9 Best Image File Types [+ Pros, Cons and the Best Use Cases]

Your site’s best image file types should balance image clarity and file size.

Top websites rely on impactful visuals. 

The best image file types boost your site’s visibility. Using images to break down text also improves readability, which increases overall conversions. 

And while leading sites rely on engaging visuals, image file types aren’t a one-size-fits-all. 

Since 96% of websites roll with different image formats, the wrong type may reduce your site speed, ruining the user experience. 

Feeling lost in the sea of acronyms like JPEG, TIFF, and PSD? 

Don’t sweat it. 

Check out the top 9 image file types, with the lowdown on their pros, cons, and best uses.

Raster vs. Vector Images: What’s the Difference?  

The best image format should have clarity, stellar performance, compatibility, and scalability. This transcends to the type of graphic image.

To nail it, you must first understand the main image graphic formats. There are two major image graphic formats:

  1. Raster Images
  2. Vector Images

Let’s dive deep into understanding them:

Raster Images

Raster images are usually the go-to option for internet graphics and all things print. These files are built from individual blocks or pixels. 

So, the more pixels crammed into a raster image, the higher its resolution or quality. 

Then, each pixel has a definite position, color, and proportion, all based on the image’s resolution. 

But here’s a bummer.

Resizing a raster file is equivalent to stretching a rubber band. You take things too far, and its resolution takes a hit, resulting in a blurry image. 

Typically, raster images can have two types of compression — lossy and lossless. 

Lossy compression scrapes off some of an image’s original data. This trims down its file size, making it quicker to download. 

The catch? It sacrifices a bit of quality, too. 

On the flip side, lossless compression tosses out redundant metadata. It keeps the image’s quality intact while making the file size more manageable.  

Vector Images 

Unlike their raster counterparts, vector image formats are based on algorithms. Line art equations are typically used to alter their proportions. 

The result? Infinite scalability. 

Therefore, the quality or clarity of vector image files doesn’t suffer after modification. These images can be tinier than stamps or larger than salt pans without losing their visual appeal.

Owing to their flexibility, vector image files have diverse applications. You can use them for logos, icons, illustrations, and more.  

9 Best Image File Types and What They’re Best For

The world of image file types can be a rollercoaster. While some offer mind-blowing visual experiences and are seamlessly compatible with multiple platforms and devices, others are on the other end of the spectrum. 

Here are some of the best image file types you can choose from:

1. JPEG (JPG) – Best Image File Type for Web Images

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), or JPG, is a lossy raster image format whose quality takes a dive as the file size shrinks. 

Its compression and support from nearly all platforms, browsers, and devices make it among the most shareable image file types. 

JPEG flaunts millions of colors. And here’s the fun part — it is highly convertible to other formats like WebP and PNG. 

Plus, this image file type can be optimized to boost a site’s speed.

Need to shoot off some preview images to customers or collaborators? Opt for JPEG files, too, because they are downloadable. 

Editing lowers the resolution of JPEG images, so don’t use them for web graphics that require clarity, such as infographics. 

Additionally, JPEG doesn’t support animated images. 

Pros of JPEG (JPG):

  • Supports countless colors 
  • Convertible to other formats 
  • Compatibility with many platforms
  • Loads faster 
  • Easy to share 

Cons of JPEG (JPG):

  • Lacks transparency

2. GIF – Best Image File Type for Animated Memes

Happy Season 17 GIF by The Simpsons - Find & Share on GIPHY
GIF: Ideal for Animated Memes

Like JPEG, Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a raster format. But unlike the former, it has some nifty tricks up its sleeve. 

For instance, GIF supports lossless compression and animations. Use the format to jazz up ads and emails. It can also be handy in spicing up social media content and making quick product guides. 

The best part? Creating these bite-size animations is a breeze, even if you’re not a tech whizz. 

In addition, GIFs are lighter than videos. They are internet-friendly sprinters that load quickly and spread like wildfire. 

Even so, these files are 8-bit images that only support 256 colors, limiting their file sizes. As such, they are a bit blurry and unsuitable for print visuals. 

Most of all, nearly every image viewer, major browsers, and operating systems support GIFs. 

