I Love PNGs.

I love PNGs, they're pretty much necessary for my workflow since I mostly do art with no anti-aliasing which makes it the perfect format. It's almost uncanny in how well it suits my needs. It's also a pretty old and well defined standard which means there are a lot of image viewers and tools that support it. It would probably be more surprising if something didn't support PNGs, can you imagine that?

I have not yet seen an alternative that matches it's great compression and handling of pixels. I've tried other formats like FLIF and JPEGXL before and thought they were pretty cool, though I've tried the latter more than the former. For some context FLIF was supposed to be a "Free Lossless Image Format" (hence the acronym FLIF) and ever since it was abandoned, there have been image formats such as Cloudinary's FUIF and Google's Pik proposal. Then came JPEGXL, taking ideas and inspiration from FLIF and it's descendants.

I tried JPEGXL and I was pretty amazed at how it was able to compress paintings into almost single digit kilobyte files, but notice how I said "paintings". You might know where I'm going with this but PNG is still king when it comes to pixel art or just art with no anti-aliasing. The reason I say this is because I actually tried compressing one of my usual digital sketches and turns out that the compressed PNG version was smaller and looked better than the JPEGXL one. While JPEGXL could easily compress it into a single digit kilobyte file, if I wanted the image to be pixel-perfect (no artifacts) I would have to use the mathematically lossless compression of JPEGXL which ended up as a larger file in comparison to the PNG one compressed with pngquant.

Speaking of pngquant, this tool is absolutely amazing. I'm still baffled to this day how it can almost consistently half the sizes of PNGs, and the way it compresses things leads to interesting results. Basically what it does is (if there's a lot of colors) limit the color palette to a certain degree and uses dithering to blend things, unless specified otherwise. This method results in significantly smaller file sizes and gives images a somewhat nostalgic feel due to the use of a limited color palette and dithering. It almost feels like how images used to be compressed to fit within the color limitations of old hardware.


Best part about using pngquant is that since it's based on limiting the color palette, I can almost consistently compress my sketches two-fold with literally 0 loss in quality since almost all of my sketches are basically monochrome. I love it!

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