What is the PNG used for?

Images as GIF, JPEG or PNG? | When to use which format

We come across them every day: when we take screenshots on the computer, post animated smileys or upload a mobile phone photo to Facebook - images in reduced data formats. They have the endings GIF, PNG or JPEG. But what is the difference?

BILD explains the three most popular graphic formats, when which one is available and what you should pay attention to. The right selection influences quality and loading time.


JPEG is a standard for compressing images. The name stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group” and is pronounced “jay-peg”.

This format is used to reduce the file size of images. Depending on the setting, it shrinks to up to five percent of the original file size. However, due to the compression, details are lost - some are not visible to the human eye anyway, while others are. Especially when a photo is particularly heavily compressed, the edges become blurred and the subject becomes blurred overall.

Almost all platforms can display JPEG files. It is now the standard format for most digital cameras because it can display 16.7 million colors.

JPEG is suitable for images where file size is more important than top quality. JPEG files are particularly suitable for your own websites or if you want to publish photos on Facebook. Uploading is particularly fast thanks to the small file size, but the images cover a huge range of colors.


The "Graphic Interchange Format" was developed in the 1980s - at a time when Internet connections were slow. To save time and money when transferring image files, CompuServe invented the graphics format, which is characterized by high, lossless compression. In contrast to JPEG files, however, it can display a maximum of 256 colors, which limits its field of application.

The strengths of GIF files are elsewhere: Since more than one image can be saved in a GIF file, it can be used for short animations. The Internet is full of funny sequences that make use of it (derisively: "fidget gif"). Another strength: In contrast to JPEG, a GIF can display transparencies.

GIF is suitable for images with little color depth and animations. Since GIF files can only display 256 colors, they sometimes achieve even smaller file sizes than JPEG files. The format is therefore particularly suitable for navigation elements on websites. This graphic format should not be used for photos.


PNG stands for "Portable Network Graphics" and combines the strengths of JPEG and GIF. Just like JPEG files, the format can display up to 16.7 million colors, but can be compressed with almost no loss.

This also means that PNG files are mostly larger than JPEGs. Exception: If you save a PNG with only 256 colors, the files are even smaller than GIF files. In addition, PNGs can display a color transparently, which makes them suitable for small web graphics, for example as navigation elements on websites.

The only restriction: some outdated browsers have problems displaying PNG files. Apart from that, this graphic format is an all-rounder.

PNG is suitable for all types of image files if the file size is not an issue. Interestingly, JPEG has established itself as the standard for photos (even for cameras), but this is where the PNG format has a certain advantage over its competitors. PNG files can display the same color spectrum as JPEG files, but do not lose quality when they are compressed.

P.S .: If you want to improve your photos without much effort, first set your camera so that the images are saved in RAW format, i.e. uncompressed. This is now also possible with many compact cameras. Then install a program on your computer (e.g. Rawker or XnConvert) that optimizes the photos in a batch process and saves them in PNG format. If you don't send the files, the size shouldn't matter.

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