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What would be the best image format for printing images or designs created with Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator or to print images form a digital camera?

If I have the option of exporting different image formats (tiff, jpeg, jpeg2000, bmp, png, etc) which one would be preferred to produce high quality prints?

closed as too broad by Scott, joojaa, Wrzlprmft, Zach Saucier, DA01 Sep 3 '15 at 3:19

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It depends a lot on where you print, what printer will be used for the task and what you need to do with the files.


You might want to stay away from anything JPG because of the compression, that's a start. It can work for huge formats but they are used more as a last option; for example, if you cannot upload a banner of 300mb for printing, you might be "forced" to use a JPG at 15mb!

PNG can be good but they are in RGB color mode; this is not desirable if you print on offset or anything that requires CMYK color mode. You could use it but either the printer will refuse your files and ask you to convert them yourself to CMYK color mode OR the printer will convert it for you and you'll have no control on the final result. Sometimes it gives OK results, sometimes it horrible; you might want to have 100% control on your colors. They can work fine on some digital printing machines that handle RGB well though.

TIFF are a good safe choice for pretty much any kind of printing and color mode but these files are very heavy. That's still the one I find the best in your list and highly compatible with almost any software that can open pictures. Your question is about pictures but TIFF allows transparency and can be useful for this.

There's EPS that is also a safe option for printing but not the best to use on your own personal printer. They can be very convenient in publishing used with some software that can manage huge files and you can increase the performance of your software because of the encapsulated preview that comes with EPS and its small file size. But for everyday image printing or if you need to share the files, I still think TIFF are the safest choice. Personally I still use EPS because it's quick to save these files and they're reliable. You will hear a lot of designers say it's a "legacy" format but you should use what works best for your needs; if you go on the Adobe forum, you will also see tons of designers saying it's "legacy" to use CMYK mode... so...!

You could use PSD but then you might have issues with compatibility if you need to share your files.

Finally, there's PDF that can be used; they're long to save in Photoshop though but they are highly compatible and offer some freedom for compression.


Here's a screenshot to show you the difference in size between all formats, all uncompressed at 300ppi and 15"x 9" size:

You can easily see what could be the right choice for a catalog that contains a lot of high resolution images or if you need to backup a thousand images at top quality or share a few images online, for example.

If you import your images in another software such as Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXpress than you can work with any file format you want; but you should prioritize PDF as your print-ready file for the whole layout.

Screenshot file size for images and pictures

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Totally depends on print house.

Usually they take raw/psd/ai/eps files, pdf is also an option to convert all of those. Each print bureau have their own standards e.g. transparency flattened, pdf below 1.4 version etc.

Among tiff, jpeg, jpeg2000, bmp, png - those are rarely used in real print houses. However tiff and bmp have no loss and therefore preferable, jpeg2000 is better than plane jpg as it has less size while keep the same quality.

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First question. Print where?

1) If you are printing from home use the same application you are working in.

2) To print photos. The first option is to print from the original jpg extracted from your camera. If you are shooting in raw, do the processing you need and generate your jpg, the less compression you put, the less the artifacts will show. That also depends on the photo.

In some cases, let's say for a banner made in photoshop you can choose between jpg with almost no compression, TIFF or a flat PSD copy.

3) From there you probably want to stick with pdf. Embed your color profile and use a PDF X family format (PDF-X1a, PDF-X3) This include laser prints for a print shop, a plotter for a banner or a commercial print house for a magazine.

Image format is not the same as file format.

An image format is commonly a bitmap or raster-based image, and a file format is one that can contain other information, like text or vectors.

Your working files (Indd, PSD, CDR, AI) are file formats.

Also, there are some generic file formats that can include this different type of objects inside. The main one is PDF. Pdf is a newer version of the old eps.

Some notes on your list of image formats

BMP. Just a fat image format. Its only used in some applications prior to an internal compilation. It is the non-compression at all file format. Do not use for print.

JPG2000. Not much support in web applications. The truth is I have NEVER ever used it for printing.

PNG. the best raster image format for web graphs, logos, plain images. It could work to print in some digital printers.

PSD. Do not send a working file. No layers transparencies smart anything. Send just a flattened image. Use It.

JPG. Some people do not use this format for printing. If you really know what are you doing you can safely use it for digital prints or even commercial print. I use it very often... Because I really know what I am doing n_n

TIFF. A safe bet. Robust and can have a decent compression. Use it but not with jpg compression inside.

Second question. Do you know how to send a file for prtint?

I will not add much here... because there are a lot of topics out of the scope of the question.

A good quality print is FAR from the output file format. You can use ANY suitable file format. If you are doing things right you will have a good print. If not, no file format will save you.

  • The part about image format vs file format is an important distinction. In @go-meek screenshot, the first two items are eps (with JPG) and JPG. They are both actually jpeg images. The first is JPEG data in an eps container, the second is JPEG in a JFIF container. They may have slightly different compression implementation, but I would bet that the main difference in the file size of those two items is in the container headers rather than the data. If I save a TIFF with jpeg compression (an option in photoshop), it will still have JPG artifacting. – Yorik Sep 1 '15 at 18:37
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PDF, EPS, TIFF or native application files (.ai, .psd, .indd).

If they are strictly photos... .tiff or .psd

For Indesign files, .pdf

For Illustrator .ai or .eps or .pdf, but in some cases .tiff works better.

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