What you need to know about image formats

Print vs. Web: What's the difference between EPS vs. JPG vs. GIF?

EPS, JPGs and GIFs are among the most commonly used - and most commonly confused - image file formats. A general understanding of their applications and differences can make a big difference in the quality of your web pages and printed materials.

EPS files are for print use

An EPS may look strange on screen...

There's a good chance an EPS file will display poorly on your computer screen, but this does not mean it will print badly. Regardless of how it looks on your screen, it is the file you need to produce professional-grade printed materials. It is NOT recommended for use on your website.

EPS is the standard file format used for printing (e.g., posters, brochures, signage, etc.), while JPG and GIF files are the most common file formats used on the Internet.

Both JPGs and GIFs are meant to be displayed on screen but NEITHER is meant for professional printing. If you try to print a JPG or a GIF, the image will most likely appear blurred or jagged ("bit-mapped"). Compared to EPSs, they are much smaller resolution files. An EPS file contains vector information, which means its resolution is not determined by pixels. As a result, an EPS can be made as large or small as necessary without compromising print quality or losing design detail.

GIF vs. JPG for web use

GIF for simple images

Sometimes, GIF is okay for photos...

As the number of colors in an Internet image approaches or surpasses 256 (a GIF's maximum), a JPG becomes the better choice. For photos with a simple color scheme, GIFs provide a small file size without sacrificing image clarity.

In general, GIF files are appropriate for logos, line drawings and icons on the Internet, or if you require an animated or transparent image.

A GIF is popular choice for the Internet. It is a bit-mapped graphics file format that supports a maximum of 256 colors, making it practical for almost all Internet graphics except photos. A GIF is the only option for animation online (unless you use Flash or other expensive vector-based animation formats). GIFs also support transparency, which means if you place a transparent GIF over something red, the background color of your GIF image will appear red.

JPG for photos

This is usually the most appropriate format for displaying photographs on the web.

A JPG is a compressed image file suitable for use on the Internet (e.g., your website). It contains raster information, which means that its resolution is determined by the size of its pixels. A JPG can display images consisting of millions of colors – over 16 million, actually. As a result of its powerful compression capabilities, JPGs are good for displaying photos and images with complex color schemes. You can place a JPG in a Microsoft Word document and it may print to a laser-printer well, however, you should never use a JPG when professionally printing documents.

How to open each type of file

GIFs and JPGs can be opened on almost any computer without special software by simply double-clicking on them.

EPS files can be opened in professional image-editing or desktop publishing software programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or PageMaker. In addition, some applications, including Microsoft Word, will let you display but not edit an EPS file.

Insert an EPS file in Word:

  1. First,  you must save the file to your computer somewhere.  (ex. your Desktop or My Documents)

    If you received the EPS file as an e-mail attachment, right-click on the attachment and select "Save As" to save the file to your computer.

    If you are downloading the EPS file from the Internet, click on the download link and select "Save file" instead of "Open file".
  2. Go to the Insert menu and select Illustrations and then Picture.
  3. Select the file from its saved location.

Remember, on screen an EPS file may look blurry, but when printed it will be fine.