matter of preference of your recipient, what do they want from you, AI or EPS? But just keep in mind that AI is a more modern format, and you can do a lot of cooler things with it especially in InDesign. And now we get to hybrid formats. PDF, probably the most common hybrid format of all, it can be created by a wide variety of applications, and it can be used as artwork in InDesign if it's created correctly. They are very difficult to edit, and sometimes they are completely impossible to edit, at least safely, without some proprietary applications dedicated to editing PDF.
So you should consider PDF as a final sort of sealed format that you are not going to dig into again. PDFs can contain both raster images and vector artwork, and they can contain multiple pages of different sizes. EPS is also a hybrid format. Now the EPS, I showed you in Illustrator just contains vector and image, but that makes it a hybrid format, right? You may come across EPSs that only contain images, you may find EPSs that only contain vector, but they are still EPSs. So seeing EPS as a file extension does not guarantee that the contents are vector.
And then finally we have the Page Layout formats, InDesign's INDD file, QuarkXPress makes QXDs and QXPs. That's a lot of acronyms to think about, but hopefully I've cleared up some mysteries for you. And may be you have a better idea of which formats are best for your kind of work.
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