JPEG, or “jay-peg” as you might call it, is the most commonly known image file on the planet. The JPEG standard was born in 1992, with it’s latest version coming in 1994, which started in 1986.
When you take a picture on your phone, you probably don’t pay attention to the file type, right? As an iPhone user, you’ve no doubt noticed that it takes an HEIC file type photo from 2017 onward. As an Android user, you probably wonder what the difference between PNG and JPG is on your native camera app.
That’s right, we still use 28-year-old technology every day. But PNG isn’t much younger, being “born” on October 1st, 1996.
What are the differences between PNG and JPG, the most widely used photo formats? Read to find out!
Starting With The Basics
JPG (or JPEG, or JFIF) and PNG came around the beginning of the internet as a publicly available technology. At this time you had very limited options for graphics. The BMP was created in 1987, and even before that came TIFF in 1986.
One you’re very familiar with and use every day, even now, is the awesome GIF format. Released in 1987 and last updated in 1989 it has been relegated to use in fun cat animations and memes.
Plain and simple, as resolutions got higher we needed better options for taking pictures and storing them. To the rescue, we have two great options, PNG and JPG.
What is a JPG file?
A JPG, JPEG, JFIF file is a lossy file format that compresses data using a 1972 formula called discrete cosine transform, or DCT. It was developed from the Joint Photographic Experts Group, from which it gets its name. DCT takes information that repeats, identifies it, and discards the redundant information.
This is actually super helpful, as it allows us to reduce file sizes by 50% in the case of JPGs and even further in HEIF (HEIC), MPEG (MP4), and more. Because of the great versatility of this method of compression, it works fantastically for digital media in general.
Cameras, phones, and computers have and will be storing JPGs for many years to come. You can even select the amount of compression from very low to very high (5% to 50%) in most cases, to keep image quality high.
JPG stores information in RGB format, but without any alpha channel, meaning there will always be a background to the JPG.
What is a PNG file?
PNG is short for Portable Network Graphics and was imagined as an open-source and free alternative to GIF. Where GIF supports only 8-bit color depth, or 256 colors, PNG supports 16 million in 24-bit true color.
PNG comes with transparency benefits, just like GIF, which means it has an Alpha channel. This makes it preferred for many logos for companies, where it needs a raster or bitmapped image.
If you really want to go insane with color-depth, you can use the 48-bit PNG without any alpha channel. Not only will your monitor won’t actually be able to support those colors, and neither will your eye, you can do it.
What GIF still has over PNG is that PNG isn’t animatable. Well, kind of. APNG is backward compatible with PNG and does provide animation, as well as support from most modern browsers.
It’s a fantastic way to store lossless photographic information. So much so that Australian and Canadian governments have determined to use it for archiving purposes of any image they want to preserve.
So, What’s the Difference Between PNG and JPG?
If the question is to be “JPG vs PNG, which is better,” the answer is neither. It depends on what you’re using it for. Sometimes a PNG can be a smaller file size than JPG if the file size is small enough or there’s not a lot of variation.
Remember too that JPG doesn’t have an alpha channel. If there’s a lot of “clear” space, the PNG might actually be a smaller file size as well.
The alpha channel is one reason why PNG is so useful to graphic designers and companies, who use them to display raster versions of logos on websites and more. It’s a lot easier to use than SVG most of the time, and a JPG would not be “see-through.”
So “PNG vs JPG, which is better?” For logos, PNG. But if you’re just doing a mockup as a graphic designer and need to send an image to some friends quickly, you can take a snip of your screen, save it as a jpg, and send it on.
You don’t have to worry about cluttering your phone’s memory with large-sized files.
If you’re talking about 12MP shots from a camera, then yeah JPG is plenty fine. Since the camera is taking the image directly from the source and turning it into a JPG, the quality is extremely high.
JPG is great for storing a lot of photos at a much smaller size (on average) than PNG. For quick reference, let’s take a quick look at some differences:
- PNG has a higher color depth
- JPG is a “lossy” file-type
- PNG is “lossless”
- JPG is the most widely used image file in the world
- PNG is better for professional logos and photographs
- JPG can be stored at about 50% the size of other files on average
- PNG is a great archiving medium
Got it all? If you ever forget you can always come back.
Time to Convert
Remember those GIF, WebP, HEIC, and all those other file types? Especially TIFF doesn’t like to play nice with others.
Very often to convert to JPG to save space, you might have to first convert to PNG to make sure you have a lossless copy. Why? You’re going to probably have to play with image quality settings to get a JPG that is the right look you’re going for.
Fear not, converting from PNG to JPG is way simpler than you think!
So there’s a difference between PNG and JPG that goes more than skin-deep. There aren’t that many things from over 30 years ago that we still use on the daily, right? JPG, PNG, and even GIF still have a great role to play in our lives, and on our phones.
At Wheon, we don’t mind when old things are in style, but we’re always looking for the greatest new things on the horizon. Because of that, we have you covered from games, tech, marketing, to legal.
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