The average person doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about different digital image formats, tending to use what’s convenient from their digital camera or cellphone.
After all, your computer will display an image on your screen in whatever format it’s already in, and that does the job just fine.
However, if you’re trying to get into photography, graphic design, or image publishing, you’ll definitely want to know a little more about the differences between image formats.
In fact, even if you simply want to preserve priceless memories in the highest-quality image format possible, it’s worth looking into this article.
The simple answer to the question of which image format produces the highest-quality image is the TIF (TIFF).
Although there are plenty of factors that should be considered when determining what the best image format is for your needs, so read on to find out everything you need to know…
Why Are TIF (TIFF) Images Considered The Highest Quality?
To understand why TIF-format images are so desirable in terms of quality. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what they are.
A TIF file is lossless (including the LZW compression option), meaning it produces an image that is more suitable for high-quality post-production.
Because the image is not compressed like other types of image files, it can be scaled to larger sizes while maintaining a high level of quality.
Despite this, TIF files aren’t actually always the most high-quality format for digital images. We consider them to be the best simply because they are more suitable for image post-production. The use of TIF files on the web can lead to larger than desired files, which go against keeping sites zippy and fast.
However, in some cases, other image formats might be able to produce a higher-quality image overall. Use TIFF files when you need super high-resolution but don’t need to worry about compression or file size.
Which Software Are Compatible With TIF-Format Images?
Not every piece of commercial software supports the use of TIF files, but you will find that the main, most popular ones do.
Photo viewing software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, ACDSee Classic, CorelDRAW, Image Viewer, and Picasa all support TIF files and will allow you to view very high-quality images.
On the other hand, the list of photo editing software that you can use TIF files with is much smaller.
Tiff Splitter and Tiff Combiner are the two most popular ones, but there are likely plenty of other smaller software out there that will also work.
Pros and Cons of the TIF Format
We’ve already established why TIF-format images are so desirable in the world of graphic design and image publishing.
They are very well-suited to post-production and can be scaled up to a very large size without compromising quality too much.
Therefore, if you need to print images in large sizes, having those images in digital TIF files will often be beneficial for you.
Similarly, if you are scanning documents or other physical files, TIF format files will give you the highest-quality scans of the originals.
The main downside to using TIF files is that they don’t translate particularly well to digital publishing.
For example, if you only need image files to be displayed on a website using a web browser, you’re much better off using other formats that are better suited to digital production.
The main function of a TIF file is to be printed as a physical copy of an original digital image. Bear this in mind when deciding which high quality image format is best for your needs.
Other High-Quality Image Formats
Of course, TIF files aren’t the only ones that can produce high-quality images for a number of purposes. Let’s take a look at some of the popular alternatives:
JPEG (JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group)
This is a file format that pretty much everyone is familiar with. Even if you’ve never heard of it before, there’s a good chance you’ve used or seen them on web pages before.
It’s a very convenient and popular web graphics format to use for file viewing and sharing because of how versatile it is. You can save images in low, medium, or high-quality formats, depending on how much space you need to save (to make some of the smaller file sizes needed on some websites). They are, however, raster formats, meaning they are lower in picture quality when subject to high compression, being that they are pixel-by-pixel and not vectorized.
You can also select less compressed options with this format to produce and share higher-quality images. There really are plenty of options presented by JPEG format images!
One of the other key benefits of this format is that it allows you to save space on your computer or on a memory card within a digital camera or cellphone. They are used on web pages, social media posts, and often in program screens.
In general, JPEGs don’t take up a great deal of memory space, but you can also choose to convert your files to lower-quality images if you need to make the file even smaller in terms of data size.
JPEGs don’t have many downsides, but they still aren’t perfect. The highest possible image quality you can achieve with JPEGs isn’t quite as good as TIFs, especially with printed images. The raster pictures cannot be scaled up without significant loss in quality and detail, for example. These files use lossy compression.
Also, JPEGs present issues when it comes to generating transparent backgrounds. For example, if you need to remove the background of an image to publish it on a website, JPEG files will need to have a plain, single solid background color for it to be possible.
Other image formats have much better transparency channels for this purpose.
PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
Another very commonly used, but not often appreciated, the image format is PNG. This is a lossless format, meaning they use a lossless compression algorithhm.
The PNG file is one of the best formats to use for image editing and is great for creating transparent backgrounds, opacity, and all kinds of effects.
This is the go-to format for graphic designers when creating logos, in part because they can contain transparent backgrounds.
In fact, PNG images are also able to hold a great level of image quality in a variety of sizes.
It doesn’t have the best maximum possible image quality, but it is still very good, considering how useful it is for image editing.
However, this format also isn’t perfect, and the main issue with PNG images has to do with file size.
PNG files take up a lot of memory space, regardless of the actual size of the image. Therefore, they’re not great for dealing with images like photographs or printed artwork.
In general, PNG images are best suited to purely digital formats like website design and logos. They do not work quite as well as other formats for printed images.
SVG images are a great choice for high-quality, high-resolution images on the web, due to their use of compression to store vector graphics as image data, as opposed to raster images which are defined pixel-by-pixel.
Vector images and graphics can be scaled up or down without losing any quality, making them ideal for responsive websites, where images need to look good on different screen sizes, breakpoints, and resolutions.
The SVG format also has the benefit of being much smaller in file size than traditional raster graphics, so it helps quite a bit with website page speed, allowing pages to load quickly through the use of this vector image format.
