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Understanding web file formats

From: Photoshop CS6 for Web Design

Video: Understanding web file formats

When it's time to export our graphics for the web, we have a big choice to make. Which file format do I use? Well, the truth be told, it's up to you and your personal preference. But there are some loose guidelines that you can follow in order to make sure that your images look the best on a web. In web design, we deal with three basic file formats: JPEG, GIF, and PNG. JPEGs are great for smooth toned images with no transparency, meaning that there are no transparent or semi-transparent portions of the image whatsoever. This means that JPEGs are perfect for optimizing photographs, which have a ton of subtle gradations and a wide gamut colors.

Understanding web file formats

When it's time to export our graphics for the web, we have a big choice to make. Which file format do I use? Well, the truth be told, it's up to you and your personal preference. But there are some loose guidelines that you can follow in order to make sure that your images look the best on a web. In web design, we deal with three basic file formats: JPEG, GIF, and PNG. JPEGs are great for smooth toned images with no transparency, meaning that there are no transparent or semi-transparent portions of the image whatsoever. This means that JPEGs are perfect for optimizing photographs, which have a ton of subtle gradations and a wide gamut colors.

JPEGs do not handle images with areas of flat color very well; this is better suited for GIFs and PNGs. GIFs are ideal for low, flat-color images like small logos icons and even rasterized text. GIFs are what call palette-based files, which means that their file size is determined by the number of colors contained within the GIF. While they do support transparency, they don't do it all that well in my opinion. PNGs are the true stars when it comes to transparent graphics. What do I mean by transfer graphics exactly? Well, let's take a look.

I have open here three files: one is GIF, one is a JPEG, and one is a PNG. Let me create a new document by hitting Command+N or Ctrl+N on my keyboard. And I am just going to make this about 800 pixels wide by about 500 pixels tall and I hit OK. Now I'm going to fill this with a color. It does not matter what color it is; just any color will do. So I am going to pick a neutral gray, kind of a dark gray, and then a hit Option+Delete or Alt+Backspace on my keyboard. Now let's say this is a background on a web site and I want to bring one of these images on top of it.

If I want one of these images to have transparency, I need to use something like a GIF or PNG, right? Well, let's see what the GIF looks like. I'll take this and all I am going to is just drag it out and drop it in. You see what happened? Nothing happened. Why is that? First of all, if I go back to that document, you'll notice the Background layer is locked. Normally, to unlock, it I'd double-click. But if you double-click here, it does nothing. That's because this is in an indexed file format. In order to get this into that other document, I have to go Image > Mode, and switch it to RGB.

Now I can drag it over and I'll hold on the Shift key, release my mouse, and release Shift key. Now you notice here that I do have some areas of transparency. It's not an exact square. However, it did not handle the drop shadow very well at all. So therefore, this is not the file format I want for this. So, I will throw that away. Let's drop the JPEG. Just drag that over, drop it in. And now I have really hard sharp edges all the way around it and absolutely no transparency.

Again, not what I am going for. So I'll just undo that with Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. Finally, lets check out the PNG. Take that drag it over and I'll drop it in. And that looks like it's just floating right there. There's nice edges around. The drop shadow looks perfect. So that is exactly what I needed to optimize this image with the transparency. So, it may take a little bit of trial and error when you're working with these web file formats, but my suggestion is you just export it out, go for the smallest file size you can, and then open these up and test them out.

If they look good to you, you should be good to go. If you start having problems like it did with the GIF and the JPEG then it's time to re-optimize it as something else. Now PNGs, like GIFs, are palette-based graphics as well, and they also tend to produce a larger file sizes, so you should be aware of that going in. Usually you can get the lowest file sizes out of a GIF or a JPEG, but the PNG is the only way to go when you're doing transparent graphics. In the end the choice is up to you, but my general rule of thump goes like this: JPEG is exclusively for photos, PNG is great for logos and big transparent objects, and I really only use GIFs if I have to.

