PNG vs JPG vs GIF vs BMP vs TIF: Image file formats explained

We all download images or make memes to share them on the social media casually or for professional work. But because turning everything into PDF solves quality issues, we don’t seem to need to look into the image file formats. But what’s the harm in knowing which image file formats are best suited for which purpose? This post discusses the following image file formats and tells you which image format is suited for which occasions:

  2. PNG
  4. GIF
  5. BMP.


PNG vs JPG vs GIF vs BMP vs TIF

We all have heard about most of these file formats, and many of us know exactly when to use which, but many others don’t. So, here is a quick tutorial.

Raster vs. Vector

Before we go into the five file formats picked, it is good to know that there are two main graphic families, Raster and Vector, and all the image file formats listed below belong to the Raster family. The Raster graphics are made of pixels while Vector graphics are made of paths. Also, when you are talking about BITMAP, you mean Raster.

Lossy vs Lossless compression

Again, image file formats can be distinguished based on the compression effects:

  1. Lossy compression: It can compress images very effectively, but since it does not encode all the information, it will not be an exact representation of the original when it is recovered as an image. They are usually suited for photographs, but not for drawings or illustrations.
  2. Lossless compression: It encodes all the information from the original and remains and remains an exact representation of the original when it is decompressed

Uncompressed file format takes the most amount of data and is the exact representations of the image.


Full form: Joint Photographic Experts Group.

Extension: .jpg/.jpeg

The commonest image file format that digital cameras save their images in. JPEG files apply the lossy compression method which can help reduce the file size significantly without compromising the quality. This is the default format for Microsoft Paint files.

Cons: This format is not immune to generational degradation. This means with every edit and resave; the image quality will deteriorate.

Application: Still images, image capture device storage, light, and darkness focused images.

PNG image format

Full form: Portable Network Graphics

Extension: .png

This free open-source alternative to GIF offers 16 million colors. This is the best file format for true-color images that need perfect tone balance. The animated file format of PNG is available with the APNG format. These files have a transparent background.

Cons: Works best with larger file sizes. The PNG format itself doesn’t support animated graphics.

Application: Image editing, web images, images involving layers, like transparency or fading effects. It creates web friendly images.

TIF file extension

Full form: Tagged Image File Format.

Extension: .tif/.tiff

Flexible and easily extensible file format capable of handling device specific color spaces. These files have a transparent background. They are perfect for company logos.

Cons: Not ideal for web browsers.

Application: Photographic file standard in print. OCR software packages.

GIF file format

Full form: Graphics Interchange Format

Extension: .gif

Though this one has low compression ratio than most video formats, it is the most common image animation format.

Cons: Limited to the 8-bit palette (256 colors), not suitable for photographic images or dithering.

Application: Graphics that require few colors, example simplistic diagrams, logos, and animations that have large portions of a single color.

BMP image file format

Full form: Stands for Bitmap

Extension: .bmp

These large uncompressed files are associated with graphic files inside the Windows OS.

Cons: This format is lossless, meaning it cannot be compressed.

Application: Their simplistic structure makes them ideal for Windows programs.

These are the commonest image file formats we use. Now that you know which one is ideal for what purpose, you will be able to manage your image files better.

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Karan Khanna is a passionate Windows 10 user who loves troubleshooting Windows problems in specific and writing about Microsoft technologies in general.