Blog Archives

Working with Images: Hi-Res vs. Lo-Res

Lots of times, we get sent images that are too small, or “lo-res” (short for low-resolution) to use for print. Here’s a helpful guide to understand the difference between using lo-res and hi-res images.

The first step to knowing the difference between high-resolution and low-resolution images is to understand what DPI means. DPI stands for ‘dots per inch’ which is a measure of the individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of one inch. When viewing an image on your monitor, the dots are referring to “pixels”, or “picture elements”, which are the smallest visual elements (tiny little rectangles) on a display screen. When viewing a printed image, the dots refer to the actual dots of ink on the page. The more dots per inch, the higher-resolution the image. Think of it this way; what would make a clearer image? Ten dots of color per inch or 100 dots per inch?

Lo-res to hi-res

Low-resolution → high-resolution

So, when does an image become high-res?

300 is the magic number! Anything under 300dpi is considered low-res and anything 300dpi or above is considered high-res. 72dpi is the standard for low-res.

Keep in mind…

When you have a seemingly large image (dimension-wise) that is lower-res, the dimensions decrease greatly when bumping up the resolution. For example: If I have an image that is 10×10” at 72dpi and I resize it to 300dpi, the dimensions decrease to 2.4×2.4”.

size-03

Why shouldn’t I just use high-res images all the time?

High-res images are great and designers love them. They’re clear, sharp, beautiful files and when you are printing anything it should always be high-resolution. But believe it or not, there are some reasons to use low-res images.

Internet browsers

The standard resolution for internet browsers is 72dpi, so anything you see online is automatically low-res.

Smaller file size

It makes sense that low-res images are smaller file sizes than high-res images; they have so much less digital information. This means they take up less space, load much quicker, and are easier to send through email.

How do I tell the difference?

If you know how to use Photoshop you can check out an image’s size under Image>Image Size. Otherwise, generally, the larger a file size is, the higher-resolution it will be.

What’s the deal with vector art?

Vector based files are information based, rather than pixel based. They use points, lines, curves and shapes that are based on mathematical equations to produce images. Because they are not made up from pixels, the dots per inch measurement is not applicable for vector files and they can be scaled up to any size without losing quality. Vector files are typically used for line art such as logos, digital illustration and typography, whereas photography is always pixel based.

vector

When in doubt, always send your designer the high-res image.

These can always be cropped down to the correct dimensions and dpi, whereas a low-res image’s resolution cannot be increased any higher than it currently is — once an image size is decreased, that digital information is lost. You cannot create a high-res file from a low-res file.

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Infographic: Anatomy of a File Name

We send you a PDF for your brochure and you look at the loooong mess of letters and numbers that is the file name. Why don’t they just name it ‘Brochure.pdf’? you wonder. There is a method to our madness, I promise.

Here’s an example file name —
file name-01
Let’s break it down.

File Name Infographic

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Spring Clean Your Communications

Happy April! The smell of fresh air, going outside without a coat, the pop of color in the yard from the daffodils and crocus. It’s the best time of year to open up the windows, air out the house, and sort the closets…why not freshen up your creative assets as well? Here are some ways to go about it.

Spring Crocus

1. Look at your Logo

How’s it working for you? Over the last year, have you been struggling with using it across different applications? Are the colors still working well? Don’t be afraid to take the initiative in making moderate improvements over time. Yes, you will have to update the website and your business cards with the new logo, but this will also require you to take a fresh look at all your outreach collateral. Now may be a great time to update your identity.

2. Collect your Photos, Icons & Imagery

If you haven’t already, take a birds-eye view of all your image assets across your collateral. Are some looking dated, or maybe overused? Are they being used consistently to identify each offering, or is there a mishmash splatter of images and icons that aren’t really making sense? Let’s create a strategy on how to use them and maybe do a little image research or photo shoot for a fresh approach.

3. Brush off that Brochure

When was the last time you actually read the materials you are putting out there? Maybe they are feeling stale or outdated compared to your evolving business offering. Or you’ve launched a new web initiative we should be promoting more. Let’s put a little rethink into what you want to say.

4. Review your Website

Take some time to click through your site, pretending you are your ideal customer. What may have made sense two years ago might best be rethought for what you are doing today. Web technologies probably have evolved since your last update. Now might be a good time to implement that new feature you’ve been considering.

5. Assess your Social Strategy

Take a slow scroll through your Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, etc. What patterns do you see emerging that are: a) great for business; or b) not really helping much. How is your brand coming across in Webland? Consider what you can do to improve your social media presence in a way that works with your daily schedule or internal resources and refine your social media strategy based on that.

