PCX files.

The PCX file type is an early image format whose popularity has declined since its release in 1985. Some software programs still use PCX because the file type has faxing and scanning applications. Discover the pros and cons of the PCX file type and how to create a PCX image.

 PCX marquee image

What you’ll learn.

  • What is a PCX file?
  • History of the PCX file
  • How to use a PCX file
  • Pros and cons of PCX files
  • How to open a PCX file
  • How to create and edit a PCX file
  • PCX files: frequently asked questions



What is a PCX file?

PCX, an acronym for Picture Exchange, is a raster image file type, which means that it uses color pixels to display images. The other main type of image format is vector, which creates visuals using a complex structure of points, lines, graphs, and formulas.


PCX supports 24-bit color images, 8-bit grayscale, and 1-bit black and white, as well as indexed color images. PCX files use the .PCX extension. Multi-page PCXs often save as .DCX.


The PCX format uses RLE (run-length encoding) lossless compression — meaning it doesn’t lose any quality or data when compressed.



History of the PCX file.

ZSoft published the PCX file in 1985 as the native file format for their PC Paintbrush program. The PCX file became a widely accepted standard format for the MS-DOS operating system. It was also one of the first Bitmap image formats used on Windows, but fell out of favor after the release of more advanced image file formats like JPEG, GIF, and PNG.


Initially, PCXs only supported up to 256 palette-based colors. This later extended to incorporate 24-bit color, too. Currently, PCX can support up to 16 million colors.


Today, Windows operating systems still support PCX files. They’re also compatible with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and several other applications.



How to use a PCX file.

Though they are no longer commonplace, PCX files have several uses:



The PCX format has the capacity for multi-page files, making it a useful file type for fax applications. These file types have the .DCX extension, but incorporate a set of connected PCXs.



The lossless compression and 24-bit color of PCX mean they can also be a useful file type for scanning. Plus, a number of scanning applications support them.


Discover more raster file types



Pros and cons of PCX files.

There are many PCX advantages and disadvantages to consider before using this file format.


Advantages of PCX files.

  • By handling millions of color options, PCXs remain a solid choice for editing images.
  • PCX files have lossless compression, so they won’t lose quality when saved, transferred, or shared.
  • PCXs are compatible with several Adobe products, including Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop — as well as a range of scanning and faxing applications.


Disadvantages of PCX files.

  • By retaining their data in a lossless format, PCX files can be large.
  • PCX files are not usually suitable for web use.

  • Many Windows, Adobe, and faxing or scanning apps don’t support PCX. You might find it challenging to transfer, store, open, or save your files with other programs.



How to open a PCX file.

Follow these simple steps to open a PCX file with Adobe Photoshop.


  1. Open Adobe Photoshop.
  2. Select File > Open.
  3. Select your PCX image from your computer.
  4. Click Open.



How to create and edit a PCX file.

Follow these easy steps to create a PCX using Adobe Illustrator:


  1. Open an Illustrator file and click Save As.
  2. Select PCX from the Format dropdown menu.
  3. Save your new PCX file to a location of your choice.



PCX files: frequently asked questions.

How can I convert my PCX file to JPEG?

Converting your PCX file to JPEG is a good idea if you want to use it online. To do so, open your PCX in Adobe Photoshop and save it as a JPEG. However, you might lose some of the data in the file as it transfers to this lossy file type.


Are PCXs raster or vector files?

PCXs are a raster file type — that is, they’re a pixel-based file format. On the other hand, vector files use graphs and algorithms to display images. Vector files can scale to any size without appearing grainy or pixelated. You can use vector files for drawings, logos, and illustrations, but raster files tend to be better for photos.


What is MS-DOS?

MS-DOS was an early Microsoft operating system, gradually superseded by Windows. PCX was a standard format for MS-DOS.


What is PC Paintbrush?

ZSoft developed PC Paintbrush as a rival to the Macintosh MacPaint program. PCXs were also known as ZSoft Paintbrush files.


Why did JPEG overtake PCX?

Much of the reason why JPEG, GIF, and PNG overtook PCX was because those formats were more efficient, adaptable, and sophisticated — overall, better for the world of web-based computing.


Are PCXs and DCXs the same?

DCX files are multi-page PCXs with a different header. Essentially a DCX file is a multi-pace PCX that introduces a set of following PCX files.

Learn more about similar file types to PCXs.

GIF file image

GIF files

Learn about GIFs, one of the more sophisticated file types that now supersedes PCX.

JPEG file image

JPEG files

Discover these lighter files which can maintain high-quality images, even with lossy compression.

PNG file image

PNG files

Learn why PNGs are great for logos, graphics, and high-quality photos.

HEIC file image

HEIC files

Discover this Apple file that supports high-quality images in small file sizes.

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