They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but if that picture is grainy or squished, it’s not going to be saying anything good. To help you include images that speak volumes in your next MagCloud publication, this installment of our Design Blog Series includes a short list of image DOs and DON’Ts:
DON’T use images copied off a website
Aside from the potential copyright issues associated with taking images off of websites, photos used on the web are almost always screen resolution, or 72 pixels per inch (ppi, or more commonly, dpi). This is roughly a quarter of the 300 pixels per inch that is the recommended resolution for printing. If you use an image less than 300 dpi in your MagCloud publication, you run the risk of getting a noticeably pixelated, or ‘fuzzy-looking’ image in the print copy. The lower the resolution of your image, the more noticeable the pixelation will be, so a 72 dpi image off the internet will look very ‘fuzzy’ in print.
DO use images from your camera or stock photography websites
Images taken with a personal camera or purchased from a stock photography website like iStockphoto will generally be high enough resolution for printing.
An easy way to check if your images are high enough resolution for printing is to open your final PDF and zoom in to 350% on-screen. If an image still looks clear at 350% zoom, like the 300 dpi image on the below left, then this image will look great in your printed copy. If an image looks pixelated at 350%, like the 72 dpi image shown below right, then it will likely look pixelated in your print copy too.
It’s also good to keep in mind that if you double the size of an image, the number of pixels per inch will drop by half. This is because doubling the size of an image doesn’t change the number of pixels in the image, it just increases the number of inches that the pixels have to fill. For example, if you have a 1” x 1” 300 dpi image, which is 300 pixels by 300 pixels, doubling it in size to 2” x 2” means that there are now 300 pixels for every 2 inches, making it a 150 dpi image.
DON’T squish or stretch your images
You have a rectangular photo, let’s say 4” x 6”, but you want it to be square in your MagCloud publication. Sound familiar? One solution would be to just squish or stretch the rectangular image into the square size you want, but here is the inevitable result:
DO scale and crop your images
To avoid squishing and stretching the subjects of your photos, the better option is to use scaling and cropping to resize your images. Scaling your images maintains their aspect ratio (the ratio between the width and height of the image), keeping a rectangular image as a rectangle, then the image can be cropped (i.e trimmed) down to the size you want, like so:
In Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, Microsoft Publisher and Apple Pages, you can crop images by creating an image placeholder in the size you want, and then placing your image into the placeholder. These programs allow you to adjust the image independently of the placeholder, and the placeholder will “crop” the image in your final publication. In Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher, you can use the Crop Picture feature to manually crop the image itself down to the size that you want. Both methods will help you avoid stretching or squishing your subjects.
DON’T use images that are really dark with low contrast
Your computer screen is brightly back-lit, but unfortunately print publications are not. As a result, details that are dark or low contrast on screen may not be as visible in your printed copy. Overall, you can expect the print you receive to appear darker than what you see on screen, so it’s best to avoid using darker images or those with very low contrast to begin with. If you want to try lightening or increasing the contrast in your images in a photo editing software like Photoshop, check out these photo retouching tips and tricks.
DO embed your color profiles
To get the closest representation in your print copy as compared to what you see on screen, make sure that you embed the original color profiles of your images in the final PDF. We’ll dive more into detail on this next week in a post on color, but in the meantime check out our Getting Started page for downloadable instructions on how to do this in your design program of choice.
We would love to hear your favorite tricks for getting your images to standout. Please post them in the comments section below.