Image Types, Explained

Digital image files can come in many different formats, all of which can encode your digital images. There are numerous image types to select from because of compression and the many ways it can be obtained. 

Without being compressed, an image file can be exceedingly large and time-consuming to download. When you want to compress an image, it’s important to understand every image type available. 

Difference Between Lossy and Lossless

Two of the most commonly used compression methods include lossy and lossless. The lossless compression technique is designed to display an image without reducing its quality more efficiently. 

On the other hand, using lossy compression causes image quality to worsen somewhat while substantially reducing the size of an image. 

Different Forms of Images


This image type creates a simple table that’s comprised of 256 colors. These colors are taken from a library of 16 million options. If your image has less than 256 colors, the GIF file will accurately render your image. 

If the image contains more than 256 colors, the GIF software uses numerous algorithms to create an approximate image with the 256 colors that the software can use. GIFs can compress images by lowering the number of colors that the image uses.


This is considered to be a lossless format, which means that it can accurately display the image you would like to turn into a file. The PNG format looks for common patterns in the digital image to further compress the file size. If your image contains over 256 colors, this is a great file format to use. 


This format is considered the most versatile image type available since it can be displayed with lossless or lossy compression. In most cases, TIFF will be a lossless file that isn’t compressed at all. As such, the image’s file size can be large. If you want the best quality that an image format can offer, the TIFF format may be right for you.


This image format can be found on high-end digital cameras. Even though the RAW format is lossless, the file size is 3-4 times smaller than the TIFF file size. The RAW format isn’t meant to be shared online since it’s similar to a film negative. Instead, you should convert the image to JPG or PNG. 


This format is ideally used with images that contain many colors. JPG can compress an image extensively without causing issues with image quality. When a JPG image is moderately compressed, it’s tough to identify the difference between the original and JPG versions. 

The JPG format is best used when converting images on your camera to digital images that can be stored on your computer.


This is an uncompressed format that Microsoft originally created. Since this is a proprietary format, it’s hardly ever used. If you currently have some BMP images, certain software can convert BMP to PDF, making the file much more accessible. 


These are proprietary formats that Adobe Photoshop and PaintShop Pro mainly use. You should use these formats when you want to edit one or more of your images. 

Using Adobe Acrobat for PDF Viewing/Editing

If you want to use images in a document that you’re creating, it’s highly recommended that you convert your images to a PDF, which is a document format that can be viewed and easily edited. 

The most effective PDF viewing and editing software is Adobe Acrobat, which also allows you to manage and print files.

 While every image format has its benefits, they are all meant to be used with different applications. If the image quality is your primary concern, TIFF and PNG are likely your best options. On the other hand, JPG and GIF can be helpful when you want to display images on the internet.

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