TIFF (short for Tagged Image File Format) is an industry standard file format designed for handling raster and bitmapped images. These TIFF files are a common file format used for high-quality images, especially those used on graphic design. They are highly flexible and platform independent; hence can be used on various operating systems such as Mac and Windows.

File extension: .tiff, .tif
MIME: image/tif, image/x-tif, image/tiff, image/x-tiff, application/tif, application/x-tif, application/tiff, application/x-tiff

TIFF file format is designed jointly by Aldus and Microsoft along with some scanner manufacturers in 1986. Originally they were designed to support only black and white images, but the update in 1988 added a color palette. Now, TIFF files can be saved in a variety of color formats, and can handle color depths ranging from 1-bit to 24-bits.

Color spaces: Line-art (pure black-and-white), Pseudocolor, from 1-bit to 8-bit (also called palette color), Grayscale, CMYK, RGB, YCbCr, CIELab etc.

TIFF format is used for still-image bitmaps that are stored in the form of tagged fields. These tags indicate the simple geometry of the image like size, defines how the data is arranged and the various image compression options. This option allows the user to include all sorts of image formats in the file.  

Compression Techniques

TIFFs often use lossless compression technique, in order to maintain image integrity and clarity. It often supports numerous compression algorithms. Some of the commonly used techniques are:

  • PackBits
  • Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW), preferred mainly for grayscale or color images
  • CCITT Fax group 3 & 4, mainly used for line-art images; especially for screened data coming from a RIP or copydot application

Uses of TIFF files

TIFF files are commonly used for printing design and desktop publishing. This is because they can easily store even the large, high quality images such as photos. They are also found in several other areas such as computer aided design (CAD), fax transmission, medical imagery, professional photography etc. TIFF saves detailed image information with each pixel, resulting in a relatively large data file. Since, these TIFF files are of high color depth (32-bit) graphics they are widely used in image manipulation applications.

Maximum File size: 4 GB of raster data in compressed form, since, it can even be compressed data, and the total file size depends on the compression size

Importance of TIFF format

  • The TIFF image file format is based on the lossless compression method; this allows the user to store the image without losing even a percent of its original data
  • Even if an image in TIFF format undergoes multiple edits, the quality parameters of the image will not be altered and remains the same; this makes it preferable over the other formats
  • TIFF files can be saved even without compression, or can be compressed to lower file size
  • It offers a high level of flexibility; to enable users to handle images and data within a single file For example a TIFF can store compressed JPEG and RLE images or a vector-based clipping path that contains croppings, outlines, image frames, etc.

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