Overall, SVG images on the web offer a great combination of quality, resolution, and speed that makes them a solid option for designers, developers, and marketers.
The webp image file format is one of the most popular contemporary formats for websites and high-resolution images, all due to its unique ability to compress to a small file size without compromising quality.
This makes it an ideal format for websites where space may be limited, and helps improve load time, but also retains high quality and resolution for sharp and clear graphics.
The compression also helps reduce website and page loading time, providing a superior user experience and quick, efficient access to content.
Plus, with support from popular browser software like Google Chrome, webp is a great image file type choice for displaying both high-quality pictures and videos on your website. The versatility of WEBP helps make it one of the best image file types available on the web.
The EPS format is also a popular choice for web imagery because it offers high-quality results without sacrificing compression. This has, for the most part, been replaced, however, by the .ai file format in Adobe software products, normally in image editors.
This format is an excellent choice for any kind of image that needs to look visually rich but without taking up too much file space.
It can be used for logos, icons, and other graphics that need to be scaled up or down without losing their quality, giving the EPS file format an advantage with images that are still easily editable, even after being compressed.
The EPS file format makes an ideal vehicle for web graphics since they can be modified with relative ease.
Furthermore, since the files are vector-based in nature, they can be scaled up or down without any loss of quality.
All in all, the EPS graphic file type makes for a great choice with regard to web graphics retaining a balance between high-quality results and flexibility when it comes to editing and scaling works for the web.
PSD image formats are a type of file format that is used for high-quality, high-resolution images. They are also very commonly used as photoshop documents by designers, since they can help develop complex images, output to many different image formats, and are an excellent choice for coming back to edit and make revisions to later.
They are commonly used in by graphic designers and the graphics industry at large, as they contain layers and transparency information that is not available with other graphic formats. This somewhat raw format provides the structural elements for the output tagged image file format.
PSD files can also be compressed to reduce their file size while still maintaining quality, and despite being a popular choice for designers, PSD images are not typically used on the web as outputs due to their large file size (normally, these are ported into other formats).
Other image formats like JPG, PNG, and GIF are more commonly used on websites as they provide much smaller file sizes with reasonable quality and can be output from the PSD format from editors like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, which uses the file format.
PDF (Portable Document Format)
PDF file formats are becoming increasingly popular for use on the web because of their ability to compress high-resolution images into smaller file sizes.
This makes them a good option for websites that require high-quality images and offer a great deal of flexibility, allowing them to be used for different types of graphics and other visuals.
PDF’s are widely compatible with most web browsers and operating systems, making for easier integration with any website.
Additionally, PDF files can be quickly loaded, providing users with a fast, seamless experience when accessing content online.
All in all, PDF can be a good solution for developing visuals on websites that keep high-quality visuals and which need speedy performance.
The AI file format is a type of high-resolution graphics format developed by Adobe Systems. It is mainly used for storing high-quality graphics such as illustrations and logos.
The AI file type allows for the compression of an image, which makes it easier to store and transmit over the web. The ability to scale images to larger image sizes, often also is quite valuable.
Additionally, it allows for higher quality images than other formats, being a vector file, meaning that you can use them to create stunning visuals with more detail than many other image formats that tend to be raster image based.
AI images are commonly used on websites for displaying logos and various print materials such as brochures, business cards, posters, and magazines since they are vectorized.
The AI image format has become an essential part of website design and development due to its ability to display detailed graphics without compromising on quality or resolution.
This all being said, they are used almost exclusively in the Adobe suite of creative products (ie: Adobe Illustrator image editor), and can not be used directly as a format on websites, requiring the porting out into another common contemporary web file format. Picture elements can be segmented and isolated for a larger composition by designers, then used in a number of different resulting outputs and file extensions.
GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)
You may have come across GIF files before and thought it refers to small, repeating videos. This is definitely what this format is best known for, though it can also be used for still images.
GIF files are great for creating moving animations in software like Photoshop and can be digitally exported in a variety of quality levels.
You can also export these files in varying sizes. If you need a particularly small animation or image, GIF is your go-to format.
The main downside to using the GIF format is that it can not generate very high-quality images. The loss of quality, lower resolution, limited palette of different colors, and larger file size make it useful only for limited applications.
This is true whether you want to print your image in a physical format or simply want to publish it digitally.
GIF files simply don’t have enough depth to produce the highest-quality images possible, despite their convenience, as raster graphics.
Final Thoughts on the Highest-Quality Image Formats You Should Consider
Of course, there are plenty of other common image formats out there that we didn’t have time to go over, and many, like RAW files, offer superb quality and resolution, however, and may have limited support and uses. Raw images provide amazing quality and resolution but were never meant to be compressed and circulated on low-throughput systems or networks.
The ones we’ve looked at here are some of the most popular and most commonly used file formats, so you’re bound to have used at least one of them before, even if you didn’t know it! The best format depends on what you need it for, where it will be used, the right sizing, storage space, quality, and compression.
While TIF files are able to produce the best quality and image resolution for print publishing, it’s not the best when it comes to digital publishing. You might want to stick to PNG, JPG, or WEBP to get a great balance for a website or digital property, with some of these being lossless image formats.
You’ll have to bear in mind all of the factors we’ve looked at in this article when deciding which image format provides the best results for your particular needs.