What size/resolution should your images be?

As a designers, we are usually put into the position of asking the same question over and over again, and that is “Do you have the image in a higher resolution?”

Have you ever wondered why?

The first thing you should know is the difference between DPI, PPI and Resolution:

DPI: (dots per inch): The number of dots in a printed inch. The more dots the higher the quality of the print (more sharpness and detail).

PPI: (pixels per inch): Most commonly used to describe the pixel density of a screen (computer monitor, smart phone, etc…) but it can also refer to the pixels of a digital image.

Resolution: Resolution is the measure of pixels, usually expressed in measurements of width x height. For example a monitor that is 1920 x 1080 is 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down.

The most important thing to know when sending or choosing an image for your marketing materials is to begin with the highest resolution and dimensions you have or can get. When it comes to your source images, bigger means better, you can always go down in size, but not up, without losing quality. We can crop, resize and optimize images for the web, but we cannot enlarge them for print. The image will pixelate causing deterioration in quality, giving it that blurred, fuzzy look you don’t want.

Most clients have images that are saved for web use, which means they are too low of a resolution for print. Always try to acquire the original source image before working on a project for print. It will save everyone a lot of time and aggravation.

Images for print and web differ in a variety of ways.

Print Image Specifications

Images used for print should be a much higher quality and resolution than those used for websites. The general rule is… your images should have a resolution of 300 dpi, or higher at 100 percent for most printed materials. This means that if your image is going to print 3” x 3”, then it should be 300 DPI at the 3 x 3 size or larger. If we receive an image that is 1” x 1” at 300 dpi, but it needs to be 3” x 3”, that means your image is now 100 dpi and will appear fuzzy when printed. This same goes if you enlarge just a portion of that image.

If using image-editing software, you can resize the image proportionately, but do not try to cheat and increase the pixel dimensions. It will NOT result in an increase in quality.

When sourcing images on the internet choose wisely.

If you intend to shop a stock image site and want to use the same images in print and web, you will need to opt for the higher print quality version. That way you won’t have to buy the same image twice.

Be careful of sourcing free images from the internet for business use, most are copyrighted and cannot be used, such as on Google images, and usually are a low resolution anyway. There are “free images” sites out there but they are usually for web use, so be careful of the resolution if your image is being used for print.

Web Image Specifications

Size and resolution for web images should be smaller so that they can load quickly.

72 dpi at 100 percent is standard for the web. The same sizing issues apply. You don’t want to take an image that is 1 inch x 1 inch at 72 dpi and enlarge it to 4 x 4 inches. Even on a screen, it will appear fuzzy.

Just an FYI, if you care to know, monitors have slightly different resolutions depending how you have the monitor set and how big the monitor is. For example, a 19″ monitor set to 1024×768 will show 70 ppi. By comparison, a 19″ monitor set to 1280×1024 will have a resolution of 87 ppi, which means you fit more on the screen and get more detail, but everything looks smaller.

For recommended file formats please see my blog “Figuring File Formats… The Easy Way”.