As you continue to refine your workflow, you'll find scenarios for each one of these file formats, and hopefully now you understand how and why to use each one.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS6 for Web Design
Photoshop CS6 for Web Design

75 video lessons · 50116 viewers

Justin Seeley
Author

 
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  1. 1m 9s
    1. Welcome
      48s
    2. Using the exercise files
      21s
  2. 25m 50s
    1. Designing for screens
      1m 8s
    2. Decoding screen size and resolution
      3m 9s
    3. Exploring the PSD-to-HTML workflow
      2m 25s
    4. Setting up Photoshop for web work
      5m 29s
    5. Creating a new document for web
      2m 36s
    6. Creating a new document for mobile
      4m 24s
    7. Setting up a responsive web layout
      3m 31s
    8. Creating email newsletter documents
      3m 8s
  3. 20m 39s
    1. Adjusting color settings
      4m 13s
    2. Understanding web color
      4m 0s
    3. Creating a color palette
      4m 56s
    4. Creating custom swatches
      3m 34s
    5. Applying color to shapes and graphics
      3m 56s
  4. 20m 36s
    1. Exploring the Layers panel
      4m 9s
    2. Renaming and grouping layers
      7m 19s
    3. Searching and filtering layers
      3m 11s
    4. Using layer comps effectively
      3m 4s
    5. Using automatic layer selection
      2m 53s
  5. 29m 2s
    1. Using vector shapes vs. pixel shapes
      3m 31s
    2. Creating vector shapes
      5m 2s
    3. Working with fills and strokes
      4m 36s
    4. Working with Smart Objects
      7m 47s
    5. Importing images
      3m 57s
    6. Cropping and resizing images
      4m 9s
  6. 28m 48s
    1. Planning your project
      3m 13s
    2. Using guides and rulers
      6m 40s
    3. Using a grid system
      8m 28s
    4. Developing a layout with shape layers
      4m 4s
    5. Making pixel-perfect adjustments
      6m 23s
  7. 23m 19s
    1. Using point text vs. paragraph text
      2m 10s
    2. Using text as text vs. using text as an image
      2m 47s
    3. Understanding web-safe fonts
      2m 41s
    4. Inserting placeholder text
      4m 2s
    5. Creating and using character styles
      2m 37s
    6. Creating and using paragraph styles
      6m 11s
    7. Creating editable 3D text
      2m 51s
  8. 26m 54s
    1. Understanding layer styles
      7m 0s
    2. Creating and using drop shadows
      3m 23s
    3. Creating better bevels
      6m 9s
    4. Simulating metallic textures
      5m 8s
    5. Saving and applying layer styles
      2m 48s
    6. Turning layer styles into independent layers
      2m 26s
  9. 50m 23s
    1. Starting with a wireframe
      54s
    2. Organizing page structure
      2m 29s
    3. Adding master elements
      5m 37s
    4. Creating navigation
      4m 36s
    5. Working with photographs
      4m 0s
    6. Working with text
      8m 31s
    7. Creating media placeholders
      7m 22s
    8. Creating buttons
      7m 15s
    9. Creating form fields
      7m 54s
    10. Simulating pages with layer comps
      1m 45s
  10. 33m 38s
    1. Understanding slicing
      2m 4s
    2. Slicing up a mockup
      4m 15s
    3. Understanding web file formats
      4m 3s
    4. Exploring the Save for Web dialog
      5m 3s
    5. Optimizing photographs
      4m 17s
    6. Optimizing transparent graphics
      4m 56s
    7. Saving Retina display graphics
      5m 34s
    8. Using the Image Generator (NEW)
      3m 26s
  11. 10m 40s
    1. Understanding image sprites
      1m 25s
    2. Creating a sprite grid
      2m 54s
    3. Assembling a sprite
      4m 51s
    4. Optimizing sprites for the web
      1m 30s
  12. 18m 6s
    1. Creating a basic action
      5m 28s
    2. Exploring batch processing
      2m 55s
    3. Creating droplets
      3m 20s
    4. Using the Fit Image command
      4m 5s
    5. Using the Image Processor
      2m 18s
  13. 6m 56s
    1. Integrating PSD files with Dreamweaver
      3m 22s
    2. Integrating PSD files with Fireworks
      1m 59s
    3. Integrating PSD files with Muse
      1m 35s
  14. 50s
    1. Goodbye
      50s

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