A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Illustration Formats: The 4 Most Common Formats to Use

Every picture or graphic you see on the internet is an image file. The majority of what you see printed on paper, plastic, or a t-shirt comes from an image file. These files are available in a variety of formats, each optimized for a specific purpose. Using the right type of file format for the right job ensures that your design will turn out exactly as you intended. The incorrect format could result in poor print or a poor web image, a large download, or a missing graphic in an email.

So let’s dissect it. This is Image File Formats 101. Let’s go over the fundamentals of each file type and illustration format.

Different Types of Illustration Formats (JPG, PNG, AI, SVG)

There is a lot of hesitation about deciding which type of illustration format to use when and why. What is the difference between jpg and png? Which file format will provide me with the highest image quality in any given situation? And will certain file formats cause a project to slow down?
In this article, we will answer all of your questions about the four major file formats you’re likely to encounter when working on your next illustration.


Jpg (or jpeg-another spelling of the file extension) is an abbreviation for Joint Photographic Experts Group. That’s a big name, but it does convey what jpg files are best used for—photographs. This is one of the most popular formats for photos, email graphics, and large web images such as banner ads. JPG images have a sliding scale of compression that greatly reduces file size while increasing artifacts or pixelation as the image is compressed.

If you want to upload a photo anywhere online, save it as a jpg file. Photos in RAW format are large and clumsily loaded with data. JPEGs are incredible because they take all of that information and compress it into smaller file sizes without sacrificing image quality—at least to the naked eye. You can compress jpg files to make them even smaller. JPEG compression comes in two types: lossy and lossless. Lossy compression, as the name implies, degrades image quality slightly, whereas lossless compression preserves image quality. 

A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Illustration Formats: The 4 Most Common Formats to Use


Png is an abbreviation for Portable Network Graphics, and as the name suggests, it is ideal for web graphics. If you have a logo, illustration, or other high-quality images, the png format is a good choice. Png files are lossless, which means that if you save the same file as a jpg and a png, the png file will be more significant. Uploading a photo as a png file to your website would slow down its loading speed.

However, a larger file size is required to maintain graphic quality, so the larger file size is worthwhile. Unlike jpg files, png files can be re-saved multiple times without causing image degradation. Png files also support transparent backgrounds, so if you want to overlay a graphic or logo on top of a colored background on your website, you need to save it as a png.

A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Illustration Formats: The 4 Most Common Formats to Use


AI is a vector file format that stands for files generated in Adobe Illustrator. This file format is based on PDF and EPS standards originated by Adobe. Like EPS and PDF, AI is basically a vector-based format but you can add raster-based high-quality images in these files. AI files can be saved as EPS, SVG, and PDF for easy reviewing and printing.

You can also export these files as PNG, JPG, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, and PSD to use digitally on your social media platforms and on websites.


SVG is an abbreviation for Scalable Vector Graphics. Unlike the other file formats that are raster-based, which means they become blurry when enlarged beyond their original size. SVG files are vector-based, which means they can be scaled to any size without losing quality. There is no other file type that looks as sharp as an SVG. SVG files are actually code, which is a set of mathematical equations that define shapes, colors, and sizes. This is why, no matter how much you scale them, they retain their high quality. However, this means you can’t upload them to websites in the same way you would a jpg, png, or gif.

Instead, you must copy and paste the SVG code into a code block. To create SVG files, you’ll also need a special program. Raster-based programs such as Photoshop will not suffice; instead, use Illustrator, Sketch, or another vector-based program. Logos, icons, and simple graphics work well in SVG files. They will look sharper than a png file and will be much smaller, so they will not slow down your website at all. The only disadvantage is that properly generating and installing them requires a bit more learning.

Criteria for Choosing Illustration Formats

Different platforms require different file formats to process illustrations and other graphics properly. We will discuss the criteria for each illustration format to make things clear. You can check the following points to check what illustration formats to opt for and what to avoid to get better results.

