Blog Home Tips & Tutorials Graphics Tips PNG vs JPG vs PDF: Which File Format Should You Use?

Images come in many shapes and sizes and every image format has its particular strengths and weaknesses. No format is designed to accomplish the same tasks. Two of the most common (and commonly confused) file formats are JPG vs PNG. Below, we’ll breakdown the much-discussed comparison of PNG vs JPG so that you know how to use each. There’s also PDF, which is in another class from these usual image formats but can still perform a few similar functions.

We’ll also show you how to convert your image files to and from other formats, like how to change a JPG to a PDF. Dive in and discover which file format works best for your current project:


picture saved as jpeg

The JPG format was developed by Joint Photographics Export Group, which is where the file name comes from. You’ll commonly see JPG expressed as JPEG, and functionally they mean the same thing. In the older days of computers, file types had a character limit of three (hence JPG), but JPEG is now becoming more common.

Pronounced “jay-peg,” JPGs are designed to minimize the file size of photographs to make them more suitable for sharing and using in web design. Most of the photos you find online are likely in JPG format.

The main attributes of a JPEG image are:

  • Smaller file size: This is the huge advantage of JPG images. If you are designing a website, for example, utilizing JPG images will get you faster page load times and provide a better user experience because the files are smaller. When a JPEG file is first saved, the rate of compression is about 10:1, so if you have a 20MB (megabyte) image that is then saved as a JPEG, you can expect the file to be 2MB in size. Resizing images to smaller file sizes with free image resizing tools is a quick shortcut.
  • Compression creates a loss in quality: The main advantage of JPG images — smaller file size — also happens to be their weakness. The algorithm used to compress JPG images finds pixels that are essentially the same color, or value, and blocks them together into tiles. This creates a smaller file, but it also means you lose some of the data in the image, resulting is lower quality. It also means that you lose that data forever when the file is saved, so you can’t restore a JPG to its original quality.


vector saved as png

PNG is an acronym for Portable Network Graphics, and the image format is indeed optimized for graphics like graphs, logos, and text. However, you can just as easily save a photograph as a PNG. PNGs are often higher quality than a JPG. This is because PNG files were not intended to reduce file size, so they retain more image detail and information than a JPG.

The main attributes of a PNG image are:

  • Lossless image quality: The LZW compression used when creating a PNG results in no loss in quality, so the image can be saved, edited, and opened again and again without degrading over time. This is directly at odds with a JPG file, which will further compress and lose information every time it is edited or re-saved.
  • Larger file size: One of the reasons why JPG images are widely used on the web is the friendly file size. PNG images undergo a different type of image compression that reduces the file size, but not to the same degree as a JPG file.


text documents saved as pdf

PDF files are not typically discussed when weighing options for image files, but you may need to convert PDF files to and from PNG or JPG formats. The Portable Document Format (PDF) is the industry standard for document sharing, as it creates an exact replica of any file you want to duplicate, including images.

While you would not want to use a PDF image to upload online or in official brand design, they are useful for emailing and storing screenshots and other images combined with text documents or photographs.

The main attributes of a PDF image are:

  • Reliability: PDF files look identical to the original design or photograph, serving as a copy of your image. PDF files are ideal for file sharing, and carry the assurance that your graph, photo, or document will display correctly across devices without being altered.
  • High quality: PDF images are very customizable, allowing you to export images and optimize them for printing, sharing, and editing. The great quality is ideal for designs that will ultimately be printed as opposed to living online, like print brochures.

PNG vs JPG: Which Format is Best?

Still undecided on what’s the best image format between PNG vs JPG, and wondering if you should actually opt for a PDF? Let’s help by looking at what file is most practical for your needs.

  • JPG images are ideal for posting photos and images online, as they keep file size down without much overall quality loss. They are also great for emailing preview images to clients, and for printing artwork and photographs at high resolution.
  • PNG images are ideal for web graphics, especially logos, illustrations, and graphs. They can shrink to very small file sizes when colors and elements are limited, which is another plus. The greatest advantage of a PNG is that the image can be fully transparent, allowing you to place illustrations and designs on top of backgrounds effortlessly. PNG is also a top choice if images will be edited and saved multiple times.
  • PDF images are ideal for printing, especially for graphic design, posters, and flyers. PDF images are also an ideal choice for storing images online when you intend them to be downloaded. PDFs keep your images in one packet so viewers can print and save designs and booklets easily.

How to Convert Image Formats Online

The free file converter from Shutterstock is an incredibly easy way to convert files between JPG, PNG, and TIFF. Simply upload your photo, select the file format you want, and voila!

If you want to know how to change JPG to PDF or how to convert PDF to PNG or JPG on Mac or PC, the good news is that we’ve covered many of these processes already in previous posts. First, if you are creating a PDF file on your desktop or online from other image types find out how to create a PDF file in 4 simple ways.

When you have a PDF that you want to convert into an image file you also have several options based on your operating system, budget, and level of expertise. Read our guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG to get started. Once your image file is saved as a JPEG you can easily convert it to a PNG (on a Mac it’s as straightforward as changing the file extension).

You can also use Shutterstock Editor to create designs or edit photos and export them in the image format of your choice. The process is intuitive and hassle-free.

shutterstock editor file format options

Simply navigate to Editor and save any image as a JPEG, PNG, or PDF following these steps:

  • Within Shutterstock Editor, choose Open Designs to import images or simply click File > New to create an image using our user-friendly editing software.
  • When you are ready to export the image, select File > Save As, and give your image a name. This saves the document within your Shutterstock account.
  • To export your design in a specific image format, select Download at the top-right of the Editor, and then choose PDF, JPEG, or PNG under File Format.
  • Now your design or photograph will be optimized with the file type you need.

While other image formats like TIFF and GIF also exist, these three image formats will represent the majority of images you capture, edit, and share.

Want to learn more about image file types and file management? Check out these helpful articles:

Images via alexdrim