Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is the preferred file format for graphics, icons, and logos. Its lossless compression style ensures that no quality is lost in the image, no matter how many times you edit and save. The color depth makes images more vibrant and striking, and the option of transparency makes it a great choice for the web, but what about print?
While you can print a PNG, they are not ideal for printing. The primary issue with printing a PNG is the color profile. Most printers use a different color language than PNG images, so printing a PNG may result in colors being skewed from their original look.
There are other reasons PNG isn’t the most suitable file format for printing. Let’s also look at which file formats would work better for the job.
What Makes PNG Files Unsuitable for Printing?
If you are sending an image to a printer, the printer will likely request that you send the file in a certain format that works for them. Print shops will give you this requirement because it will ensure that the product you receive is the quality you’re looking for, and the printing process runs smoothly on their end.
PNG images work on a color profile RBG, while most printers work on CMYK. Different color languages mean that the printer will have to find alternative colors for your image that work in the CMYK family.
The differences may not be drastically noticeable, but a trained eye can catch them, and if the image is for branding, it could be more discernible when placed next to other branded material.
Another reason PNG is not an ideal file format for printing is its file size. While you retain image quality with lossless compression, you compromise with larger file sizes that take up quite a bit of storage space on your hard drive.
Lossless compression retains all metadata; nothing is lost. If printers received hundreds of PNG files to be printed simultaneously, it would take quite a toll on their storage and hard drive performance.
Even if you’re printing from home, you still want to save room on your hard drive and retain the color quality of your graphic. Let’s look at some more suitable file formats for printing.
What File Formats are Good for Printing?
Now that you know PNG may not work for printing your image, especially if you’re sending it off to a printer, let’s look at some acceptable options for at-home and commercial printing.
There are four file formats that are best for printing, and each one is preferred for a certain type of file.
- JPEG (Images)
- TIFF (High-Resolution Images)
- PDF (Most Files)
- EPS (Large Signs and Banners)
Let’s delve deeper into each of these file formats and find out why they are recommended for their file type.
JPEG for Images
JPEG, short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is the preferred file type for images, specifically photos. In fact, most digital cameras will save your photographs as JPEGs automatically. One of the benefits of JPEG images is the small file size due to the lossy compression, so it’s ideal for sending over email to a printer.
The only downside to JPEG is that some of the metadata will be lost during compression and will not be recovered, so the image has a slight loss of quality. While the loss may be evident on a single, solid color logo, it’s hardly noticeable in photographs, so it is recommended.
TIFF for High-Resolution Images
TIFF, short for Tagged Image File Format, makes up for the lack of image quality that comes with JPEGs and can also be used for photographs. The benefit to TIFF is that the format can be saved in various color formats, like CMYK and forms of compression.
While the lossless compression may result in a larger file size, you may be able to negotiate the file size with a different form of compression that won’t result in as much metadata loss as a JPEG.
PDF for Most Files
PDF, short for Portable Document Format, is a great choice for files that are not strictly image-based but may contain a substantial amount of text, like newsletters, brochures, flyers, etc. The benefit of PDF is that it works across publishing applications, so you can be sure that the receiver of your document will open up the file and see it as it was intended. It’s also perfectly compatible with multi-page formatting, especially for printing.
EPS for Large Signs and Banners
EPS, short for Encapsulated PostScript, is the preferred choice for larger projects like signs and banners. It is a vector-based format, so it means that images are scalable without losing quality. The ability to be scaled up and down in size gives you flexibility with the number of projects you can achieve with one file, whether a business card, lawn sign, or building banner.
EPS files are created and edited in design programs like Adobe Illustrator, so an EPS file may not open in all applications and viewers. Still, most printers will accept these files and be able to open them without an issue.
Other File Formats Printers Will Accept
Here is a list of programs whose native file formats are used for printing. Check with your local printer on the version of the program that works:
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Publisher
- Adobe Acrobat
- Adobe InDesign CC
- Adobe Illustrator
Some of the lesser-known file formats native to certain applications and software are still accepted when sending your file to be printed—file formats like PSD, which is the default for Photoshop.
While PNG may not be what you’re looking for when it comes to printing, there are a variety of other file formats that will work for your needs. No matter the project, you’re sure to find a format on this list that will fit right.