Graphic Design File Formats Forensics

I was handed a DVD by the editor of Florida Sportsman magazine not too long ago. He had received it from someone who loaded many file formats on it and he needed the images extracted.

THERE WERE MANY DIFFERENT FILE FORMATS, including many that were not apparent by looking at the directory. The files with extensions of .JPG, .TIF, .EPS were obviously images. The files were created in the mid-90s. He wanted everything saved as .JPG, so the .EPS and .TIF images I simply converted in Adobe Photoshop.

But, what about the file formats that were listed as “Unix Executable File”? This is where I was able to change from Graphic Design Production Manager into Computer Forensics Guy.

My Master’s in Computer Forensics from Utica College prepared me for this task perfectly. I knew exactly what to do and I did.

Graphic Arts Forensics in Action

How I determined the file formats and how I converted to the format that was required.

The files show up in the Mac’s Finder as a black box, with no indication of what it is (above).

I opened the file in a hex editor. I used Online Hex Editor to perform this function.

By copying, or noting, the hex values at the beginning of the file I was able to search Gary Kessler’s excellent file format website to find out what kind of file it is. Simply CTL/CMD-F and the hex string will show up with an explanation of what the file type is.

Once identified, change the extension in the Finder to match. In this case, it was an .EPS .


Save the file with the new extension. Don’t let the computer scare you with its scary warnings.


Since this .EPS file can be opened with an image editor, I right-clicked and chose Adobe Photoshop to perform this function.


Once opened in Photoshop, it is revealed to be, uhhh, a tadpole, I guess.

I then saved the image as a .JPG, as requested.


Another mystery file turned out not to be an image at all. This example was an old QuarkXPress file.


Kessler’s file format guide confirmed that. Although it is possible to convert many QuarkXPress files to InDesign with Markzware’s QX2ID plug-in, this wasn’t necessary, but if needed, I’ll do that, too.

Hope this helps.

About Jeff Macharyas

Jeff Macharyas has worked in publishing and graphic arts for many years as a production manager, art director, editor, and operations manager and earned his MS in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics from Utica College in 2015. Macharyas holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Florida State University and a miniMBA in Social Media Marketing from Rutgers University. For more on graphic arts forensics, check out the Capstone Thesis: The Malicious and Forensic Uses of Adobe Software.