TIFF vs PNG: Which One Should You Use?

Both TIFF and PNG are popular image formats and the one to use depends on your needs. TIFF files are larger, but have a higher quality and look better printed. PNG files are smaller and thus better for web use, but may not be suitable for professional use.

If you do any work with digital images, using the right image format is crucial to your success. It can drastically change how a picture looks, how quickly it loads, and more.

While there are many options, two of the most popular are TIFF and PNG. But which should you use? Read our guide to learn more about each format and how to choose which one makes the most sense for you.

Key Takeaways

  • TIFF files are large and best suited for professional use. Their size makes them difficult to send and share, and they’ll load slowly online. However, their color depth is incredible and they will look more vibrant than almost any other type of file.
  • PNG files are smaller, highly compatible, and work best for use on the internet. They load quickly, still look good, and are easy to share with others. However, they lack the color depth/vibrancy of TIFF files and don’t support layers.
  • The question of which one to use depends on your needs. If you’re a professional or printing your images, TIFF is the clear choice. But if you’re creating images for use online or have limited space to work with, PNG is the way to go.

What is TIFF and PNG?

Both TIFF and PNG are popular image formats. TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format and it was first released in 1986. It is known for its incredibly high resolution, detail, and color depth. 

TIFF supports multiple layers and can be saved with either lossless or lossy compression.

For those unfamiliar, lossless compression means slightly reducing the size of an image without harming the quality, whereas lossy compression can dramatically reduce file size, but with a small decrease in the quality.

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics and it was initially released in 1996. These files are known for their compatibility and versatility, as well as for their transparency. They’re also lossless and support plenty of colors, though not as many as TIFF.

Both of these file sizes are generally larger than many other image formats, but PNG files are much smaller than TIFF files in most cases.

Which Image Format Should You Use?

QualityOne of the highest-quality image formatsSolid quality, but not as good as TIFF
File sizesLarger file sizeSmaller file size
Web useLarge file sizing is not only hard to send/share, but causes TIFF files to load slowlyMore compact file sizing makes PNG great for use online and simple to share
Professional useIncredible vibrancy and detail, as well as support for the CMYK color model, which is common in printingLacks the detail of a TIFF file and doesn’t support the CMYK color model

Now that you know a little about each format, which should you use? Well in general, the right image format to use depends on your needs. Someone looking to create images for a website, a digital marketing campaign, or another online venture is better off using PNG images.

The reason for this is that file sizes are smaller, which makes them much quicker to load and open. They are also much easier to send and share. PNG also has wider compatibility and can be viewed/edited in many different programs and operating systems.

On the other hand, if you’re printing the photos off for posters, magazines, newsletters, or for billboards, TIFF is the better choice. The images are more detailed and vibrant, with a greater color depth.

Another major reason that PNG isn’t as good for printing as TIFF is that it doesn’t support the CMYK color model that is often used in printing.

But if I had to choose just one format to use in general, it would be PNG. The files are more manageable in terms of size, it’s more balanced, and they work better online and aren’t a huge downgrade in terms of quality.

However, if you’re a professional, using TIFF is a no-brainer as the images will pop and maintain a higher quality when printed, even if blown up to large sizes. Either way, they’re both solid image formats that are widely used and you can’t go wrong choosing either of them.

ProsHighest qualityGreat for printingHigher color depth and supports layersSmaller file sizesEasy to send and shareBetter compatibility and transparency
ConsLarger file sizesHarder to send/shareSlow to load onlineNot good for printingLower quality than TIFFDoesn’t support layers


Here are a few frequently asked questions about this topic, along with their answers.

What are other types of image formats that can be used?

In addition to TIFF and PNG files, some of the other image formats out there include JPG, RAW, PSD, GIF, and BMP. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks when it comes to quality, size, compatibility, and more.

Are TIFF or PNG images higher quality?

Both are high-quality image formats, but TIFF has higher quality than PNG. On the web, you might not see a difference. However, if you are printing images (especially ones that are large), TIFF will look better and have more vibrant colors.

Final Thoughts

TIFF and PNG are both among the most popular image formats that exist today. TIFF files are generally higher quality but have larger file sizes. PNG are smaller and have greater compatibility, but aren’t normally high enough quality to be used professionally.

I hope this guide has helped you learn more about each format and what it’s best used for.

After reading the guide, which format do you think is right for you and your needs? Let me know in a comment below!

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