Images are a huge part of design and wherever you go you see them in advertising, both physically and digitally. When you think about it, it’s amazing how much is really out there.
As a designer myself, I can tell you that everyone can be a critic and that every single person out there can (and will) tell you if an image looks ‘cool’ or not. The real question is, how do you make the image look cool?
You might not know how to answer that question and that’s okay because that’s where a good designer can help get your project, website or business pointed in the right direction. However, to start you on the right path it might be advantageous for you to understand some image basics so that you can create a strong working relationship with your designer. This will help you create better quality work, waste less time and overall be more efficient, which could also save you money.
What is a “High Res” Image:
This can be a tough thing to explain but also the best place to start. There isn’t an exact way to answer this because it’s very much dependent on the actual size needed. There’s a huge difference between needing a thumbnail for your website, versus printing out a movie-size poster for an event.
When a designer is asking you for a higher resolution image, it means the image they currently have will, or already does, look pixelated and or blurry. For your images to look their best, always try and give your designer the highest quality images you have access to.
There are 2 main types of images and I would like to go a bit further in depth about.
A Raster image is an image made up of pixels. Most types of images you find on your computer are Raster images, which would include but are not limited to: JPEGs, PNGs, TIFFs and GIFs (animated or not). The most important thing to remember is that these images are at fixed sizes. If you enlarge them, they will increasingly look more pixelated and or blurry.
Typically for print design, you want an image to be at 300 DPI (dots per inch) or better at the exact size you need. 300 DPI is the standard for good printing. DPI is a print only requirement, your computer, for example, will not need to print the image, so it won’t matter for that. Digital is all about pixel size, which is why for retina display, platforms like Instagram and Facebook simply have larger image requirements based on just pixel size.
Technically speaking a vector-based image doesn’t have a resolution, it’s completely 100% scalable to whatever size you want, and it will look sharp. This is because a vector image is made up of points/lines/curves and are mathematically generated every time the computer opens/uses the file.
For example, fonts are used in this way. Usually speaking most company logos are in this format and usually, when a designer is asking for a high res image of a logo, we’re actually looking for the vector image. Common file types include but limited to EPS, SVG or PDF.
When a designer asks for this, there are only so many image formats that allow for empty space as the background. File types like PNG and TIFFs do, as well as any vector format like an EPS or SVG. Other file types, like JPEGs, aren’t capable of having a transparent background. Empty space in a JPEG will come out as white (as shown below).
On behalf of all designers everywhere, please, no JPEGs for company logos.
Once more, for good measure, repeat this with me: “I WILL NOT SEND MY LOGO AS A JPEG, I WILL NOT SEND MY LOGO AS A JPEG.”
Okay good. Let’s see why:
The left Image is what happens when you take an image format like JPEG and put it on a background of a different color. The white background is hardcoded into the logo image. As a designer, I could spend time cutting it out in Photoshop, however, it’s not ideal and if the image is already low quality, cutting it out will not look as sharp as just getting the correct file format in the first place. The hardest part in this example would be cutting out the thinner lines like “Extreme Adventure’
The image on the right has nothing around it, it sits on the blue background perfectly, which is exactly what you want if your image needs to sit on a different image or background.
Don’t just send me images from Google Search:
If Liaam Neeson was a graphic designer, I would imagine it would go something like this:
“If you’re looking for good design, I can tell you, I don’t use Google Search Images. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a creative nuisance for people like you. If you give me proper graphics, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will insist on stock images instead.”
Other than obvious copyright issues, you should avoid this practice as it usually results in low-quality images that will not look good, especially if you try resizing or reworking the image.
It’s totally okay to get inspiration this way, sharing images with your designer no matter the quality, to get a sense of what you’re looking for is encouraged. Google Search Images is a powerful tool that can help the creative process along, just don’t rip images directly from there.
Other useful terms
If a designer asks for the source file, the person is simply asking for the original software file that the current image was made from. The most common kind of source file is probably going to be an Adobe based file, as it’s the most standardized software in the industry. Adobe Photoshop is for images, especially raster images. Adobe Illustrator is usually used for vector-based creations. Layouts for books or presentations would be an InDesign file.
A raw file is the image that comes directly from the camera, provided the camera can and has been set to shoot it. It’s basically a digital negative if you will, it gives the designer the most amount of control. It’s uncommon for a designer to request this kind of file, especially in the digital space, however, if you doing a photo shoot for your products, for example, it might be worth letting your designer know you have them so you can get the most out of your image.
I’m not going to go in depth here, but it’s worth mentioning the main 2 types which are RGB and CMYK. RGB is for digital images and CMYK is for print. Ultimately if you print out something in RGB you might run into some colors looking dull or not exactly how you saw it on screen. Just remember that this can be an issue, especially if you’re doing print, it’s not usually a concern if you’re doing digital work. Your designer should know how to set this up correctly for you; however, if you’re reviewing work for others, remember that this can be an issue that only shows up in the final product.
There’s a lot too unpack when it comes to understanding images. If you truly want your business or project to stand out, you need to know how to maximize your images with your design team to get the best quality work possible. Understanding these basics things can help you create amazing content that will not only look great, but also save you time and money.
Also, it will give people like me fewer stress attacks in the future, so thanks in advanced.