How to Choose the Best Format for Images on Your Social Media Site

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

One of the most common questions about images for social media sites concerns when to use GIF or PNG and when to use JPEG. There are simple guidelines for you to follow.

Format Best Use
GIF (.gif) For line art (such as one- or two-color logos), simple
drawings, animations, and basically any image that has no gradients
or blends. GIF is also the best format for displaying an image with
a transparent background.
Animated GIF The simplest way to add animation to a web page.
PNG (.png) Generally produces better-looking images with smaller file
sizes than GIF for the same kinds of limited-color images.
TIFF (.tif) High-quality image files, commonly used by print shops.
PSD (.psd) Images saved in PSD format after being edited allow you to go
back and make further changes to the image, or reverse changes that
they made (either by deleting adjustment layers or finding a
previous restore point).
Camera RAW (.raw or .dng) Talented photo editors can use Camera RAW files to pull details
out of situations where a standard JPEG file would have muddy
shadows or blown-out highlights.
JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) The best format for colorful, complex images (such as
photographs); images containing gradients or color blends; and any
other images with millions of colors.
BMP BMP, or bitmap image files, are used by many platforms and are
easily readable by many devices.

Here are additional takeaways about the various image format types:

  • One advantage that PNG files have over the more common JPEG files is that PNG files can have transparent areas, where the underlying colors or patterns on a web page can show through.

  • PSD files are the complex, uncompressed, and multilayered files created by Photoshop. Most social media sites don’t accept PSD files, so you have to save your creation into GIF, JPEG, or PNG file format.

  • TIFFs are often uncompressed and include multiple layers, resulting in large file sizes.

  • RAW or digital negative files are uncompressed files saved by high-end digital cameras. They contain a wider range of color and tones than a JPEG and thus have a larger file size. However, after tweaking the image, you will have to save Camera RAW files to a format that social media sites will accept.