Web Design

Understanding PNG, JPEG, and TIFF: Key Differences Explained



7 min. read

From capturing precious memories to creating stunning website graphics, visuals are critical in how we communicate and express our business. But have you ever looked at a list of file extensions like .png vs .jpg, vs .tiff, wondering which one to choose?

Admiral Studios want to share three of the most common formats: TIFF vs JPEG vs PNG, helping you understand their key differences and choose the best option for your specific needs.

Understanding File Size and Compression

Before we learn the specifics of each format, let's establish a foundational concept: compression. Images are essentially a collection of data points representing colors and positions. Compression techniques help reduce the file size by discarding some of this data. There are two main types of compression:

  • Lossless compression: This type retains all the original image data, ensuring perfect quality but resulting in larger file sizes.

  • Lossy compression: This method discards some data during compression, leading to smaller file sizes but potentially sacrificing some image quality.

In essence, understanding file size and compression equips you to make informed decisions when choosing between formats like PNG, JPEG, and TIFF.

What is TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

TIFF, which stands for Tagged Image File Format, is a versatile image format popular among professional photographers, graphic designers, and those in the publishing industry. 

TIFF files are best used for professional photography, UI/UX design, and image editing. TIFF excels at storing high-quality images with intricate details.

Compression: TIFF offers both lossless (LZW) and lossy (JPEG) compression options. Lossless TIFF files are ideal for archival purposes and professional editing, while compressed TIFFs provide a good balance between quality and size.


  • Unmatched image quality: TIFF is the gold standard for preserving image detail, making it perfect for high-resolution photos and complex graphics.

  • Flexibility: Supports various color depths (from black and white to 16-bit color) and can store additional information like layers (useful for editing software).

  • Wide compatibility: Supported by virtually all image editing programs, ensuring accessibility across platforms.


  • Large file sizes: Due to its focus on quality, uncompressed TIFF files can be quite large, making them unsuitable for web use.

  • Not ideal for web graphics: TIFF doesn't support transparency or animation, limiting its use for web design elements.

Is TIFF better than JPEG? TIFF vs JPEG is different in preserving image detail, making TIFF ideal for professional photography and editing. However, this quality comes at a cost – TIFF files are much larger than JPEGs, which are better suited for sharing photos online or storing large collections due to their smaller file size. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your priority: unmatched quality (TIFF) vs smaller file size (JPEG).

Exploring JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group (the committee that created the standard), is the smallest image format and is most widely used for photographs and other continuous-tone images.

It is the go-to format for digital photos and web graphics. JPEG excels at compressing photographic images while maintaining a good balance between quality and file size.

Compression: JPEG uses a lossy compression technique that discards color data deemed less critical to the human eye. The compression level can be adjusted, offering a trade-off between file size and image quality.


  • Smaller file sizes: Compared to TIFF, JPEG files are significantly smaller, making them ideal for web applications and email attachments.

  • Good for photographic images: JPEG effectively compresses photos with minimal impact on perceived quality, especially for everyday use.


  • Loss of image quality: With each save using JPEG compression, some data is permanently lost, leading to a gradual decline in image quality, especially with repeated editing.

  • Not ideal for text or graphics: JPEG compression can blur the sharp edges of text and graphics, making them less suitable for these applications.

  • Does not support transparency: JPEG images have a solid background and cannot display transparent areas.

JPEG is the king of compressed photo formats. It balances image quality and file size well, making it ideal for sharing and storing photos. However, other formats like TIFF or PNG might be better suited if you prioritize absolute image fidelity for professional editing or require transparency.

Understanding PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

PNG, meaning Portable Network Graphics, is a popular image format known for its ability to handle sharp details, transparency, and lossless compression.

It is popular for web graphics, logos, icons, and illustrations with flat colors and sharp lines. PNG excels at preserving image details while offering transparency options.

Compression: PNG utilizes lossless compression, ensuring perfect image quality but resulting in larger file sizes compared to JPEG.


  • Lossless compression: PNG files retain all the original data, guaranteeing sharp edges and crisp details – perfect for text, logos, and icons.

  • Supports transparency: PNG offers various transparency levels, allowing for seamless integration with web page backgrounds or layering effects.

  • Widely compatible: All major browsers and operating systems are supported, making it a versatile choice for web graphics.


  • Larger file sizes: Compared to JPEG, PNG files can be significantly larger, especially for images with many colors.

  • Not ideal for photographs: PNG is less efficient at compressing photos with complex color variations, leading to potentially larger file sizes compared to JPEG.

PNG is the best format for web graphics and applications, and maintaining sharp details and transparency is crucial. Comparing TIFF vs PNG, you need to consider your requirements. Need the absolute best image quality for professional editing? TIFF is your choice. But PNG is the champion if you prioritize web graphics with sharp details and transparency.

Choosing the Right Format: A Quick Guide

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of TIFF vs JPEG and PNG, you're well on your way to selecting the perfect format for your needs. Here's a simplified breakdown to help you choose the optimal image format for your needs:

  • For clear quality, prioritize TIFF images: Ideal for professional photography and graphic design where every detail matters. Offers lossless compression, ensuring the highest image quality. Downside: It has large file sizes due to the focus on detail, not ideal for web use.

  • For a balance between quality and size, choose JPEG: The go-to format for digital photos and web graphics. Uses lossy compression, achieving smaller file sizes with a good balance in image quality (especially for everyday use). Consider this: Some image quality is lost with repeated editing and saving.

  • PNG is the best for web graphics with sharp details and transparency: Perfect for logos, icons, and illustrations with flat colors and sharp lines. Utilizes lossless compression, preserving details for crisp visuals. Offers transparency options for seamless integration with web pages. Beware: It has larger file sizes compared to JPEG, especially for images with many colors.

Don't hesitate to experiment and find the format that best suits your project. With these insights, you can unlock the full potential of your visuals and increase your presence on digital networks.

Beyond File Format: Optimizing Images for the Web

Choosing the right format is just one piece of the puzzle. Here are some additional tips for optimizing images for web use:

  • Resize images: Ensure your images are no larger than necessary for display on your website. Most web design software can help you resize images efficiently.

  • Utilize image editing tools: Tools like Photoshop or GIMP can be used to optimize image quality and file size further.

  • Consider online optimization tools: Several free online tools can help compress and optimize images for web use.

Understanding the key differences between image formats empowers you to make informed decisions for your visual content. You can choose the image format that best suits your needs by considering factors like image quality, file size, transparency, and intended use. Remember, there's no single "best" format – the optimal choice depends on the specific situation. Don't hesitate to experiment and find the perfect balance between image quality and file size for your project.