Thanks for coming to InDesignSecrets.com, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

TIFF vs PSD vs EPS vs PDF vs…

It seems like every few months this topic pops up again: Which is the best file format to use for graphics? Some folks insist that everyone should use EPS and TIFF. Others think AI and PSD. And what about PNG or JPEG?! Here’s my take on the subject, after over 20 years of doing this:

EPS is a dying format. There is virtually no reason for you to ever save anything yourself as EPS. Here are good reasons to use an EPS file:

  • if you already have an old vector graphic (from Illustrator or Freehand or something);
  • if some software is making it for you (such as this Barcode plug-in); in this case, the software is likely doing special stuff that can only be done in PostScript, then encapsulated in the eps.

PDF is the current and future of publishing. If you have a vector Illustrator document, save it in PDF or AI (see below). The only reason to save a Photoshop document as a PDF is if you have vector type or “shape” layers. (No other format, besides eps, can save vector info from PS.)

AI (native Illustrator format) is great for most files from Illustrator, as long as you’re not using them in other programs. If you’re going to use them in something other than InDesign, consider using PDF instead. By the way, if you save an .ai file, make sure you include the PDF in it (that’s an option when saving), or else InDesign can’t read it.

PSD (native Photoshop format) is great for most files from Photoshop, as long as you’re not using them programs other than InDesign, and there’s no vector stuff in there that you’re trying to save. PSD has the benefit over TIFF in that it can save layers, layer comps, and duotones (or tri- or quadtone images).

TIFF is a terrific format that everyone can agree is useful, at least for raster (bitmapped) images in print workflows. You have the option to save transparency and layered files. A few years ago, I used TIFF for everything, but I have to admit that I’ve strayed more recently to PSD and JPEG. The main reason to use TIFF (instead of JPEG or PSD) is when you need a bitmapped image suitable for a lot of different programs, not just InDesign.

JPEG (or JPG, if you’re a three-letter extension kind of person) is totally great, as long as you’re talking about photographic images. Yes, you can use this for print, too, if you use the Excellent/Maximum quality. (There are plenty of people who say never use it for print. These are the same people who say that all printing must be done gravure. Ignore them.) For synthetic images with sharp lines (such as type on a solid background), JPEG is not so good because you’ll see artifacts. Of course, images saved with lower quality (higher compression) will also show artifacts, so be careful. Also, JPEG isn’t so good if you’re going to be editing the file repeatedly — it’s really a final-version file format. If you’re going to be editing the file in the future, consider PSD.

PNG is great for interactive documents (such as EPUB or HTML export), but not for print. This is the format you should use (instead of JPEG) if your graphics are solid colors against solid colors (sharp, non-photographic edges).

These days, when it comes to Photoshop images, I generally save PSD about 60% of the time, JPEG 20% of the time, and the rest split up between PDF, TIFF, and PNG. For Illustrator graphics, I use AI about 75% of the time, PDF about 20%, and other stuff about 5%.

There are lots of other formats, such as the old DCS (required for spot colors in the dark ages; not I just use PSD or PDF), GIF (not really relevant; png is better in many cases), and PICT (you’re kidding, right?)… but you’re going to be happiest if you stick with one of the formats above.

Tags
Related Articles
Comments

88 Comments on “TIFF vs PSD vs EPS vs PDF vs…

  1. I have switched to InDesign CS5 on my new iMac from my old Mac’s CS2 . On one of my wine labels I have a starburst, an Illustrator eps file that now comes in with a white background and sort of a target symbol (2 concentric circles) that shows when I move the cursor over the box that holds the image. I’ve never seen this – what does this signify? In working with this further, I changed some settings and get the image now but it’s jagged, whether saved as eps or PDF or ai file. While I realize I can probably make a new one in InDesign now, I will have other eps files to deal with in my transfer to my new Mac. Help?

  2. I read almost all the comments and i”m a bit confused.
    So what is the best replacement for EPS? Our PSD files are very large and some of them are PSB and from what i found Indesign don’t really like them. Also, just repositioning the files takes a lot of time.
    A pain of EPS is that i cannot see the color profile and resolution in the links panel. Should i save as High Res no compression (or best quality) JPG?

  3. I’ve noticed that PDFs can slow InDesign down a lot, especially when there are multiple pages involved. (Like if you are showing the front of a book, but the whole book is in the PDF.)

    In that case, I just convert it to a regular old TIF.

  4. Hi David and community,

    I just read all the comments. I am still not getting an answer of what to do in my application.

    I’m putting together a 20 page A4 size portfolio to be sent via PDF over email. Most people will just view the document on screen.

    It will be comprised of various images – photography, designs/plans done in Illustrator and Photoshop, and scanned sketches (pencil or marker).

