Most designers wonder about one thing about their graphics. Should you use GIF or JPEG? Well, let us help you answer that question.

First of all, Compuserve’s 8-bit GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) supports 256 colors and has good compression but still has holds excellent picture quality. However, just because a GIF is 256 colors does not mean that it conforms to the 216 Internet color pallete. That pallete can be found here. The 24-bit JPEG (Joint Picture Experts Group) supports all 16.7 million colors, and has a greater compression ratio. However, the tradeoff is that JPEG doesn’t hold its picture quality as good as GIF.

Also, it depends on what kind of graphic you want to make. For regular pictures and graphics that have long stretches of the same color, JPEG is not the format to use. Here’s an example. The graphic below was created with only 73 colors:

Colors: 73
Size: 3.54K

Colors: 73
Size: 2.74K

See the blemishes all over the JPEG, and see how clean the GIF is? But, if you’re scanning in a lot of photographs and multicolored graphics, then JPEG might be a better choice. Here’s another example. The graphic in this example was created with 4984 unique colors.

Colors: 249
Size: 6.41K

Colors: 4667
Size: 6.54K

As you can see, this time the blemishes aren’t as visible in the JPEG because of the constant color variations. However, when you look at the file sizes, you can see that although the JPEG has more colors, it still can keep file size down. Conclusions:


  • If you’re concerned with how your picture will look, and its under 256 colors, use GIF.
  • If the picture is more than 256 colors try GIF first, but if it still looks grainy, use JPEG.
  • If only concerned with file sizes, use JPEG.