Format Comparison

There are many file formats in computer graphics. Some are strictly for two-dimensional formats, some for three-dimensional models, and some that might even contain both. Most file formats will be tied to a particular program, for instance a ".c4d" file is a file extension that denotes the propietary format of Maxon Cinema 4D, a 3D modeling and animation package. These kinds of files that are tied to one program are typically only able to be opened in that program.

At the same time there are some formats which can be opened by several programs and are good for transferring data between programs. For instance a ".jpg" image file is a generic image format that can be opened by almost any program that deals with visual graphics.

Before we get into file formats remember to make sure you've read the section on miscellaneous computer tips and usage to make file extensions visible. It's normal to use these extensions as shorthand names when discussing various file types for the sake of clarity.

Note: Even though 3D modeling and animation programs make use of 2D textures for coloring and output to 2D still images and movies this table will be based on the method used by the editing tools within that program.

Note: Also note that the "Extension" column lists the *default* program extension that should give you the most versatality of that program. Many programs can open other types, see the second table for that information.

Native Extension 2D 3D 2D Layer Browser Raster Tools Vector Tools
Adobe Illustrator .ai X X X
Adobe Photoshop .psd X X X
Autodesk Maya .mb X X
Blender 3D X X
Inkscape X X X
Maxon Cinema 4D .c4d X X X X

Program Compatibility

For the following table there are three keys that describe the relationship between a given program and a given file type. If the intersecting area is blank then the program can not open that particular file type. If it uses one of the three labels below then it can open them in the described ways...

"Native" "Edit" "Open"
The indicated file extension is the proprietary format of the indicated program. Chances are it is the only program that can fully access and edit all aspects of that file type. It should be the default file type used when saving in that program. The program can open and edit the file type but keep in mind it may not be able to import or save all properties of that particular file type. The program can only open and view the file but it can not edit it. For instance a raster image may be placed within Adobe Illustrator but Illustrator does not edit raster images and can not change the actual content of the image.
.ai .bmp .c4d .fbx .max .mb .psd .svg
Adobe Illustrator Native Open Open Editable
Adobe Photoshop Editable Native
Autodesk 3DS Max Native
Autodesk Maya Editable Native
Blender 3D
Maxon Cinema 4D Editable Native Editable   Editable

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