Before you embark on a print marketing campaign, there are some steps that have to be taken. Of course, one of the most important components of any successful print marketing campaign is design, and a key part of design is image. But images are tricky, and it takes a little know-how to make sure you’re selecting the best possible images for your campaign. This guide will do the work for you, and you can take that knowledge and select the best images for your campaigns from here on out.
The biggest problem that we may run into when starting a campaign has to do with image size. There are some images out there that look great on a computer screen, but look terrible when they’re printed on a larger medium. This problem centers on resolution. Files designed for computer and phone screens simply don’t always have the right DPI for print.
DPI, or dots per inch, tells us how much visual information is in an image file. Since the total number of “dots” in most images doesn’t change, stretching an otherwise attractive image out to a larger size can ruin the image’s definition and the viewer’s visual experience. For this reason, US Press asks customers to provide images of at least 300 DPI at final print size. This ensures consistent, quality images every time. And for large format printing jobs, there’s a little more leeway. 100 DPI is a good minimum for these larger jobs, where the visual experience is a little more forgiving. Still, the higher your DPI is, generally speaking, the better your image will look when printed.
There are other factors to consider as well: Image type, or whether an image is a “raster image” or a “vector image.” Vector images, which are made from mathematical paths, are designed for resizing and can scale infinitely without losing resolution. When you stretch a vector image, it creates more DPI to ensure a consistent resolution across applications. It will never lose its quality no matter how large you stretch the image, which is why vector images are ideal for logos as they will be applied across various mediums.
Raster images, on the other hand, can’t do that. Raster images (photographs) are made up of pixels that will lose their quality if stretched beyond the original size it was created. This is part of why you can’t just yank an image off Facebook or a similar platform and expect it to look good in print. Facebook images, along with most images found in Google searches and elsewhere across the web, are raster images by default. They won’t scale well beyond the original size and thus will look pixelated and blurry. Plus, platforms like Facebook rescale all images anyway (so they’ll load and display quickly), and the sacrifice in resolution makes them less than ideal to print with.
So how can you find great images for print? There are a few options for designers and business owners alike. For logos, we recommend using vector files (.eps, .ai) so that way your logo looks great no matter how large it is scaled. For photographs, you can follow the old adage of “If you want something done right…” and take photos yourself. Quality camera equipment – even the most basic digital cameras – can capture excellent images in high resolutions that are great for printing. No camera? Images taken using the camera on a smart phone are often high enough resolution for small format products (brochures, postcards, etc). as long as you maintain the original image size and don’t compress it. Alternatively, there are a ton of great websites for stock images like istockphoto.com, or free options like pixabay.com or unsplash.com.
In the end, it’s all pretty simple. Printing great images in your designs just takes a little design know-how. It’s as easy as knowing about DPI and image types, and applying that knowledge to your design. With this knowledge, a few design tools and a decent camera, you can be producing jaw-dropping artwork and printing great images in no time flat.