I am creating artwork to sell on etsy and I use photoshop for my designs, but I'm a bit lost as to what format I should output the images to. I need them to retain a high quality for printing, but not be too huge in terms of file size. I'm thinking pdf would be best as there isn't as much compression as a jpeg, but I'm unsure of what pdf settings to output to (or if there's a better alternative). These are files that can be downloaded by anyone, anywhere, and will be printed on anything from home printers to professional copy shops, so I need a standard setting - if one exists. Any help appreciated! Thanks!

2 Answers 2


Save as RGB JPG with a quality setting of 12.

This will produce high quality images with only minimal discernible variation due to jpg compression. You most likely wouldn't even notice any change due to compression.

  • Anyone using the images for print production will know (or should know at least) how to handle the jpg. After all every stock photo site provides JPGs. And home users won't be confused by the JPG format.

  • PDF would work, but the more home-based users may be confused by the PDF and unhappy that it can't just be posted to some social media site, or show up inline in an email, etc.

  • You could provide CMYK JPGs or Tiffs. But really, only those using files for print will prefer them - so you would be limiting the market for those files to a degree. And, as posted, anyone using the files for print should be very familiar with altering an RGB JPG for print production. In addition, file sizes for Tiffs may means that's not a viable option. They will be much larger in terms of kb. In many instances a PDF will be larger in terms of file size as well.

Saving as JPG offers the smallest file size while retaining the largest dimensions and the highest compatibility possible.

Saving as RGB ensures home-users get more accurate color if they were to print the JPGs. Most home-user printers require color to be sent as RGB. Providing CMYK files will mean those printing on inkjet printers may get drastically inaccurate color. And, again, anyone doing print production will know to convert to CMYK if needed.

  • Thanks very much! Most of the Etsy printable files I've seen for sale are PDF files, but you are absolutely right that stock photo sites all provide jpegs.
    – Sarah
    Oct 12, 2017 at 22:13

It might be better to offer several formats.

The usual standard for the print industry is CMYK TIF, but file sizes are large. PDFs are certainly usable for print but if they just contain jpeg raster images, then I can't see the point of putting them inside a PDF. JPEG's saved at high quality settings (low compression) can be OK for print, file sizes are certainly more sensible. If some of your potential customers are using your artwork for the web, then you might also want to offer PNG images.

  • Thanks Billy. The artwork will just be for printing, so I don't need to offer png files. I'll do a test with jpeg and see how it turns out.
    – Sarah
    Oct 12, 2017 at 11:13
  • 1
    The benefit of PDF is that PDF viewes support CMYK compressed jpeg files quite well, same can not be sade for other containers
    – joojaa
    Oct 12, 2017 at 11:21
  • TIFF is certainly the 'lossless' way to go for CMYK images. I wasn't sure that JPG supported CMYK, but what @jooja says about PDF handling JPGs is interesting.
    – user8356
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:02
  • @user8356 - Photoshop supports saving CMYK JPEGs, if you use File > Save As, so you don't actually need to put it inside a PDF. But most web browsers won't support viewing CMYK JPEGs properly. Also, many consumer grade digital photo printing services don't support printing CMYK images. The vast majority expect users to supply RGB images. However, commercial printers usually do need CMYK files, especially for printing where separations are required.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 13, 2017 at 17:38

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