So far in this series, we’ve covered too much text, reading the rate card, and talked extensively about fonts. The latest designer pet peeve ties in to a similar issue to the one we ran into in post number 5—just because it looks good on your computer screen does not mean that it will look good printed. The number 4 thing designers hate is:
4) Low-Resolution Images
Resolution in digital images is measured in something called “dpi” or “dots per inch.” The standard dpi for something you want printed relatively large is 300 dpi or more. That means there are, quite literally, 300 little dots of color in each inch of the image. On your computer screen, these dots are called “pixels.”
Often, clients will send us an image that they pulled from Google or Facebook, without paying much attention to the image’s size. Then, they’ll ask us to “blow it up” or “make it bigger.” The problem is, while we can stretch something to be much larger on a computer screen, this does not increase the number of pixels in the image—it simply makes the pixels (or dots) larger. This stretched image may look fine on the computer screen, but when it gets printed there’s a good chance that a smallish image will come out grainy and unclear. And no one wants that!
If you’re using stock photography in your ad, it’s often better to let your designer source the images for you. We’ll know what to look for to make sure the image will come out nice and clear in printing. Then you also avoid issues of “borrowed” images that we covered in Things Designers Hate Number 9.
If you are searching for images for yourself, keep an eye on the number of pixels in the image. Google image search shows the size of images in number of total pixels. If an image is 300×300 pixels, then that image will be 1×1” at 300 dpi when printed. If you enlarge that image to greater than 1×1” when printing it, it will come out blurry.
You can use this information as a rule of thumb when searching for images online. Say you want to use an image that will eventually be printed in a magazine on a standard 8.5×11” page. You would need the image to be at least 2550×3300 pixels to get a resolution of 300dpi.
Finally, clients will sometimes copy all of the images they want to use, paste them into a Word document, and send that document to us. Please, for the love of that adorable puppy up there, do not do this! Pasting images into a Word document can lead to re-sizing in order to fit the image on the page, and can cause compatibility issues between computers with different generations of Microsoft Office, or between Macs and PCs. Always save your images separately and attach them directly to the email. They can be saved as a JPEG, PDF, TIF, or PNG file, but they must be saved at high resolution, at the size you want it printed or larger. That way it will arrive in your designer’s inbox the same way you sent it: nice and big!