Is JPEG or PNG Better for Digital Art?

When it comes to any medium of art, the proper tools can make a significant difference. An artist with amazing raw talent can make do with a two-dollar marker, but any artist worth their salt will also tell you that there is a major difference between markers you can get in the craft aisle of your local market and professional markers from an art supply store. When it comes to digital art specifically, the format of your piece could serve as a vital tool.

JPEG and PNG serve as the best for digital art in different capacities. JPEG is better for images that require more space, so detailed pieces or images on the web. PNG is better for more simplistic pieces or images on the web that require transparency.

It may be difficult to know which format would best suit different art pieces. There are a few factors you can consider when deciding so that your art can service whatever your need is at the moment, whether that be space in your library or clarity and sharpness when saving to a device.

What’s the Difference Between JPEG and PNG?

JPEG or Joint Photographic Experts Group uses a method of lossy compression to save images. It is especially popular with photographic images. In fact, digital cameras automatically save images in this format. PNG or Portable Graphics Format is the direct opposite using a lossless compression method for saving images. It’s typically used for web graphics, but can be used for photography as well.

Because there is overlap in use when it comes to JPEG and PNG, it may make it a little more difficult to tell which one should be used and when. However, there are some factors you can consider that will help you decide.

  1. Storage Space
  2. Editing
  3. Detail of the Image

Taking a deeper look into each one of these topics should give you the understanding to know which format to choose no matter what digital art you are wanting to store, edit or upload.

1. Storage Space

The amount of space an image requires will be a major factor in deciding which format to use. Out of all the image file types, PNG is normally the largest. Which would require more storage in your CMS file library and take a longer time to upload when used on the web. This is due to PNG’s lossless compression method not shrinking down the image for storage.

It’s really a give and take when it comes to each format, because while JPEG may compress the image in order to use less storage and also takes less time to upload, with certain images there may be loss in quality as the image is being compressed down. While this is not the case with every image, it’s worth taking notice of if you choose the format.

2. Editing

Most images, whether photos or other digital art like logos, icons, or graphics require some form of editing. Among forums on the internet that debate PNG versus JPEG there are complaints against JPEG causing a loss of quality when it comes to the image, making it grainy and the colors of the image muddled. However, others have noted that most current design tools will allow you to determine quality via a sliding scale, so loss of quality is not as big of a factor sith JPEG as it once was.

One thing that is worth noting is transparency. PNG allows for transparency, while JPEG does not. What that means practically is if you are wanting to remove or possibly replace a background of an image, you can not do so with the JPEG format. This could apply to product photography or logos or graphics that require a white or black background to go on a website. However, if you are just wanting to display or export an image for view then the lack of transparency with JPEG shouldn’t be an issue.

3. Detail of the Image

When it comes to more detailed or dimensional digital art work, especially as it relates to photography, the go-to seems to be JPEG. When it comes to more simplistic, flat images, like logos or icons, PNG is the go-to. Now, this is not always the case, so there are exceptions to the rule.

The main issue with JPEG is that there is a degradation of quality each time the image is opened, edited and saved. If the image is edited and saved once, you may not notice a real difference at all. Either way, the more detailed and dimensional a photo is, the less likely you are to notice a loss of quality. Whereas degradation in a more simplistic image, especially one edited multiple times could be very noticeable.

To the average person, the loss of quality may not be visible to the naked eye; but if it’s something you are concerned about you could always do a side by side comparison of any image in JPEG or PNG and see if your eye can spot any differences. The context in which the image is being used will likely play a factor in determining how picky an artist needs to be in terms of quality.


The debate between JPEG and PNG really boils down to quality of the image versus the size of the image. If you’re needing the space in your storage or quick upload times then JPEG would be the way to go. If you have an image that may require multiple edits and you want to maintain the integrity of the quality of the photo or need to change or eliminate any background elements, then PNG would be the way to go.

The general consensus from digital artists is that both formats are used interchangeably and is entirely dependent on the circumstance and the artist’s preferences. Now that you know how each format functions, you can determine for yourself what you will need and when you will need to use it.