Best File Type for Printing: The Ultimate Guide

Print quality is one of the most important aspects for any physical product. Branded material with logos and vibrant graphics needs high-definition print jobs that capture color without any mismatch or misalignment. Banners and signage with photos need prints that don't have a trace of blurriness or pixelation. Even primarily text-based prints, such as flyers and resumes, need to have the right file type. In this guide, learn why using the best file type for printing is so essential and what the best formats are for different projects.

Why does file type matter for printing?

Each type of file format has different advantages, both while you're working on in-progress graphics design and formatting or when you're ready to print the final copies. Some of the factors to keep in mind are:

  • Formatting: Sometimes, size, arrangement, and even the margins of a file can skew on the journey from your desktop to the printer. If you've ever print-previewed a PowerPoint presentation or a random photo file, you've probably been disappointed in how the file would have printed. Choose a "WYSIWIG" print file so there are no surprises.
  • Image quality: Image quality can quickly go wrong, even if you try to account for all the variables. This is especially true for oversized print jobs, like posters, banners, and signs that are much larger than your computer screen. So opt for file types known for image quality rather than compressed file size.
  • Transportability: Whether you're carrying the file on a flash drive to a print shop, emailing it to a printer, or using a professional service, different file types offer different advantages and vulnerabilities. Email servers will try to compress large images for easier sending, and some images may be too big for a crowded flash drive. Also, your printing service may have restrictions on the types of file types allowed.

Best file format for printing

Depending on the factors that matter most for your unique print job, you may want a different file type for each file. Some of the best file formats for printing are:


TIFF files are an excellent choice for almost every printing session. It creates high-resolution files with very clear images in both black and white and color. But as a result of this quality, the files themselves are very large. Bring them in on a flash drive or upload them directly on your printer service's site rather than try to email them.


PNG files offer many of the same advantages as TIFF files, and it's an excellent choice for printing photos. However, PNG files can only use RGB color, not CMYK color.


If exact formatting matters, opt for PDF. PDF stands for 'Portable Document Format,' and it lets you know exactly what the printed file will look like before it prints, giving it a clear advantage over JPEGs and Word document file types when style and precision formatting matter (like flyers, resumes, and official documents).


JPEGs are universal and the default option for many design and drawing software tools. If you're working on a project that will pass through many different hands (or many different programs), keeping it as a JPEG may be the most simple option. It has pretty good quality and the files are relatively small. Just be sure to check the pixel dimensions before you print.

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