    Are you recommending I save each type of file differently for best image quality? Or save them all in .jpg? I have been using png for everything. Why? Because 1 person in my field (landscape architecture) told me so, not an InDesign pro.

  5. @Julie: PNG is a great bitmapped file format, especially for low-resolution images on the web. However, if you save an Illustrator (vector) graphic as png, it turns to pixels, and you lose the sharp-edged paths.

  6. All my images from photoshop, imported in InDesign are jagged. I brought al my photoshop and InDesign preferences back to basic, did a new install on my Mac and installed my programs again.. til now, nothing works. It’s strange because normally if I make a imaga in 300 dpi I can scale up to 400% and the image would still be sharp. Now it’s not.. in Photoshop it’s only smooth up to 100%
    Can anyone help me?

  7. @Laris, I suggest you post this on the forums (click forums above), where more people will see it.

    If you’re talking about how it looks in InDesign, try setting the View > Display Quality to High Quality Display. If you’re talking about Photoshop, then I would make sure the image really is a high-res photo to begin with.

  8. Thanks for this article, you’ve just saved me a day of hammering at a file and trying to figure out what was crashing InDesign when I exported PDFs.

    I had forty images created in Illustrator, and all saved as EPS files. They were crashing it every time. After resaving them all as AI the files exported perfectly.

    Great article and a great website.

  9. Help! I’m importing layered psd files into InDesign with layer masks and transparent backgrounds, and creating a pdf of the InDesign file for our print house to run digital copies. But the masked elements come out blank, but the mask outline is there, when he prints the pdf from his RIP. I never have these problems when we run separations for film. So this seems unique to digital printing. When we print the same pdf on our inhouse color printer, the masks prints fine. I’m not sure what to do–does anyone out there know? You all seem so knowledgeable so I’m hoping you’ve seen this before.
    Thanks!

  10. I had a printer once told me that my print quality suffers because all of my linked files in my InDesign project were either psd or ai files. Please keep in mind that everything link file is saved at least 300 dpi, and exported as a pfd. The printer only wants tiff. Question 1: Would linking to psd or ai hurt the quality. Question 2: Is there any easy way to saving an InDesign file as a tiff?

  11. I am working freelance for an ad agency and they are saying that all the InDesign files that go to print need to have .eps format graphics placed in them, even the photos. This is unusual for me and I wonder it seems inefficient. They say this is how they need to prep files for the printer.

    Has anyone encountered this before? What is the purpose of changing perfectly good raster images from .tif to .eps format before placing into InDesign? Could they blindly be following someone’s outdated advice?
    Thanks for any input!!!

    • Having worked both as the vendor and the designer, I’d say flatten your PSD file and save as an eps or tif before placing in any document that will be used to send to a printer or make a print PDF from, it will
      1. keep the size to a minimum (tifs can be compressed with no loss of image quality)
      2. ensure nothing moves or drops out, type doesn’t rasterize, colors don’t do weird things, etc
      3. files can be used as imports into multiple applications without having to resave ? its just a good habit to get into
      4. jpegs will lose some image quality, though slight

  12. @Jenny, you can bet the farm that either they are blindly following someone’s outdated advice, or their printer is, or their printer has some extremely nasty outdated equipment! I am stunned… What format goes into InDesign nearly doesn’t matter as long as it’s in the appropriate format, e.g. psd, tiff or jpeg for raster, it is how you export it to PDF that matters.

  13. I just wanted to point out one contradiction in your descriptions:

    PSD has the benefit over TIFF in that it can save layers, layer comps, and duotones (or tri- or quadtone images).

    TIFF is a terrific format that everyone can agree is useful, at least for raster (bitmapped) images in print workflows. You have the option to save transparency and layered files.

    You imply that TIFFs cannot save layers in the PSD description, while in the TIFF description you say that they support layered files. The latter is correct. The statement should read: PSD has the benefit over TIFF in that it can save layer comps and duotones (or tri- or quadtone images).

    Thanks

  14. Having problems saving InDesign documents/PDFs (CS5). You re-link the .psd and save it, and again it says you need to re-link. Never used to have any problems in this area, and it dosn’t happen every time now, just enough to be annoying (have been using InDesign since it was invented, and Macs since the 80′s). Is this a CS5 problem? The files work perfectly if you change linke to .tiffs, or open files in CS5.5. Anybody else encountered this effect when doing similar work?

  15. Hi David,

    I’ve read all the comments and the post and am finding it hard to find a reason not to save a raster image as EPS rather than TIFF. The file size is a lot smaller with EPS than TIFF and they both offer no compression. It seems like EPS wins this round unless you know of another reason why we should not be using EPS other than it’s outdated?

