Use the Right File Type to Design Better Graphics (Pro Tip #1)

The #1 question I get asked from new IDs is “What type of file should I use for this?”

While there are many of files you’ll use throughout your instructional design career, a good rule of thumb when it comes to learning the basics is this:

If you can easily identify the difference between a JPEG and a PNG, you’ll be ahead of the pack.

These are both graphic file types we use a LOT, but unfortunately, it’s not always intuitive or clear which one to use, especially for new IDs just starting out.

I’m a visual learner, so I’ve created a couple of explainer videos that will hopefully showcase the differences in a way that will stick with you, no matter your experience level. 🙂

Let’s dive in.

What’s a PNG?

Quick recap: PNG quick facts
  • PNGs have transparent (or semi-transparent backgrounds)
  • PNGs are great for creating logos and layering compositions
  • PNGs produce crisp, high-quality results due to “lossless compression”
  • PNGs usually have a larger file size and slower loading times

PNGs are my go-to image type when I’m creating my work, and I expect you’ll find yourself gravitating toward these for almost all of your work, too.

What’s a JPEG?

Quick recap: JPEG quick facts
  • JPEGs are used namely in photography and web publishing
  • JPEGs have solid backgrounds
  • JPEGs lose some data when they’re compressed in order to keep the file size small
  • JPEGs lead to faster loading times, but can also have lower image quality.

Want a little more guidance on graphics?

JPEGs and PNGs are just a few of the many file types you’ll encounter.

You’ll also likely need to know EPS, SVG, GIF, and more.

If you’re just beginning your ID journey—or if you’re anyone who works with graphics on the computer, ever—I can’t recommend the course, File Types & Graphic Resources, enough.

I created this highly affordable on-demand resource with my many overwhelmed mentees in mind, who are always flustered by all of the file types and where to go searching for them.

Here’s a quick course overview.

LXD Basics: Learn File Types & Graphic Resources ($10)

In this Learning Nugget, I’ll help you learn the most common file types used in graphic design and eLearning. (So many acronyms!) I’ll also point you toward my favorite free and low-cost design resources to find high-quality photos, graphics, icons, illustrations, and other media for your projects.

In less than an hour, you’ll be up and running with the basics, plus more!

What’s the TL;DR for this lesson?

JPEG and PNGs are both common graphic file types that you’ll encounter and use as an LXD and eLearning developer, and it’s important to know which one is which.

If you need to design something quick and scrappy, a JPEG will probably do the trick.

If you need to design something without a background—like, say, a logo—a PNG is the way to go.

But what happens if you have a JPEG, and need to remove the background to treat it as though it’s a PNG?

Ah, I’m so glad you asked. 🙂

Find out more in the next lesson!

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