What Is a TGA File?

How to open, edit, and convert TGA files

What to Know

  • A TGA file is a Truevision Graphics Adapter image file.
  • Open one with Photoshop or GIMP.
  • Convert to PNG, JPG, BMP, PDF, etc., at Zamzar.com or with one of those same programs.

This article describes what a TGA file is, how to open one, and how to convert one to a different format.

What Is a TGA File?

A file with the TGA file extension is a Truevision Graphics Adapter image file. It's also known as a Targa Graphic file, Truevision TGA, or just TARGA, which stands for Truevision Advanced Raster Graphics Adapter.

Images in the Targa Graphic format might be stored in their raw form or with compression, which might be preferred for icons, line drawings, and other simple images. This format is often seen associated with image files used in video games.

TGA files

TGA also stands for various things that have nothing to do with this file format. For example, The Gaming Armageddon and Tandy Graphics Adapter both use the TGA abbreviation. The latter, however, is related to computer systems but not to this image format; it was a display standard for IBM video adapters that could display up to 16 colors.

How to Open a TGA File

You can open one with Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Paint.NET, Corel PaintShop Pro, TGA Viewer, and some other popular photo and graphics tools as well.

If it's relatively small, and you don't need to keep it in the TGA format, it might be much quicker to just convert it to a more common format with an online file converter (see below). Then, you can view the file with a program you already have, like the default photo viewer in Windows, and guarantee that anyone who receives it from you will have no trouble opening it themselves.

How to Convert a TGA File

If you're already using one of the image viewers/editors from above, you can open the TGA file in the program and then save it to something else like JPG, PNG, or BMP.

Another way to convert a TGA file is to use a free image conversion service. Online file converters like FileZigZag and Zamzar can convert TGA files to popular formats as well as ones like TIFF, GIF, PDF, DPX, RAS, PCX, and ICO.

You can convert TGA to VTF (Valve Texture), a format commonly used in video games, by importing it into VTFEdit.

A TGA to DDS (DirectDraw Surface) conversion is possible with Easy2Convert TGA to DDS (tga2dds). All you have to do is load the file and then pick a folder to save the DDS file in. Batch TGA to DDS conversion is supported in the professional version of the program.

Still Can't Open It?

Some file formats use file extensions that share some of the same letters or look awfully similar. However, just because two or more file formats have similar file extensions doesn't mean that the files themselves are related at all and can open with the same programs.

If your file isn't opening with any of the suggestions from above, double-check to make sure you aren't misreading the file extension. You might be confusing a TGZ or TGF (Trivial Graph Format) file with a Targa Graphic file.

Other file formats using similar letters include DataFlex Data (TAG), Microsoft Groove Tool Archive (GTA), and TuxGuitar Document (TG).

More Information on the TARGA Format

The format was originally designed in 1984 by Truevision, which was later purchased by Pinnacle Systems in 1999. Avid is now the current owner of Pinnacle Systems.

AT&T EPICenter specified the TGA format at its infancy. Its first two cards, the VDA (video display adapter) and ICB (image capture board), were the first to use the format, which is why files of this type used to use the .VDA and .ICB file extensions. Some TARGA files might also end with .VST.

The TARGA format can store image data in 8, 15, 16, 24, or 32 bits per pixel. If 32, 24 bits are RGB and the other 8 is for an alpha channel.

A TGA file can be raw and uncompressed, or it can utilize a lossless, RLE compression. This compression is great for images like icons and line drawings because they're not as complex as photographic pictures.

When the TARGA format was first released, it was only used with TIPS paint software, which was two programs individually named ICB-PAINT and TARGA-PAINT. It was also used for projects pertaining to online real estate and video teleconferencing.

  • How do I make a TGA transparent?

    You can make an image transparent in most image editing software, but you must save the transparency as an Alpha channel for TGA transparency. Although the steps will vary depending on the application, typically, you can right-click the mask giving the layer transparency, and select Add Mask Selection. Then, on the Select menu, choose Save Selection, save it as a new alpha channel, name it Transparency, and select Alpha Channels when saving the TGA file.

  • How do I change the file size of a TGA picture in GIMP?

    Open the TGA file in GIMP and go to Image > Scale Image. in the Scale Image dialog box, change the values in either Image Size or Resolution, select Cubic in the Interpolation list, and select Scale to apply the changes.

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