What is a PNG file?
As nearly anyone making content on the web knows, there are a confounding number of image file types. Which one is best ? In this short series from Shorthand, we’re going deep on some of the most popular file types, so you can talk a little more confidently to your designer, developer, or team.
A PNG (Portable Network Graphic) file is a type of raster image file that is commonly used on the internet. PNG files are ‘lossless.’ This means they have a fixed number of pixels, and do not lose any quality when they are compressed.
This makes them ideal for storing images that need to be high quality, such as logos, photos, and screenshots. PNG images also support transparency, which can be useful for creating web graphics with transparent backgrounds.
Have more questions? In this guide, we’ll cover:
- A broader definition of the PNG file
- The history of the PNG file
- The major benefits of PNGs
- The major downsides to PNGs
- How to open, edit, and convert a PNG
- The difference between PNGs, GIFs, JPGs, and TIFFs
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What is a PNG?
PNG files are created using the Portable Network Graphic file format. This format was developed in 1995 as a way to create images that were optimised for the internet.
PNG files are often used to store images on websites because their compression algorithm allows them to be compressed without losing any quality, which makes them smaller than JPEGs. This makes them quicker to download, which can be important when viewing images on the internet. It also makes them great for storing high-quality images.
PNG files also support transparency, which can be useful for creating web graphics with transparent backgrounds.
The history of the PNG file
The PNG file format was first created in 1995 by a group of people who called themselves the PNG Development Group. The goal of the group was to create a new image format that would be better than the popular GIF format.
PNG files are based on the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) format, so they can support both lossy and lossless compression. While most PNGs are images, the use cases for the PNG file format is not limited to just images. They can also store text, binary data, or even entire web pages.
Benefits of PNG files
We’ve mentioned some of these already, but here are the main benefits of PNG files in a handy list:
- PNG files are smaller than JPEGs, meaning they take up less space and download faster
- PNG files support transparency, which can be useful for creating web graphics with transparent backgrounds
- PNG files do not lose any image quality when they are compressed, making them a good choice for storing high-quality images
- PNG files are supported by all major web browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari, and can be used on websites of all sizes.
- PNG files support interlaced mode. This mode creates a lower-resolution version of the image that can be displayed quickly, then improved as it's displayed more fully. This is ideal for large images that will be viewed online.
Downsides of PNG files
- PNGs do not support animation like some other formats (such as GIF images)
- PNGs can be difficult to edit because they are lossless (meaning that any changes made to the file will be permanent)
- While PNGs can be transparent, but this transparency can sometimes result in artefacts around the edges of the image
How to open, edit, and convert a PNG
How to open PNG files
Opening a PNG file is simple. To open a PNG file in Microsoft Windows or Mac, you will need an app that supports the PNG format. But most web browsers support PNG files, so you can usually open them by clicking on the image; alternatively, you can use apps that come with your operating system, such as Apple Preview.
How to edit a PNG
If you need to edit a PNG file, you will need an image editing program, such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, or Paint.NET. You can also edit a PNG file online using an image editor, such as Pixlr.
How to convert a PNG
If you need to convert a PNG file to another format, such as JPG, BMP or PDF, you can use an online converter, such as Zamzar or FileZigzag. You can also convert a PNG file using an image editing program, such as Photoshop.
What's the difference between a PNG and a JPG?
PNG files and JPEG files are two different types of image file formats.
PNG files are lossless, meaning that they do not lose any quality when they are compressed. This makes them ideal for storing images that need to be high quality, such as logos or photos. PNG files also support transparency, which can be useful for creating web graphics with transparent backgrounds.
JPEG files are lossy, meaning that they lose some quality when they are compressed. This makes them less ideal for storing high-quality images, but they are still a common format for photos. JPEG files do not support transparency.
There are a few occasions when you might want to use a PNG file instead of a JPEG. If you are storing an image that needs to be high quality, such as a logo or a photo, then you should use a PNG file. PNG files are also useful for creating web graphics with transparent backgrounds. If you are sending an image in an email or posting it on a website, then it is best to use a PNG file instead of a JPEG.
What's the difference between a PNG and a GIF?
GIF files (or Graphics Interchange Format) are limited to 256 colours, while PNG files can have millions of colours. This makes PNG files better for photographs and other images with many colours, while GIF files are better for images with few colours or simple graphics.
PNG files also support transparency, which can be handy for logos and other images with areas that you want to remain transparent when placed on top of a background colour. GIFs only support binary transparency, meaning an image either is transparent or it isn't; PNGs support 8-bit transparency, allowing for partially transparent images.
What’s the difference between a PNG and a TIFF?
A TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) file is a type of image file that can be saved with layers. This makes it a good choice for high-resolution images, as it allows for more flexibility in terms of editing and customisation.
The difference between a TIFF and PNG file is that a TIFF file can be saved with layers, while a PNG file cannot. PNG files are typically used for web graphics, as they are smaller in size and can be compressed more than a TIFF file. When it comes to quality, a PNG file can be saved at a higher compression rate than a TIFF file without losing quality.
When is it best to use a TIFF over a PNG? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the decision will depend on the specific situation. However, in general, TIFF files are better suited for high-resolution images, while PNG files are better suited for web design and graphics.
In short, PNG files are a versatile image format that have many benefits over other formats. They are smaller than JPEGs, support transparency, and do not lose quality when compressed. They are supported by all major web browsers and can be used for storing high-quality images. However, they do not support animation and can be difficult to edit.