BY MATTHEW BIRCHARD

No, the logo you copied from your website won’t work for print.  Here’s a quick overview of image resolution to help you more effectively work with your marketing agency.

All images are made up of tiny squares of color called pixels.*  The clarity of an image results from how big the pixels are relative to how closely you view them.  Resolution is in fact just a description of the density of pixels; typically described by the number of pixels per inch (ppi).

Images used in print should be 300 ppi (though this is often interchanged with dots per inch [dpi] it is not exactly the same thing). For images that will be viewed on a screen, such as a website, the resolution of an image is typically 72 pixels per inch.  However, new high-res displays are changing this rule, like Apple’s new iPad boasting a screen with 264 ppi.  The size of the pixels help determine the clarity of the image, the more pixels per inch, the sharper the image.  The new iPad for instance touts a “Retina Display” with pixels so small you can’t discern one from another at a typical viewing distance of 18 inches or so.  But the same is true of a Jumbotron in a sports stadium.  The actual pixels may be almost a foot square, but when viewed from the other side of a stadium, your eye sees a complete image and not individual color blocks.

So density of pixels is what defines resolution.  Here are some samples:

 

High resolution image
HIGH RESOLUTION 300 PPI FILE FOR PRINT.
NOTE THE CRISP DETAIL.

 

 

 

Low resolution image
LOW RESOLUTION 72 PPI FILE FOR WEB SHOWN AS IF IT WERE PRINTED.
NOTE THE JAGGED AND BLURRY APPEARANCE.

 

ENLARGING IMAGES: BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.

With the exception of vector artwork*, all images, graphics or photos are created at a certain size, with a predetermined resolution. When someone tries to enlarge an image beyond the size that the image was created for, the resolution of the image decreases and results in a degraded, “pixelated,” or blocky, stair-stepped image.  All you end up doing is making the pixels bigger, you aren’t adding more pixels.

Long story short: Unless the file extension has an EPS at the end of it? Don’t enlarge it. It just won’t end well.

High resolution image
HIGH RESOLUTION 300 PPI FILE AT 100%.
NOTE THE CRISP DETAIL.

 

 

 

Low resolution file
HIGH RESOLUTION 300 PPI FILE AT 300%.
NOTE THE JAGGED AND BLURRY APPEARANCE.

 

 

 

*Okay, not all images are made up of pixels, only bitmap formatted images. Vector based images are the exception and are points connected by lines, or “vectors”. But for the sake of argument, we’re only talking bitmap images here as they’re the only ones affected by resolution. For a brief overview of file types, read my post on A Quick Guide to Understanding Logo File Types.

Don’t know the resolution of an image you have?  Get in touch and I can get you an answer.