A crisp, high-quality image can be one of the most impactful parts of any printed piece. But unlike preparing an image for online display, where you can immediately see the effects of re-sizing it or using a particular resolution, preparing an image for printing requires a bit more focus and planning. Avoid blurry, grainy images that ruin the look of your printed piece by following these simple guidelines:
Generally, if your image is 300 dpi at its final size, you’re going to be safe for most printed pieces. It’s important to ask your vendor what resolution they need your image file in once you’ve established the parameters for a print job. The larger your image will be on the printed piece, the higher resolution it needs to be to look good.
Pixels in an image are magnified 100% when an image doubles in size. This means that every time you enlarge the photo, you’re getting half the quality that you had before. An image that looks crisp and clear on your computer screen or even when printed in small size may be almost unrecognizable in large format or in a poster.
One trick to get a fairly accurate representation of what an image will look like printed is to zoom the PDF you’ve created to 100% of its size.
In creating a graphic or image, you might use a variety of different color spaces, but it’s important to deliver the final graphic link in CMYK format. Create all elements of your image in the same color space. If you send a file for printing and the printer needs to convert it to CMYK from RGB or another format, it may result in unexpected variations in the color of the image.
You’ll be delivering your file for print in a PDF format, but each image will have a graphic link that will provide the image to the printer in the right format. While you may use systems like AdobeInDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop to create the PDF, you’ll want to ensure that any image is done in Illustrator or Photoshop (indicated by a .ai or .psd file extension). The chart below gives you a guide to which software programs are appropriate for which elements of your final printing job.
Proof Early, Proof Often
Of course, there’s no substitute for the expertise of actually checking in with your printer. For example, if you’re trying to get a newsletter together and are still in the layout process, but know that you want to use specific event photos, at Ambit we’ll review those photos for you early on to let you know if you need to photo-correct them or if they’ll reproduce well. We always encourage clients to proof early and proof often. Ask your printer for proofs of key elements of your design early in the process and at various checkpoints throughout so you know if they are going to reproduce properly–and if they aren’t, you’ve got plenty of time to make changes.