    Thanks
    Chris

    • It’s very rare that EPS is smaller than TIFF… unless you’re talking about saving a compressed EPS (not recommended) or you’re talking about saving an EPS from a vector program such as Illustrator.

      • Hi David, Thanks for your reply. When saving a Photoshop EPS, If I set the Encoding to JPEG Maximum Quality is this basically the same as saving the file as a Maximum Quality JPEG? Should we be saving it with a different type of encoding?

        Thank you
        Chris

    • @Chris: Ummm… why would you save as a jpeg-encoded eps file instead of just saving the file in the JPEG file format? You’re just adding EPS overhead to the file. If you want small, just save as JPEG (see blog article above).

  16. David, the reason I have always required an eps for placement in a design program (indesign or quark) is because it gets rid of the white background. I can then place it on a colored background without the white box of the logo. Can you tell me how to get rid of the white background when a logo is provided by the client in jpeg or tiff form?

    • @annette: JPEG has no way to handle transparency. TIFF can save transparency information (see article above). PSD can, of course, save transparency information, as can PDF. I may be mistaken, but the only time the white background gets knocked out in an EPS is when it is a 1-bit “bitmap” (just black and white, no gray) image. Logos are usually better handled as vector images.

  17. David, Thank you for responding so quickly. That is what I am asking: how do you convert a logo provided in a jpeg or tiff form to a vector eps where there would be no background. Can it be converted so I can place in an indesign document with a colored background? thanks.

    • There is no need to use Live Trace to convert image to vector, unless you are recreating logo from scan or drawing, or photo or, perhaps, your logo image is very low res. If it is normal image, Live Trace won’t improve quality, neither will make it any easier.
      If it is bitmap (1 bit) – you know, it’s simple. If it is grayscale – select image box and go to Window/Output/Attributes. Select “overprint” (doesn’t matter on box or on content) – white background will disappear and image will overprint. But you can see it only with “Separation Preview” mode.
      If your logo is solid colour (white background) placed on top of not too dark object, go to effects and select “Multiply”. I, personally, don’t like it much, but it works all right.
      But the best way to deal with image logo on white background, is to open it up in PhotoShop, double click on layer to unlock it (and make it able to be transparent), go to menu Select/Colour Range…, click on your white logo background, maximum Fuzziness will do (if you have normal image edges), (*), click OK, DELETE background, save as PSD. Will work perfect in InDesign.
      (*) If your logo is on top of dark object and still has white thin border around, in PhotoShop go to Select/Modify/Expand and add 1 or a few pixels before deleting selection. There are better ways, but this one is just as good and very simple.

  18. I am going to be making my companies logo available for download from our style guide. Which is a better option for this, .tiff or .pdf?

  19. Hi David. Could you tell me which is the best format to save a scanned drawing in so I can put it into Indesign. I know it becomes a Photoshop doc once scanned and in Photoshop ( where I am messing with the tone etc), but I need to get it into Indesign so I can create a layout and then create a PDF ready to print. Should I turn them into TIFF’s or PDF’s or keep as PSD’s? Not sure which is best quality-wise. Any help would be really appreciated.
    Alex

  20. Aggghhhh! I’m going nuts over here. I just took over the Graphic Design position of someone who was self-taught (nothing against that IF you do things correctly). There are absolutely NO native files, everything is saved in EPS, and Illustrator was used for layout instead of InDesign, but of course, no AI files. Every time I need to open a document to make changes, I nearly have an anxiety attack hoping that it is going to be easy, and that I don’t have to manipulate things. And, don’t even get me started on file organization. WTF either runs through my head, or is spewed out about every 2 minutes.

  21. Hello David, love the knowledgeable article and all the useful answers you posted to the replies.
    I see that this is an older thread, but if you are still willing to indulge, I have a question about size… In particular, I have a 172page comic book where the indesign links are all psd files ranging from 20-40MB each (resulting in a file that is almost 4GB). As such our designer had to save it in several different indesign files that the printer had to merge together, and has caused quite a bit of trouble with our efforts to create manageable epub/mobi files.
    In this situation, should i change the links to pdf, or tiff or something else to reduce file size or will i create more problems. Is there any way for me to create a more manageable file size? (BTW – I am a small publisher [non-designer] trying to teach myself.) Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Thanks for the image format overview! I have a question I’m hoping you might be able to help me with. I have ~200 PNG images that are mostly screen shots including text. I captured them for web use. But now I’m going to put them in print and the publisher requires that the images be in TIFF format. I’m thinking of using a batch Photoshop process to open each image and save it as TIFF. I’m wondering though, if this will still result in poor quality printed images since the PNG already ‘dumbed down’ the color, which could affect aliasing. I should add that have not resized the PNG files, so that’s not an issue.

    Any thoughts on this topic?

    Thanks,
    Pat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>