JPEG vs PNG

What is the best way to store your image files? For most, the answer to this question is one of the two most popular formats. But when it comes to JPEG vs PNG, which one is better?

There is no universal answer to this question. However, there are many situations where one format far exceeds the other. While the decision can seem complicated, it’s really not!


which should you choose


To make everything simple, we’ve created a summary that goes over:

  • What JPEG and PNG are
  • When to use each of them
  • The shortcomings of each file type

What Is A JPEG?

JPEG was first introduced in 1992 by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG). The group’s goal was to make photographic image files smaller, and thus easier to share. For the most part, they succeeded.

3D figure standing beside a signpost, with JPEG written on it

When an image is converted into a JPEG file, some of its quality is sacrificed. Unfortunately, compressing a file this way isn’t perfect. Some of the information in the original file is permanently deleted during the conversion into JPEG.

JPEG or JPG?

Reading so far, you might understandably be confused. Before we even get into PNG, what is JPG and what is JPEG? Is there a difference?

JPG and JPEG are effectively the same thing. The only difference you’ll see in your files is the name of the file type. But it doesn’t matter whether you see the “E” in “JPEG”.

The reason these 2 abbreviations both exist is because earlier versions of Windows required a 3-letter extension for file names.

What Is A PNG?

PNG files are a bit younger than their JPG counterparts, but they’ve both become very popular. The PNG was first used in the 1990s to replace the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF). Because of GIF’s limitations, PNG became the popular alternative.

3D figure standing beside a signpost with PNG written on it

In comparison with JPG files, PNGs offer contrasting benefits. One of the most important is that PNG images support transparency.

Which Image Offers Better Quality?

At this point, it’s no surprise that PNG wins when it comes to image quality alone. In fact, PNG files are easily superior for certain formats. If you’re working with graphics, screenshots, or complex, layered photographs, PNG will help you retain more of that quality in your image.

side by side image of a cat, JPEG version is blurry and PNG version is clear

Now, this doesn’t mean JPG loses outright. For many kinds of images, if you compress them into a PNG and a JPG and place them side-by-side, you’ll notice little difference. PNG files won’t necessarily beat a JPG significantly for quality. If you want to compress a photograph or a simpler image, JPG might make your life easier without quality-related drawbacks.

Given that JPEG and PNG both offer good quality in some situations, it’s hard to say JPEG is for quantity and PNG is for quality. But overall, it’s a good place to start.

JPG Or PNG File: Is It Really Important?

In short, yes. But it’s not the most important thing in the world…

Your choice of PNG or JPG will alter the size and appearance of your images. JPG makes things easier overall, but if you want a responsive website, you need to consider the differences in image compression.

The best way to keep your image responsive is to have the image size compressed without sacrificing quality. Stronger compression means a smaller image size, which generally means lower quality.


person typing on a computer, on a desk, searching through a selction of images

If you have a great image on your desktop right now, you’re looking at an image that isn’t compressed. But if you want to get that image onto your site, you need to download it, which means you need to compress it.

When you’re taking that image from your desktop to your website, your choice will affect your site’s loading time and the image’s appearance.

Main Benefits Of JPEG

Now let’s dive into the cases where you should certainly choose one over the other.

Regular (Or Small) Sized Images Should Be JPG

Regular sized images for personal use or use in a catalogue should be saved as a JPG. If you’re moving many images at once, this is especially true.

phone placed on a tripod, taking a picture of the sky and water

If you need an image file to be small, it should be a JPG. Likewise, if you’re constantly compiling vast quantities of image files, JPG will make your life so much easier. You can go even further by using online tools to further compress a JPG file. If your main concern is web page loading speeds, this path offers the fastest loading times. Modern broadband is making loading speed issues less common, but older computers with slower loading speeds will benefit. But if you’re storing huge numbers of photos, JPG might still be necessary. When you get into the hundreds, or even thousands, of photos, PNG might push modern hard drives to their limits.

If you need to have a small file, use JPG. If size isn’t the only important factor, let’s move onto PNG.

Main Benefits Of PNG

PNG offers certain qualities that professionals can’t ignore.

Professional Photography

If you’re just moving a few pictures of your house or something like that, you don’t need to use a PNG. The difference in image quality will not be substantial. But if you need one of those images resized, it might be more important.


canon camera on a tripod, taking a picture of a building at night with lights

PNGs are substantially larger files. In many cases, they are 200% to 250% larger. The images themselves are also larger. There is one huge reason for this that professional considerations require: how colours are displayed.

A JPG compression will do a few things. One of those things is reducing the size by “assuming” that your human eye won’t be able to detect the differences between similar colours. Pixels of similar colours are thus grouped together to save space. This is a highly intelligent process if you’re being utilitarian. It’s why if you’re just storing photos or simple documents, JPG is the winner.

Of course, PNG compression doesn’t require these sacrifices. Despite that, PNG saves some space over JPG when it comes to simple images. Documents or infographics with just a little bit of colour are often smaller when saved with PNG. But when it comes to photographs, PNG is the better file type for storing illustrations.

Transparency

The difference in appearance between JPG and PNG is normally small. But nowhere is the difference more visual than with transparency. So, you can have a transparent background surrounding an irregular object, but avoid the white box outlining your image.




Another factor that PNG brought to the table is that file compression is lossless. That means that all the data in the original image is maintained during the conversion into PNG. There is no colour removal to accommodate the compression. This is an amazing benefit if you’re sharing images that are still in the editing process. But it does also mean that the PNG file will be larger than a JPEG. But if the size isn’t an issue and you want your image to stay detailed, PNG is preferrable.



Final Thoughts On PNG Or JPG

The strengths of PNG or JPG have now both been laid bare. JPG makes storage easy, while PNG offers certain qualities that you need to consider if you have detailed illustrations/photos.

Most of the time, the difference in quality between the two file types is marginal.




You can download files from PikWizard as JPGs. But once you edit your image on Design Wizard, you can download it as either file type. Of course, if you’re unsure which one is better for your purposes, you can just choose both! After you choose, you can just delete the one you like less.

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