File Formatting Part 2: .JPEGs, .GIFs, and everything in between

browseLast week we taught you about all the different text file formats you need to know about when self-publishing your own book. We hope you found that information useful! This week we’re going to show you some of the image files you might need to know about, and how each one is different from the other.

But why image files? Because just as certain POD companies want a specific kind of text file from you in order to process your work into a publishable format or ebook, they might also want a certain kind of image file for your cover or for any illustrations you might want to include. And even if they didn’t, this is good info to have in order to be better in tune with the production process — and with website design. When you’re your own publisher, you should have a solid understanding of the technology you’re using, after all!

Here’s what you need to know:

.GIF –  Graphics Interchange Format. This type of file is best for images that are a little less complicated, such as logos, cartoons, and simple shapes. It also gets used on the internet for animated images — remember the dancing baby? That’s a GIF. There’s still a lot of debate on how it’s pronounced, but here at Bookworks we tend to stick to a hard G. You won’t ever use these in production, but they’re great for Twitter avatars and other places where you might need a smaller icon.

.JPEG Joint Photographic Experts Group. This is one of the most common image files because it gives you the clearest image in the smallest possible file size. Many websites prefer JPEG images, and while it’s not always good for sending to POD companies, you should have a JPEG (pronounced how it looks, Jay-peg) of your cover on hand for promotion tools.

.PNG – Portable Network Graphics. These are a little higher quality, but like .GIFS, they are best for images that have large, uniformly colored area. They are also larger than .JPEGs, so some websites don’t support PNG uploads. However, they do get used a lot in publishing, particular for covers.

.PDF – Portable Document Files. These aren’t just for text files! You can also put images in them as well, though you can’t upload them onto any websites as images. Just know that if your final book format uses embedded illustration, you won’t have a problem including those in your PDF, but that if you want to be able to edit the image in something like Photoshop, this isn’t the ideal file for that.

.BMP – Bitmap. This is a type of image file typically found on Windows. If you’ve ever fooled around in Microsoft Paint, odds are that you probably saved your scribbles to a Bitmap without realizing it. It’s best to avoid this type of file, as it isn’t used very often due to its large size.

.TIF or TIFF –  Tagged Image File Format. This is the highest quality type of image that you can use, so many publishing companies request that you use it for your cover. It’s too large to upload to a website, though!

These are all the basics! It might look like a lot, but you can basically break it down this way: Websites usually use lower quality images like JPEGS, GIFs, whereas when you’re in production mode and need an image that will go into your book, you’re probably going to want something of higher quality like a PDF or TIF. PNGs are pretty good for both, and BMPs aren’t good for… well, anything really.

So what if you have a file that’s in one format and you need it to be in another, like a TIFF? Don’t worry, we’ll get into that next week! Until then, let us know how we’re going with these tutorials by leaving us a comment below, and don’t forget about our holiday party on Wednesday!