How to Convert Graphic Image Formats
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Graphics files are very common, and yet for many computer users they are also a bit of a mystery. Your desktop wallpaper is a graphics file and so are your icons. The digital photos that you take are also graphics files and so are many of the images you see on the Internet. This article is meant to remove a bit of the mystery from graphics files and tell you how you can convert graphics from one format to another.
There are dozens and dozens of graphics file formats and all of them are slightly different. Some are compressed, others are not. And if you don't plan on a career in graphics, you don't really need to know about more than a few of them. Here is a list of just a few graphic formats, that I've put in alphabetical order, and it includes: ADI, AI, AWD, BMP, CAM, CGM, CLP, DLG, EPS, FPX, GIF, HRF, IFF, IMG, JBG, JPG, LBM, MAC, MNG, MSP, PCC, PCD, PCX, PIC, PNG, PSD, RAS, RAW, RGB, RTF, TGA, TIF, WMF and WPG. And believe me when I say that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to graphics file formats.Popularity
So, what are the most popular graphics formats? Well, that might be up for debate if you were talking with a graphic artist, but I'm "graphically challenged" so I'll stick with the ones that are most popular on the Internet. I'd say it was safe to say that the most popular graphics formats on the Internet are GIF, JPG, and PNG. That's primarily because they can be displayed by your Web browser. I'll describe a little about each of these and then we'll talk about converting graphics files.The All-American GIF File
First off the is the GIF format which stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It was created on CompuServe long ago in a Galaxy far, far, away. I believe it was about 1987 or so. MANY people use GIF file, which is pronounced JIF (like the peanut butter), by the way. There are some good reasons why people like the GIF file format, and I'll list just a few for you:
- Animation - you can create animation using multiple images - slick
- Compression - for what they contain the files can be quite small
- Transparent - yes, you can make a graphic so the background shows through
- Interlacing - this lets a large image fade in gradually
One thing to remember about GIF files is that they can only utilize 256 colors, so if you want millions of colors GIF is not your choice. It also uses what's called LZW (Lempel Zev Welch) compression and the company that created it often tries to get royalties if you use a GIF file commercially.Is That JPG or JPEG?
Next are the JPG format files which happen to be one of my favorites -- the other is GIF. The JPG or JPEG, both are correct, stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. This file type also uses compression, but the compression is different from what you find in a GIF file. The only problem is that if you compress a JPG too much the image gets very fuzzy. If you're dealing with smaller images, like for a Web page, this generally isn't a problem. This is a really great file format for your pictures, at least in my opinion, but it's not good for stuff like clipart. So, sometimes, in my experience, you have to experiment between using a GIF or a JPG. You may be able to get an even smaller file by converting a GIF into a JPG. And you might not lose any quality. Another cool thing about JPG files is that they can use lots more colors.Did Something Go PING?
And lastly, is the PNG file format and that stands for Portable Network Graphics. NOTE: As far as I know, not all Web browsers can display this format of file, at least at the time of this writing, but it does have some great features. Like the JPG, it also lets you use more than 256 colors and it also has good file compression. So, while in the grand scheme of things it's a relatively new graphics format, it's gaining in popularity. Another reason is that there are no royalties. One other cool fact about the PNG file is that it doesn't get "fuzzy" when you compress it a lot. My guess, based on 25 years in this business, is that the browser makers will start to make sure their products can display PNG files. If you have the latest versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape it's not a problem.Conversions
To say that there are many programs that can convert graphics files from one format to another would be an understatement. There are some programs that only do graphics conversions, other that do conversions along with drawing, and many, many more. I'm going to tell you about a variety of programs that I personally use and you can try those or look for some of the others. Programs that I personally recommend include: Irfan View, Blaze Media Pro, and Paint Shop Pro. All of them have been reviewed in my Dr. File Finder's Picks and they are all different. And all of them are award-winning. Irfan View is a free product that lets you view, convert, resize, sharpen, and do a huge list of things with graphics files. I have it right in my "Send To" menu so I can send graphics to it. Very nicely done. Blaze Media Pro, which is in my current Picks (05-24), is a really powerful, full-featured program for working not only with graphics, but with audio and video as well. So, multimedia people might want to check that out. And Paint Shop Pro is a truly full-featured and dynamic paint program that can convert graphics, create them, touch-up photos, do screen captures, and more.
Let use Irfan View for our examples because for the most part, most graphics-related programs that do conversions make it very easy to convert from format to format. Keep in mind one thing: Since each graphics format has its own, unique, properties, you may "lose something in translation." For example, if your JPG has 600 colors in it and you convert it to a GIF, it's going to lose some colors because as I mentioned a GIF can only have 256 colors. Converting between different types of compression can cause changes as well, but remember that when you're converting, you create a new image so your original should be intact.
So, in Irfan View I load a JPG file - a picture of my granddaughter, Cahlia. I can resize it ... making it smaller. I can "sharpen" it, which smoothes out rough edges. I can alter the colors, change it to grayscale, and lots more. Then, when I'm done enhancing the image, I simply click on File ... Save As .... and I select a different format, like GIF. Viola -- the JPG is a GIF, and there are lots of other formats you can try to experiment with. Many programs offer "batch conversions" so you can select say 1,000 GIF files and convert them to JPG in one operation. Very slick. Ultimately, for those of us who don't make a living with graphics, you're probably good to know about the ones I've listed. GIF, JPG, and PNG. The TIF format is one that is often used for production purposes ... like magazines, promo items like mouse pads or badge holders, and the like. The TIF (or TIFF) file is pretty much the standard for doing professional work with images. It supports several types of compression, supports the most operating systems, and for these reasons, and more, it's often used, and requested, when you're doing special work.
I hope you've enjoyed this discussion about graphics. Again, for most of us a few, basic graphics formats will do the trick. Take a look at the programs I've mentioned and try experimenting. Converting graphics from one format to another is really pretty easy and now hopefully you understand it a little better.
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Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.