Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What your graphic designer wants you to know about images and resolution

As a professional designer, it is my job to know everything about graphic design in order to produce a beautiful, high quality product for my clients. However, for a good portion of projects, my clients provide me with the content, including the image files. This is where issues can occur because most non-designers do not know about ideal file types and preferred resolution. When my clients send me files that aren’t usable, it is my duty to explain to them why I cannot use their images and what file types they need to seek out for me. I am more than happy to provide these explanations, but I thought it would be beneficial to explain everything in detail and in a way that non-designers will hopefully understand.

The first thing that a non-designer should understand about images is resolution. Image resolution refers to the crispness or sharpness of an image. It is measured in dpi or ppi. Image files that will be used in print should be 300 dpi. Image files used on the web are usually only 72 dpi.

The difference in high and low resolution can be seen in the example below. The images are displayed at the same size. The logo on the left is at 300 dpi and the logo on the right is at 72 dpi. The logo on the right would be described as "pixilated”, a term you have probably heard previously. This pixilation causes images to look blurred and sometimes distorted.

Today, most digital cameras take photos at a resolution and size that is high enough for print. If you shoot photographs that will be used in your marketing materials, simply download the photos from your camera and send those files to your designer. All professional photographers should be able to provide you with original high resolution image files as well.

The main issue I run into when receiving image files from clients is when photos have been pulled off the web for use in print projects. First of all, there is always the issue of copyright infringement when a random photo is pulled from the web. Secondly, the image is most likely at 72 dpi and will print “pixilated” like the above right example. When spending money to have your company’s materials printed, you want to make sure that you include high resolution images. This ensures that you are attaining the best print quality for your images and that you are representing yourself at the highest level possible. Having pixilated images on your materials can look unprofessional and low budget.

A company logo is included in just about every project that I design. Having your company logo available in the correct file type is crucial. After all, your logo is the key visual element that represents your company. You need to keep it consistent, prominent, and crisp in all of your marketing materials.

When I create a logo for a client, I use the design software Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator allows me to “draw” a logo and save it as a vector file. A common vector file that you may have heard of is .eps (encapsulated postscript). Vector art is always at the highest resolution and is comprised of points and paths, not pixels like photographic images.

The most important reason to have your logo in vector format is that it can be scaled in size and it will not lose any resolution. The example below shows a vector image and an enlarged portion of that image. Notice there is no pixilation occurring. The image is crisp and sharp even when enlarged significantly. This is beneficial when you want to have your logo printed in large scale, such as on a billboard, sign, or banner. Also, certain printing techniques, like silk screening, require graphics in vector format.

If you do not have access to your logo in vector format, I highly advise obtaining the vector files from whoever designed your logo. If you are not able to acquire the vector files or your logo was created with non-vector graphics, I highly recommend having your logo recreated in vector format. You may not currently need it, but it is likely you will in the future.

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