Pros of GIF:

  • Load quickly 
  • Animation support 
  • Easy to create 
  • Impactful 
  • Compatible with many platforms 

 Cons of GIF:

  • Images can have low-resolution

3. PNG –  Best Format for Images With Text and Illustrations 

Think of Portable Network Graphics (PNG) as JPEG 2.0. 

This image format is a superior version of my first pick. And here’s why:

Like GIF, PNG is in the pool of the best lossless raster image file types. It keeps its color contrast and detail after compression.

Want millions of colors? PNG’s got your back, although you might want to dial things down a bit if you’re aiming for lighter images. 

Still, PNG files have better image quality than JPEG and GIF formats. It should be your top pick for graphics requiring crisp text, like infographics, screenshots, and banners.  

This format’s transparency and alpha channel bring smoother backgrounds and edges to the party. This makes it the hero for visual designs like illustrations. 

Similar to JPEG and GIF, PNG supports interlacing. It gives you a sneak peek of low-resolution images as the full-resolution ones prepare to steal the spotlight. 

The only downside is that some websites and platforms don’t support PNG file formats. 

Pros of PNG:

  • Lossless compression 
  • Animation support 
  • Handles millions of colors 
  • High-quality images 
  • Interlacing

Cons of PNG:

  • Limited compatibility

4. WebP – Best Image Format for Bloggers 

WebP is one of the best image file types for stellar lossless and lossy compression.

Sure, most users prefer GIF, JPEG, and PNG. But this raster format deserves just as much attention. 

First, WebP offers efficient lossy and lossless compression. 

Need to shrink image files? WebP is your secret strategy. It delivers higher-resolution images than JPEG and PNG without hogging all your server disk space.

Like PNG, WebP has interlacing capabilities that give you a glimpse of the graphic loading. 

Again, WebP is versatile. Whether an icon, logo or any other web graphic, it handles it like a pro.

And did I mention this format’s animations are sleeker than GIFs? 

If you’re a savvy website owner or blogger, WebP could change the game for you. Use it to optimize your website speed and achieve SEO success. 

Keep a few things in mind, though. Not all image viewers and browsers support WebP.

Plus, small image files can lose their sparkle when converted to this format. 

Pros of WebP:

  • Lossy and lossless compression 
  • Remarkable image quality 
  • Great GIF and JPEG alternative 
  • Interlacing 
  • Versatility 

Con of WebP:

  • Incompatible with some browsers

5. TIFF – Best Image Format for Artwork 

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) also made it on my list of best image file types.

Why did it get the nod? 

For starters, TIFF leverages lossless compression. The files’ quality remains intact regardless of how you edit or store them. 

And if you have limited disk space and need smaller images, this raster format allows you to use lossy compression. 

When printing enormous image files, like artwork, TIFF doesn’t break a sweat. Plus, you can use this format to store graphics for publication. 

Another advantage of this image file type is adaptability.  A single file can effortlessly accommodate additional data like header tags and bonus images. 

For convenience, TIFF is compatible with Linux, Windows, and macOS. 

But every hero has their kryptonite. For TIFF, it’s limited browser support. Sharing those giant TIFFs can be a hassle.

Pros of TIFF:

  • High photographic quality 
  • Works with various operating systems 
  • Adaptable image file format 
  • Lossless compression 
  • Can hold extra information 

Cons of TIFF:

  • Difficult to share 

6. AI –  Best Image Format for Adobe Illustrator Projects 

Adobe Illustrator Image Format

As the name suggests, Adobe Illustrator (AI) belongs to the Adobe clan. 

AI files are typically packed with strokes, lines, shapes, and filters — all the goodies you need to manipulate the images. 

Since AI is a vector image format, it also boasts impressive scalability. You can resize or scale files without stressing over quality loss.

There’s more. AI has garnered the favor of designers because it’s convertible to other formats like PDF, JPEG, and TIFF. This allows for easy viewing and facilitates further editing. 

Many users leverage AI to save Adobe Illustrator projects pending completion. 

In addition, this format is the go-to for creating and tweaking vector designs like logos, icons, business cards, and flyers. 

