File Prep 101: 5 Tips for Picture-Perfect Print Resolution

Low-resolution images appear fuzzy when printed

In marketing as in life, a picture is worth a thousand words. Marketers use photographs in print advertising and collateral material to create an emotional bond between the consumer and the product and to strengthen market position. Because most of us process images much faster than we process text, picture quality is critical. And picture quality relates directly to resolution, which determines how crisply an image reproduces.

These five tips for integrating high-quality images into your printed materials will enable your customers to quickly make a positive connection with your company.

  1. Give your printer high-resolution images. Images should be supplied as high-resolution (300 dpi) TIFF (tagged image file format) files. DPI refers to “dots per inch” and indicates how close together the dots are that make up the image.
  2. Don’t increase the size of an image. TIFF images cannot be scaled up without a loss of resolution. If your picture is 300 dpi at a size of 2 x 2, it will print well at that size or smaller, but won’t print well at a larger size.
  3. Save digital pictures as large as possible. If you’re taking pictures of your products, store or other items that you want to print, save them at a size large enough (5 x 7 or 8 x 10) to allow for sizing flexibility when you set up the print file. Large, high-resolution images will take up more space on the camera’s memory card, so you’ll want to have several handy at the photo shoot.
  4. Buy the right image online. Most online stock photography houses offer several size options. Here too, you want to make sure the picture is available in a size large enough to use at the size you want. It should also be available at 300 dpi and not just 72 dpi, which is appropriate for use on a website but not for printed material.
  5. Apply these tips to your logo as well. If your logo is a TIFF file, follow the above resolution and sizing tips. For example, if you’re printing it at one size on letterhead and need to enlarge it for the cover of a presentation folder, make sure enlarging it doesn’t result in a loss of resolution.

If you’re not sure what resolution your image is, ask your printer for help. He or she will help you determine how to best prepare your pictures to print beautifully.

Pat Hanke, Conformer, Inc.

About Sari McConnell

Sari oversees strategic partnership opportunities and heads up Conformer’s San Francisco office. Sari was formerly the managing director of a venture-backed music and multimedia agency in San Francisco and New York. She began her career in brand management at Hallmark Cards, Clorox, and LeapFrog. Sari is an appointed member of the Bay Area Regional Council of Northwestern University and is an active volunteer at her children’s schools. She received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and her B.A. from Northwestern University as well.
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