You should use a JPG when

  • You’re working with images and/or artwork from the internet. When it comes to raster editing and compression, JPGs give you the most flexibility, making them perfect for web images that need to be downloaded quickly.
  • You want to have artwork or photos printed. JPGs are ideal for editing before printing because they have low-compression and high-resolution files.
  • You must send a client a quick preview image. JPG images are excellent for emailing because they can be compressed to extremely small sizes.

Avoid using a JPG

  • A transparent web graphic is required. JPGs must have a background that is a solid color because they lack a transparency channel. Your best options for transparency are GIF and PNG.
  • A layered, editable image is required. Since JPGs are flat image formats, all edits are saved to a single image layer and cannot be undone. For an image that can be completely edited, think about a PSD (Photoshop) file.

When in doubt, use a PNG

  • Use PNG when you require high-quality transparent web graphics. In contrast to GIFs, which only have on/off transparency, PNG images have a variable “alpha channel” that can provide any degree of transparency. Plus, with higher color depths, you’ll get a more vibrant image.
  • Use PNG when your illustrations are limited in color. Though PNGs can handle any kind of work files with a limited color palette work best.
  • When a small file is required use PNG. PNG files, particularly images with simple colors, shapes, or text, can be compressed to incredibly small sizes. As a result, it is the ideal image file format for web graphics.

Do not use a PNG

  • You are using photographs or artwork. High-resolution photos can be easily handled by PNGs because of their high color depth but it is a lossless web format and this will result in very large file sizes. 
  • JPEG is the best option if you’re working with photos for the web or a print project. The screen is optimized for PNG graphics. Printing a PNG is possible, but a JPEG (lossy) or TIFF file would be preferable.

When an AI file format should be used?

  • A vector design needs to be edited. With just a few clicks, you can move every component of your design in an AI file.
  • A logo, icon, or brand mascot must be made. Illustrator is the best option for creating vector shapes and lines because they can be enlarged to any size, making them perfect for images that need to be used in a variety of ways.
  • You need a high-quality layered illustration format for printing. Adobe Illustrator is preferred when you want to create a business card, flyer, poster, or anything else f this sort.

Avoid using an AI

  • When raster-based image editing is required. There are only a few tools in Illustrator that can be used to directly edit a raster image (such as a picture or piece of artwork) that is being used in a composition. More thorough adjustments can be made to things like color, contrast, and brightness in Photoshop (PSD files).

SVG should be used

  • You wish to produce computer-generated graphs and diagrams for online publication.

Avoid using SVG

  • A file format is required for a print workflow.

Steps to Converting Illustration Formats Online

Images can be converted from one illustration format (such as JPG, BMP, or TIF) to another using an image converter, a type of illustration format converter. This kind of software can be useful if you’re unable to use a photo, graphic, or another type of image file the way you’d like to because the format isn’t supported.
A list of the top free image converter programs can be found below. Some even function as online services, enabling you to convert images without having to download any software.

  1. Image Candy
  2. XnConvert
  3. Coolutils
  4. Zamzar
  5. FileZigZag
A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Illustration Formats: The 4 Most Common Formats to Use
Source: Image Candy

Download Free Illustrations on illustAC

Vector images and illustrations, in contrast to raster images, are adaptable and scalable enough to maintain quality when enlarged beyond their original dimensions. It is therefore ideal for use in both print and web design. Are you looking for a place to get free vectors for your upcoming project?

Free illustrations, vector graphics, and clipart can be found on the artistic website illustAC, which belongs to AC works Co., Ltd. You can find and download a wide range of free, high-quality illustration resources and inspirations on the illustAC website, particularly those that are related to Asian culture. Even though some (if not all) of them are free, we still advise reading and comprehending their license before downloading and using these free vectors.


There are plenty of picture and illustration formats available online that you can use perfectly for your projects. You may now have a better understanding of which image file types and illustration formats to use when and where to get the best results. For images and pictures, PNG and JPG work best, whereas AI and SVG are excellent alternatives for logos, icons, and digital graphics. Not only does using the appropriate illustration formats and image file types for the job speed up page load times, but it can also reduce bandwidth usage and server load. Your overall user experience will also significantly improve as a result of this. Not bad, huh?

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