Now, here’s the not-so-fun part. Most browsers and image viewers don’t support AI. Thus, it’s not the best choice for web images.

Pros of AI:

  • Vector image format 
  • Convertible to other formats 
  • Versatile image file type 
  • Images are customizable 
  • Ideal for large files 

Cons of AI:

  • Unsuitable for web images 

7. PSD – Best Image File Type for Photoshop Projects 

Photoshop Document (PSD) should be on your radar if you plan to dive deep into raster graphics editing.

This layered image file format is custom-made to save the day during your Photoshop adventures.  

In addition to creating raster web images, you can fine-tune artwork for print, such as intricate drawings and colorful paintings. And even better, you can hit reverse if you don’t like the edits. 

PSD also allows you to optimize each image, making it shine for its specific purpose. This can be a breeze because the files come in a lossless format. They don’t lose an ounce of essential data after compression.

With its layers, PSD can be your sidekick in designing app and website mockups. They make it easier to customize user interface (UI) elements.

The icing on the cake? You can use PSD to experiment with video and animation. 

However, this image format lacks vector layers, and most browsers don’t support it. 

Pros of PSD:

  • Lossless format
  • Effectively customizes images 
  • Versatile image format 
  • Animation support
  • Reversible edits

Con of PSD:

  • Limited browser support

8. PDF – Best Format for Print Images 

If you fancy printing an image, Portable Document Format (PDF) is the friend you want beside you. 

Unknown to most, PDF isn’t just for displaying text-based documents. It has a solid vector graphics foundation that saves lossless raster images.

This file format is platform-independent and portable. Since PDF files don’t play favorites, you can view or share them on any device and operation system. 

But quality is where this image format truly shines. It overshadows the likes of JPEG, making it the best choice for printing magazines, illustrations, and visual reports. 

And that’s not all. You can sprinkle interactive elements like call-to-actions (CTAs) and hyperlinks in PDFs. 

Protecting sensitive data? PDF files allow you to slap on a password to prevent unauthorized access. 

Here’s the kicker, though. Tweaking PDFs without special software like Photoshop can be tricky. 

Pros of PDF:

  • Lossless format
  • Supported by many browsers 
  • Can include interactive elements 
  • Easy to share and download
  • Can be secured

Cons of PDF:

  • Difficult to edit

9. HEIF – Best JPEG Alternative 

High-Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) is a great alternative to JPEG. 

This raster image format leverages an advanced compression wizard — High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). The outcome? HEIF images waltz in with better quality than identical JPEG files. 

HEIF is also deemed superior to JPEG because it can bundle a batch of images into a single file. Take advantage of this to save image sequences and additional information like thumbnails. 

When it comes to color, HEIF still impresses. Its 16-bit color depth allows it to represent thousands of colors. 

Transparency? Check. 

4K? Double-check. 

With HEIF, you can create images with transparent backgrounds. Even more convenient, the images will have smoother backgrounds and pop with more vibrant colors than JPEG. 

Unfortunately, this format has limited browser and OS support. 

Pros of HEIF:

  • Efficient compression
  • High image quality 
  • Can save additional data 
  • Transparency 
  • Supports many colors 

Con of HEIF:

  • Limited browser support

Final Thoughts

Ready to pick the right image file types for your needs? Well, these nine contenders are worthy of your consideration. Your goals will also come into play here. 

For instance, if you’re set on improving your site’s traffic, go for formats like JPEG and GIF. All major browsers support them. While JPEG files load faster and enhance user experiences, GIFs are powerful crowd-pleasers. 

Before you make your pick, factor in compatibility, scalability, and image clarity. 

Karol Carter
Karol Carter

Karol Carter is an experienced author and expert in various aspects of web development, online business, and digital marketing. Having worked with notable companies such as Automattic, Adobe, Ahrefs, Ecommerce Platforms, WebsiteSetup.org, WPAstra.com, CodeinWP, WinningWP, and Smashing Magazine, Karol has honed a wide range of skills and knowledge in the industry. From monetizing a blog to understanding the basics of SEO, designing websites, creating engaging content, and optimizing online visibility, Karol has covered it all.

Articles: 26