What’s the difference between GIF, PNG, JPEG, and TIFF?

Your customers see thousands of images every day — make sure yours stand out. From your company website, to your Facebook profile, to your banner ads, visuals are key to attracting and keeping customers. But keep in mind, not all image formats are created equal. Some are meant for charts and diagrams, while others are intended for eye-catching photographs. Check out the most common file types, and find the best fit for you.



Use GIF for simple web graphics with limited colors. GIF files are the smallest of the four because they are always reduced to 256 colors, making for fast-loading visuals. That said, GIF isn’t recommended for files with a large range of colors, like photographs or other detailed imagery. But if you are working with small graphics like banners, charts and buttons, GIF is the best format for the job.


Choose PNG when you need a small file that maintains its original quality. PNG files support millions of colors, plus varying degrees of transparency — so they are perfect for graphic image files, like logos and infographics. However, PNG isn’t compatible with all software or applications. If your goal is to find a file format for widespread use, PNG might complicate the process. But if you need a format that supports millions of colors for your logos and small images, PNG is for you.


JPEG is the go-to format for online photos. It supports a full spectrum of colors, and almost all devices and programs can open and save to the JPEG format — making it the most universal of the four. JPEG files are ideal when you want to keep file size down and don’t mind giving up a little quality to create a very small file. That said, JPEG quality drops when images are edited and saved. If you plan to continually edit your files, JPEG is not the format for the job. But if you need to display photos online, JPEG is just right.


TIFF is best for any bitmap images that you intend to edit. TIFF doesn’t compress to make for smaller files, because they are meant to preserve quality. TIFF files offer options to use tags, layers, and transparency, and are compatible with photo manipulation programs like Photoshop. If you are looking for a small file or a web-friendly format, TIFF isn’t recommended. But if you plan to edit digital images in a working storage format, consider TIFF your go-to.

GIF, PNG, JPEG, and TIFF files are designed for different graphic needs. Chances are, you won’t settle on just one but will use a combination of all of these formats, depending on the task at hand. We know you don’t want the added stress of converting your image files at a moment’s notice. So try an image management tool that converts them for you. This is just one of the many benefits of using Smartimage for your image management needs. Check out more Smartimage benefits or see for yourself with a free trial.

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