Difference between GIF, PNG and JPG

Published on January 13, 2016

Ever wondered about the different image file formats like GIF, PNG and JPG and why they exist? We live in an era where millions and millions of images float around the internet and it wouldn’t hurt to know more about these image files, especially in a business-oriented environment where efficiency is of top priority.


GIF file having a smaller size than JPG file but without much image quality differences


The Graphics Interchange Format is a bitmap image format introduced by CompuServe way back in 1987. It supports 8 bits per pixel of an image that allows a single image to reference its own palette with up to 256 colors that are chosen from the 24-bit RGB. A GIF also supports simple animations for up to 256 colors on each frame. It is best suited for simple images like logos with solid colors.

For every image, compression is one important factor, and with GIF, it uses the Lempel-Ziv-Welch lossless data compression technique (using algorithms to allow original data to be flawlessly reconstructed from the compressed data). This way, the file size may be reduced without fully degrading the quality of the image.


The Portable Network Graphics is a raster graphics (dot matrix data structure that represents rectangular grid of pixels and points of color) file format that is intended to improve a GIF. It is also the most used lossless image compression format currently on the internet because of its efficiency.

A PNG supports 24-bit or 32-bit RGBA colors palette-based images, grayscale images, and full-color non-palette based images. One of its significant uses is transferring images on the internet, though not for professional-quality purposes; it was approved by the Internet Engineering Steering Group in 1996.


Joint Photographic Experts Group is also another file format where the technique lossy compression (Class of data encoding methods using inexact approximations to represent content) is applied. Its main purpose is for compressing rather large-sized image files. Take note however, reducing the size of an image will have a tradeoff with its quality at 10:1 ratio compression. It also supports a maximum image size of up to 4 gigapixels.


What’s the difference between GIF, PNG and JPG? While they all have one common purpose, compression for image files, they do have some usage differences in what matters most.

JPG at one time became the standard image of the internet simply because they can be compressed so much, but with faster internet, it decreased in popularity because of degraded high-quality images. One example would be crisp lines or sharp edges being blurred out when compressed. Just as with JPG, GIF would also not be ideal for modern photography or image storage since it can only support a very limited color table, although it can be compressed to a much smaller file size. It is an out of date file format, but due to its animation capabilities, it is still somewhat popular, as seen in comments on social media sites and advertisements. PNG on the other hand, was an alternative to GIF – an excellent file format for internet graphics usage as it also supports transparency on browsers that GIF does not possess. It also supports a higher color table at 24-bit color RGB, as with JGP, but is non-lossy. It can compress high-quality images with the benefit of reconstruction, and is the biggest among the three file formats.

So to sum up, JPG would still be a good graphic file format to use as long as you don’t compress too much. GIF would be called something of a novelty just because of its animation capability. Lastly, PNG is preferred for transparency options and non-lossy small files. For storage purposes, PNG would be slightly better than JPG and GIF.

Comparison Chart

8-bit RGB24-bit RGB24-bit RGB
Uses lossless LZW compressionUses lossless compressionUses lossy compression
Transparency capable (With limitations)Transparency capableTransparency incapable
Animation capableAnimation capable (Not widely used)Animation incapable
Can be compressed to a very small file sizeCan be compressed to a decent file sizeCan be compressed to a small file size
Internet usage (animation)Internet usage (transparency)Internet usage (image quality in contrast to its file size)


Here is a video explaining further the differences of GIF, PNG and JPG file format.