Graphics - Converting graphics files

Some questions to consider: is the format suitable for print or the Web? Is it compatible with other graphics programs or platforms (essential if you are sharing files). Is the format lossy, i.e., will I lose information each time I save the file? For more information about some of the limitations of types, see the July 2000 Graphics column. Also, does your graphics program support the file formats you want to use?

The first limitation you will face is that while many free programs can open a range of file formats, not all can convert them to other types (the Wang Imaging program that shipped with Windows 95 is a good example). If you want to practise converting files across a range of formats, try the Paint Shop Pro trial version and free IrfanView on the cover CD. Before buying a program, you should be careful to check that your graphics program can support the file types you want to use. Special note: if you are going to practise on the trial version of Photoshop then you are in for a shock - it doesn't allow you to save files. So it is useless for this task.

Regardless of which program you prefer, the steps for converting graphics are generally the same.

Start the graphics program, and:

Open the existing file you wish to convert (generally File-Open)Select 'Save As' from the file menu (generally File-Save As)A dialogue box should appear - one of the options should be "Save As" file type. This is where you chose the format you wish to convert the file into. Hit Save and you should be done.

Most advanced programs allow users to tweak certain options. Graphics formats can have a myriad of choices but most allow a user to balance between file size and quality. In Paint Shop Pro and IrfanView, when you select Save As, the dialogue box that appears will have a button called "Options".

Here you can adjust the settings of a file type, or you can ignore it and use the default values (beware, it will also preserve your last settings and apply them until you alter them again). Photoshop is a little counter-intuitive in its approach, in that a dialogue box to adjust the compression options will appear after you hit the Save button.

A common problem is that sometimes, when you hit Save As, you will find that there is only one file type that the program will let you select (on occasion there may even be a few listed). This is due to some formatting in your picture that is not supported by any format other than the one used by the program. The most frequent cause is layers. For example, if you haven't merged or flattened an image that has layers, then Photoshop will not let you save it as a JPEG - only PSD will be available.

Some programs have an Export feature but this function varies so widely across programs and even between version numbers that it will have to be covered another time (alternatively, consult the program's Help file).

So, lets say that you have a file and you want to convert it to a JPEG. Open the file in the graphics program. Select Save As. A box will appear and from the file type list, select JPEG. In Paint Shop Pro you can adjust the JPEG quality by clicking on Options. A compression factor of 70 should be set for Web sites and 30 or higher for print. Photoshop will display a similar box but you have to select Save and then it will appear. Adjust its Quality setting to about 3 for the Web and at least 7 for print.

When converting files to TIFF format you can easily fall into a common trap: there are many types of TIFF formats and not all graphics programs support all the different flavours. You may save a file with LZW compression called party.tif, but if you send it to someone else and their program doesn't support that type of TIFF, it will not open. Furthermore, there is no easy way to identify what type of TIFF they have used. Try to avoid TIFF until you have experimented more with its peculiarities. The options box in Paint Shop and IrfanView list a few of the common varieties.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Mendham

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?