Preparing images and logos to get the best results in print
The format in which images, logos and graphics are supplied can have a considerable impact on the final appearance of your printed piece.
Optimising image size, quality and format before sending in your artwork for print will deliver the best results.
Why spend time getting your images and logos right?
- Poor quality images and logos look unprofessional
- They can let down the overall appearance of a document
- Images can appear pixelated or blurry
- Colours may not be what you expected
- Images can look very different on screen compared with in print
Raster and vector graphics
Most print files are designed using a combination of raster and vector graphics.
Vector images are based on geometric shapes rather than square building blocks, allowing for greater flexibility. Vector files store the lines, shapes and colours that make up an image as mathematical formulas which determine where the dots that make up the image should be placed to create the best result.
A vector image can be scaled indefinitely without any loss of quality as all the information resides in the file structure.
Vector formats include:
Raster images are made up of tiny squares or building blocks (pixels), that combine to form a single image. The most common source of raster based images are those taken with a digital camera. JPEG and TIFF files are comprised of raster images.
The major limitation with raster images is the fixed size of the pixels. When a raster image is enlarged too much, the pixels become visible to the naked eye, resulting in a noticeable loss of quality.
Raster formats include:
A PDF can include both Raster and Vector images.
PDF (portable document format)
A PDF is a file format that captures all of the elements of the original document as an image that you can view, navigate or print from. It can be viewed across multiple platforms and devices without the need for the original software. The ability to embed fonts within the file means it is the gold standard for commercial printing.
Best for: print-ready files
PSD (Adobe Photoshop)
A raster based format native to Photoshop. Photoshop is recommended for manipulating images and adding effects rather than creating print ready artwork such as brochures or flyers.
Best for: manipulating or editing images
AI (Adobe Illustrator)
An AI file is a vector based format native to Adobe Illustrator. It is recommended that Illustrator be used for manipulation of individual graphics and effects rather than for creating print ready artwork such as brochures or flyers.
Best for: creating graphics and logos
EPS (Encapsulated Postscript)
A vector based format that is essentially self-contained and can easily be placed inside other programs.
Best for: wide format printing and signs
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)
A common format for high quality raster images. TIFF files can use lossless compression to maintain image integrity and clarity. TIFF files are highly secure and ideal for storing but can be difficult to edit and open.
Best for: large format (better image quality) and offset printing
PNG (Portable Network Graphic)
A raster file format that supports lossless data compression for smaller, high quality files.
Best for: images, logos, icons, web
JPEG or JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
A common file format for digital camera images and images used on websites. JPEG uses a compression formula to save images resulting in a considerably smaller file size but does this at a cost of a reduction in quality. JPEGS can be used in print but are generally best used as their original saved file and not repeatedly edited or resaved.
Best for: web, transfer of smaller files
A raw file is an uncompressed image usually taken by a digital camera or scanner. You can think of it as a digital negative. A RAW file contains detailed information which makes it much larger than a JPEG file. The additional information means a RAW file can be more freely edited and manipulated. RAW files need to be converted to another file type such as JPEG before printing or placing in a document for printing.
Best for: shooting high quality photos.
The resolution of a digital image is determined by the number of pixels per inch. The more pixels there are per inch, the higher the resolution and the sharper the detail in the image.
In commercial printing, 300dpi (dots per inch) is the standard resolution preferred for photos. There is no perceptible difference if the resolution is higher. However, if the resolution is lower, the image may be less sharp and more grainy looking, resulting in an unprofessional looking image that doesn’t “pop” on the page.
Exceptions to the 300dpi rule:
- Scanning text or illustrations that have thin line work – 1200dpi is recommended.
- Images for large format printing. If images are raster based, an enlargement will stretch the pixel and deliver a poor quality result if the resolution is not high enough.
“Effective resolution” is an important consideration for printed work and will ultimately depend on how the image is used in your job. This is the final result after any scaling is applied to an image within a document. For example, by enlarging or scaling up a 300dpi image by 300%, the effective print resolution will be 100dpi which results in a poor quality image.
Tips for getting the best results from your image and graphic files
- When using stock photo libraries such as istock and Shutterstock, download either the highest quality file (300dpi +) or .eps (vector) if available.
- Be aware that digital cameras and phones tend to shoot in the RGB colour spectrum. If being used for print, it is best to convert to CMYK and colour correct before use.
- Often online logo makers, especially the free ones, will supply low resolution logo files or formats that are only suitable for online use. We recommend using a qualified graphic designer who can create a suite of logo files for different purposes (for print and online).
- Consider how cropping will work with the layout of your page and bleed.
- Photos taken on a phone or other small device such as an ipad will be limited in how large they can be printed. For best results, use a professional camera or photographer.
- For a white background (such as a flat lay) it is best to have images deep etched rather than to shoot your subject on something white.
Express Print & Mail has an in-house design team that can take care of all your design, artwork and logo needs for print and online. Get in touch with our team for some inspiring ideas for your next project.