Graphics images on the internet come in three major formats:
GIF, JPEG and PNG (and PNG's close relation MNG). Each of these
formats has it's associated advantages and disadvantages. It is
important that you understand all three formats to make the
correct decision as to which to use under what circumstances.
One of the major factors to consider when choosing or using a
graphics format is the size of the resultant image file. In
addition, you will need to understand how to optimize images in
each format to be cognizant of the results that you can gain.
What is image optimization? It is simply defined as finding the
correct compression settings to make the image as small as
possible with as little loss of resolution as you can get away
with. Why is this necessary? Because it take time for images to
be loaded (most people are accessing the internet over dialup
connections, after all) and optimization reduces that time.
The first and most primitive graphics format is known as BMP,
which means bit mapped. These kinds of images may not be
compressed as they are simply an exact description of what is to
be shown on the screen. Each pixel is represented by 3 bytes
(red, blue and green), and each byte contains the color
intensity of it's base color. This BMP images can be made up of
16 million colors. BMP files tend to be very large, and you
don't see them directly on web pages very often. Where you will
find them is in collections of wallpapers (wallpapers in the
system directory must be in BMP format), desktop themes and
similar things.Because BMP files were much too large for normal
web browsing (especially several years ago when virtually every
user was not only on a dialup connection, but was lucky to get
4800 or 9600 baud) other formats were invented. Two of these
formats became dominant and are now found just about everywhere.
These are the GIF and JPEG images types. The formats are
extremely different and have widely separate applications. Your
average web site will generally include a mixture of both
formats, as each has their use.
GIF was created by CompuServe in 1987 for their online service.
GIF images consist of no more than 256 colors, because each
pixel is represented by a single 8-bit byte. This means that in
order to convert a BMP image to a GIF image you have to discard
all but 256 colors at the most!
Each GIF image has a description (known as a header) that
defines the colors that will be used in the image. This allows
the colors to be assigned to a code which is what actually
appears in the image. Thus, the header might say "red is color
#47, bluegreen is color #48" and so on. Later in the image, the
colors can be represented as "color #47 is used for the next 546
Thus the optimization of GIF images is fairly straightforward
and is handled by virtually every graphics program on the
market. For example, Paint Shop Pro allows you to export an
optimized GIF image with a very cool wizard to help you choose
exactly the best options. Using the optimizer it is possible to
reduce an image file size by 95% or more! This means a 100k
image can be reduced to 5k or less by this method of
On the other hand, JPEG images use an entirely different
compression scheme. JPEG was invented in 1991 by the Joint
Photographic Experts Group to display photographs and similar
type images. JPEG has the advantage of allowing 16 million
colors. However, JPEG compresses by throwing away pixels.
For example, suppose you have a photograph that is 1024 pixels
wide. JPEG compression might be specified to throw away 10% of
the pixels (every 10th one). When the image is decompressed
those pixel values are extrapolated from the colors of the
surrounding pixels. This implies that JPEG images tend to become
"fuzzy" when the optimization values are high.
As it turns out, JPEG is great for photographs and similar
things because those types of images tend to have soft edges. In
fact, for photographs and art the JPEG format is much preferred.
PNG is an up-and-coming, very new image format which is similar
in concept to GIF. PNG images allow for 16 million colors and,
unlike JPEG, does not lose colors. PNG compression is handle by
most graphics editors, at least those that support PNG.
So how do you optimize your images? First, find the best format
for your applications. PNG is very new and is probably not
suitable for most web sites (browser support is sporadic so you
may lock out some of your users). GIF is great for line drawings
and other things with sharp edges and no more than 256 colors.
JPEG is perfect for photographs, art, and similar images.
Second, be familiar with the optimization functions of your
graphics programs. Save images using the various settings and
closely examine the differences. For example, how does that
image look in 2 colors, 16 colors and 256 colors? Find the
correct setting (the smallest possible file size with the least
change in the image quality) and use it. Remember that this
setting will be different for every single image.
What do you gain from all of this work? Faster loading times on
your web site, which means your visitors are less likely to hit
the back key even before your site begins to load.
Graphics Formats - Animated GIFs
animated GIFs to create moving images on your web site. Just
remember not to overdo it.
Graphics Formats - GIF
http://www.internet-tips.net/Graphics/gif.htm The GIF format is
an excellent format for many types of graphics.
Graphics Formats - JPG
http://www.internet-tips.net/Graphics/jpg.htm JPG is best for
images with gradients, blends and inconsistent color variants.
It is very efficient but parts of the image are lost by the
Graphics Formats - PNG
http://www.internet-tips.net/Graphics/png.htm The PNG format is
a newer, better format than GIF. It may soon be the dominant
format on the internet.
Products - GifClean32
allows you to remove comments from GIF images. It is a handy
little utility to have around.
About the author:
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets
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