SVG vs PNG: The Difference Between SVG and PNG

As designers, we use many different types of image formats. Each with a different purpose and usability. But in some cases, it can be a little confusing as to which is best for what purpose.


Today we’ll look at the PNG and SVG file formats specifically. Both of these are frequently used image file types in responsive design for websites and apps. But when should you use PNG, and when should you use SVG?

Here at Freepik Company, we offer you both these file types in Flaticon and Storyset. Both our icons and illustrations can be downloaded as either PNG or SVG. If you have often found yourself wondering which one to choose, we’re here to help.

Let’s take a look at both image file types plus the pros and cons of each.

What is PNG file?

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. It’s a raster image file type. This means that all PNG images and graphics are made up of pixels. Therefore they can’t be scaled to any size as vector graphics can.

PNG is a file format commonly used for images published to the web. It tends to have a better resolution than JPEG and is better for digital design. It’s the file type of choice for logos and illustrations with a transparent background.

Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of using PNG in both digital and print design.

PNG file advantages

  • It supports transparent backgrounds.
  • It works for adding cut out logos to any type of design; print, digital, and web.
  • Better quality than JPEG for digital.

PNG file disadvantages

  • When you zoom in, it gets pixelated.
  • On responsive design, the size stays the same from desktop to mobile.
  • No layers.
  • Not easily editable.
  • Not the right file type for images used in print design.

What is SVG file?

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic. It’s a vector image file type. All SVG visuals are scalable to any size without losing resolution.

The main difference between SVG and PNG is that SVG supports animation and scalability. Another is that as a designer, you can change the colors of an SVG image much easier because it has layers.

Here are the pros and cons of using SVG for both digital and print design.

SVG file advantages

  • It can be animated.
  • It has editable layers.
  • It’s responsive, meaning that the size of the graphic changes depending on screen size.
  • It can be customized with CSS.

SVG file advantages disadvantages

  • It’s not the right format for photographs.
  • Older browsers and email applications sometimes can’t read SVG.
  • Not suitable for print.

What is the difference between PNG and SVG files?

About the file format, PNG is a raster graphics file format. It uses a lossless compression algorithm to store images and SVG file is an XML-based vector graphics file format. It uses mathematical equations to describe the shapes and curves of the image.

In the image quality  PNG files are best suited for complex images with intricate details and color variations, such as photographs. It supports a wide range of colors and can display high-quality images, but it is not scalable without loss of quality, and SVG files are resolution-independent, which means they can be scaled up or down without any loss of image quality. They are best suited for simple and geometric images, logos, icons, and illustrations. However, SVG images may not be as visually detailed or realistic as PNG files.

About scalability since PNG is a raster-based format, it consists of a fixed number of pixels. When a PNG image is scaled up, the pixels are stretched, resulting in a loss of quality and pixelation and SVG files are vector-based, allowing them to be scaled infinitely without any loss of quality. The mathematical equations used in SVG files ensure that the shapes and curves remain smooth and precise, regardless of the size of the image.

PNG files can have relatively large file sizes, especially for complex images or those with many colors. This is because PNG files store each pixel individually, resulting in larger file sizes and SVG files are typically smaller in file size compared to PNG files. Since SVG files store mathematical equations instead of individual pixels, they are more efficient in terms of file size.

Finally, accessibility about PNG files are essentially static images, and any modifications or edits require image editing software. They are not easily editable in terms of shapes or colors.
SVG: SVG files are editable in terms of shapes, colors, and other attributes. They can be modified using vector editing software and allow for easy customization. Additionally, SVG files can be easily manipulated using CSS and JavaScript, making them suitable for interactive and responsive web designs.

When to use PNG or SVG?

Now that we’ve seen each format’s pros and cons, let’s see when you should use each. We’ll use some real-life examples.

Let’s say you are downloading an icon from Flaticon, and you have to choose between downloading a PNG or an SVG.

  • Download as PNG if you are designing a non-responsive digital design or print design. Use the largest size possible to keep it crisp.
  • Download as SVG if you are using the icon for a UI/UX design for an app or responsive website.

Now let’s say you’re on Storyset and want to download your illustration. You can download the design as a static illustration or as an animation.

  • As a static instant download:
    • Download as PNG if you want the illustration to be uneditable in terms of color and layers. For example, for a non-responsive digital design or print.
    • Download as SVG if you want to be able to change the colors later or the layers of the design as a whole.
  • As an animation:
    • Once you have animated a Storyset illustration, you no longer have the option to download as PNG.
    • Download as an SVG (in one of the options offered) to use in apps and web designs.

And now, imagine you’re designing a logo for a client. What file type do you send them?

  • Your best bet is to send them a PNG. They can use this on their website header, any digital or print design. Send them three versions; low-quality, medium-quality, and high-quality.

What if you are designing custom icons for an app or website?

  • Send the client both PNG and SVG files. It’s best to give them all the options for their brand.

Are you a Flaticon contributor?

  • Upload all icon designs as SVG.

Are you designing a website and don’t know what items to use as PNG or SVG?

  • Photos should be PNG.
  • Logos in headers can be PNG or SVG, depending on how the header is set up. Most website themes will have an integrated shrinking motion for headers. If not, use SVG.
  • Animated illustrations should be SVG if you need them to be scalable. GIF if you want them to stay the same size.
  • Icons should be SVG if you want them to scale with the screen sizes and PNG if they will stay the same size.

Last Thoughts

Knowing when to use what file type is key to growing as a designer in any field. Not just for yourself but also to educate your clients. That’s why at Flaticon and Storyset, we give you all the options. We know that you are working on all sorts of projects, and we want to support you in the best way possible.

Now that you know the difference between PNG and SVG, do you feel more confident in your choices when downloading graphics and adding them to your projects? Leave us a comment below.