I thought it would be useful to solve the mystery and frustration around image sizes and formats once and for all. Clients often feel stumped when asked for high res images for marketing materials because the original designer or photographer cannot be located (an indication of their work ethic most times).
So, let’s see what all these formats and sizes mean, and how to eliminate the source file issue altogether. When dealing with file formats and sizes, one size does NOT fit all.
Requirements for Online – websites, facebook, twitter, pinterest etc:
- Anytime you are going to put artwork or imagery on an online outlet like facebook, a website, blogs, pinterest, twitter etc. you will require 1 of 3 formats – jpeg, png or gif.
- When you need to insert an image into a “template” of some kind (for example, a background for your twitter page, or the cover photo of your facebook page), you will need a particular height and width pixel size. But how do you know what the pixel size is? That information can be found on the support page of facebook or twitter, or simply google it.
- The image must be created according to that size in 72 dpi. For example, facebook’s cover photo is 851px wide x 315px tall in 72 dpi. If this is built in a different dpi, it will become larger or smaller in width and height. Sometimes the website you are posting to is programmed to overcome this by cropping or downsizing the image, but it may not always happen proportionately, so it can look awful! Ever seen a website where the images are squished and look terrible? That’s because it is not programmed to proportionately size images. In this case, you have to size it correctly first and then upload the images. It’s a little bit like trying to squeeze and fit a large square shape into a small rectangle shape. Doesn’t work.
- So how does one size images correctly?
I personally use photoshop (which is an intense and expensive software to purchase if you are not using it a lot). Photoshop Elements is the simpler version for the general consumer.
Requirements for Printing:
- While images online are required to be 72 dpi, images and artwork that is printed needs to be 300 dpi. So if your designer tells you an image is too small for printing and they need a high res image, it means the image u have provided is likely pulled off a website, and they would need a much higher resolution image (possibly the source file). This is especially the case when logos are needed for an invitation design or something, clients send me logos pulled off company websites.
- Photos should only be in jpeg, psd or tiff formats when used in marketing materials/printed materials. Png or gif cannot be used in print. Those are strictly web formats.
- Sometimes a logo pulled off a website MAY be large enough to use in printed materials, if you only need it to be a small logo like .5″ x .5″. BUT, if that same logo needs to be blown up and printed on a large banner and need to be 10″ x 10″ it will be very pixelated when printed. Ever seen an image or logo look really fuzzy and pixelated when printed? It’s because of this. To ENSURE logos or other design elements besides photos print crystal clear, an .eps, .pdf, or .ai VECTOR format file is needed. This allows elements to be blown up as large as needed without becoming pixelated.
- Where do you get these vector file formats?
If a good, experienced designer is designing your logo for you, ask for jpeg, .eps, .pdf and .png files at that time. This eliminates running for them at the last moment (if a “designer” is designing a logo for your in photoshop, I would question their skills as a designer. A true designer will create artwork as vector files.
I hope this helps clear some basic frustrations with sizes and formats. It is not easy to explain all of it in a blog post, as even some of these basics can have exceptions.