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PNG vs. JPEG: Which File Format is Ideal for Printing and Why?

by Jelly Shah Tweet - in Graphic Design

png vs. jpeg for printing

Last updated on January 6th, 2023

We see prints everywhere these days on fabrics and products. A printing business owner gets images from clients to print in an image file format. PNG and JPEG are the two file formats used to save images for printing and have pros and cons of their own. Let’s discuss PNG vs. JPEG to determine which file format is better for printing.

All graphics we see online and printed on plastic or paper or a piece of fabric are first saved as an image file. A client will save an image in a file format and send the file to the printer. Picture quality and other aspects of printing images will depend on the file format. This means that a wrong file format could spoil the print quality of the image on the web or a physical product. So it’s imperative to know about both the file formats — PNG and JPEG.

Raster vs. Vector

Before comparing PNG vs. JPEG image file formats for suitability for printing purposes, we first know about vector and raster images. All the images are either vector or raster, depending on how you construct them digitally.

Raster images are pixel-based images and are commonly used. For instance, we use pixel images while creating web graphics or taking photos. But pixel images often blur when expended, which is known as pixelation. That is why raster images are not generally used to print larger images like billboards. Many printers still cannot accept uncompressed files and large files.

Conversely, vector images are large and keep their sharpness, details, and clarity. These images are made of geometric shapes. So, they can be expanded to any size.


JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the team that developed it. This bitmap compression format has a compression ratio of 10:1 to 20:1. The file format extension is mainly in use for lossy compression. But you can adjust the compression ratio, which is handy in balancing the image quality and the storage size. Mostly, photo-sharing devices and digital cameras use the JPEG extension.

But note that the image quality gets slightly compromised in this format due to compression. When the file gets downloaded and edited, then re-saved, the quality degrades further, though the loss of quality is not that visible.

A better approach to work with the RAW JPEGs, edit them and then save the revised final version to minimize the loss of image quality. This eliminates the need for editing and re-saving the file multiple times, and quality is maintained.

Transparency is another significant benefit of using the PNG file format. Sometimes, you may need to keep a part of an image transparent. In that case, PNG is a useful file. So, graphic designers use this format to incorporate photos in it. Transparency means that if you overlay an image on another image, the image in the background will still be visible through the front image.

When to use JPEG for printing?

  • For Online Photos and Artwork – Use JPEG for online photos and artwork since this file format is flexible enough with raster editing and compression. This makes the format suitable for web images you need to download instantly.
  • To Print Photos and Artwork – JPEGs are files with high-resolution and low compression. This makes the file format ideal for editing and printing.
  • To Send A Review Image– When you need to send an image through email, JPEG is the right format. You can reduce JPEG images to tiny photo sizes to send them to clients in your email message.

When Not To Use JPEG

  • When Transparent Web Graphics Is The Need – Do not use JPEGs if you must have transparency in your web graphics and need a color background. In that case, opt for GIF and PNG formats.
  • When A Layered and Editable Image Is What You Want – Since JPEGs save images in flat format, it implies that the image is saved in one flat layer, which you cannot undo. So, do not use JPEGs in that case. A PSD file is the better option.

Considering the above cons, resave the image immediately if you have a JPEG image taken from your digital camera or the image is from a stock photo source. You should resave it as a PSD or TIFF file, or it will compress further.


PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics, a lossless raster format. You can take PNGs as a new form of GIF. It displays higher color depths, displaying millions of colors.

When comparing PNG vs. JPEG for printing, we can say that due to its most modern features and usefulness, PNG is today the standard image format online.

A key feature of PNG file format is that it can save both RGB and RGBA image types based on the full color or palette. The aim of creating PNG was to transfer images using the Internet. So, its creator did not have professional printing jobs in mind. That is why the PNG format fails to support CMYK.

PNG file format is commonly used for printing, so people often come across this file format. It is in PNG format whenever you download an image from the web or send it by email. Professionals use PNG to save images as web graphics. They can also use this format to contain icons with a transparent background.

Another key advantage of a PNG file is that its file size is smaller, and still, there is very little loss of image quality. This means that this file format gives the same quality as an original image.

Here Are The Key Benefits Of The PNG File Format

  • High image quality ensured due to lossless compression
  • Gives crisp and sharp graphics
  • Considered the best file format for creating overlays and background effects
  • PNG format is also the best to support transparent background

When To Use PNG

  • For High-Quality Transparent Web Graphics – An advantage of PNG images is that they have maximum transparency to any degree. This is because PNG images have a variable ‘’alpha channel’’ So, you can produce a more vibrant image due to the greater color depth, this file format gives.
  • Your Illustrations Have A Few Colors Only – You should choose PNG files if your illustrations are in limited colors.
  • When You Need To Save Images In Small Files – In that case, PNG files are the best since they can be shrunk to very small sizes.

When Not To Use PNG

  • While Working With Artworks and Photos – Since PNG is a lossless web format, its file sizes are generally large, which is not required while working with images on the web. JPEG is a better option here.

When comparing PNG vs. JPEG for printing, we can say that the PNG file format preserves the image quality, whatever the compression ratio. PNG is indeed among high-quality image formats. This file format is also suitable for saving intermediate image versions and processing a greater number of colors.

Another advantage is that this file can maintain several levels of transparency. The files weigh little as well. That is the reason that today PNG is the web standard.

Is PNG a suitable format for printing?

PNG files are known for handling deep colors efficiently. That ability helps to work with high-resolution images. However, the file becomes heavy as this is a lossless format. So, while you can print images from such a file, your task becomes much easier with a more optimized file like a JPEG or TIFF.

If an image is on a colored background, you need to remove background from images. Then, you should save the image with the removed background in the PNG format for Internet use. At the same time, JPEG would not be able to keep the background transparent.

So, when it comes to printing, know that PNG files are an excellent option for delivering good quality printouts using office or home printers. This is because these files contain high-resolution images and better color depth. Images from JPEG files become blurry in printouts.

However, PNG files are not professionals’ preferences for commercial printing, such as printing on custom t-shirts, mugs, posters, etc. This is because PNG files do not support CMYK color. Both PNG and JPEG support RGB color format.

If you have an online store at PrintShop by Designhill, have at least some working knowledge of these file formats. This will help save your image files in the right formats for quality printing.

Wrapping Up

We can say that both PNG vs. JPEG for printing have their own benefits and disadvantages. Which one you should choose will depend on how you want to use the files and the kind of photograph. Going by industry standards, professionals use JPEG primarily for routine photos while PNG for jobs involving maps, text images, geometrical drawings, illustrations, etc. On the other hand, when it comes to editing graphics, product photos, custom logos, drawings, etc., professionals prefer JPEG. But they prefer PNG for printing when transparent background or shadow effect is involved in images.

I'm Jelly Shah from Australia. I've been designing graphics for the last six years. For further questions you can follow me on Twitter | Pinterest | Google +.



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