It’s so easy to put off this type of housecleaning, especially when it gets busy and you have more “substantial” fish to fry. By spending a little time each week (say Friday afternoons?) ironing through the wrinkles, eventually you’ll have a clarified brand and crisp communications. Enjoy!

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Logo Files: Which One Should I Use?

When we finish designing a brand identity, we always send the client a big ol’ zipped file of the final logo in a variety of file formats; EPS, PSD, JPG, TIF, and PNG. Do you ever wonder why we send so many logo formats? Or when to use a JPG instead of a PNG? A TIF instead of an EPS? No worries, we’ll break it down for you here.


EPS

Stands for: Encapsulated PostScript

What it is: These are vector based files, which means the file is information based, rather than pixel based. It is made up of mathematical equations (please don’t ask us how, exactly) to produce shapes and lines that can be increased in size indefinitely without losing quality. EPS files can be either CMYK or RGB color modes (see our blog post CMYK vs. RGB: What’s the Difference?). When we design your logo, we create it in Adobe Illustrator and save the original in this format so we can go back and edit as necessary. We like it because the logo can be transparent on various backgrounds.

What we use it for:

  • Print design
  • Large scale printing
  • Anytime your file needs to be edited or modified
EPS Logo

Here is an example of what an EPS file looks like in Illustrator, as an editable vector file, and a close up of part of the logo with no quality loss.


PSD

Stands for: Photoshop Document

What it is: These files are Adobe Phosotop’s native files. For logo purposes, these files are vector based, editable and can be either CMYK or RGB color modes. We like it because we can make the logo transparent on other backgrounds.

What we use it for:

  • Website design
  • When designing other elements in Photoshop that will incorporate the logo
  • When we need to save other formats or sizes of the logo
LOGO-psd

Here is an example of what a PSD file looks like open in Photoshop.


JPG

Stands for: Joint Photographic Experts Group

What it is: JPGs are pixel based files, usually set to RGB color mode because it’s typically used for screen display. “Pixel” stands for “picture element,” it is the smallest visual element on a display screen. Pixel based, or raster, images are made up of many of these tiny rectangles. The more pixels per inch, the higher quality, or resolution, these files are. A JPG is a conveniently small file size as it can be compressed down to 1/10 of the size of the original data. The thing is, you can’t increase the size of a pixel-based image past it’s original resolution without it losing quality (becoming “pixellated”!).

What we use it for:

  • Online purposes; websites, email, evites, etc.
  • Images viewed on monitors or TV screens
JPG Logo

Here is an example of a JPG file and a close up of part of the logo where you can see the pixel detail.


TIF

Stands for: Tagged Image File Format

What it is: TIFs are pixel based files, used for storing high quality images. TIF files are usually in CMYK mode, high-resolution and can support a transparent background. This means your logo can be used on top of another image or color and that background image will show through behind your logo

What we use it for:

  • Printed collateral
TIF Logo

Here is an example of two TIF logo files with transparent backgrounds layered on top of a colored backgrounds, and a close up of part of the logo to show the pixel detail. Notice the TIF is a lot higher quality than the JPG.


PNG

Stands for: Portable Network Graphic

What it is: A pixel based file format in RGB color mode that can support a transparent background and can remain compact in size even at a high resolution.

What we use it for:

  • Online purposes when your logo needs a transparent background
  • Word and PPT templates
Here is an example of two PNG logo files with transparent backgrounds so the background image shows through.

Here is an example of two PNG logo files with transparent backgrounds so the background image shows through.

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CMYK vs. RGB: What’s the Difference?

While we are working on your digital images, there are two basic color spaces, also known as modes, that we encounter: RGB and CMYK. They’re not as complicated as you think! For now, let’s focus on the specific use of each mode. This is an important differentiation because utilizing the correct color mode for how the image is being used will get you the best results possible.

13-0206-colormodes-RGB

RGB is short for Red, Green, Blue. It is the color of the light emitted from your computer monitor; when RGB light is combined, the image gets brighter. RGB mode is used for anything that will be viewed onscreen. This includes anything online, in an email, evites, and pictures being viewed on a computer monitor or TV.

 

 

13-0206-colormodes-CMYKCMYK is short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. These are the inks used in 4-color printing; when the inks are layered on top of each other the image gets darker. CMYK mode is used for anything that is being physically reproduced, such as postcards, flyers, posters, etc.

 

13-0206-colormodes-examples

Here’s an example of what the difference between RGB and CMYK looks like on screen. Notice the RGB image is brighter and more vibrant — that’s because it’s using the correct color space!

When we switch between the two modes you can see a noticeable difference in the vibrancy and in some instances, a shift in color. RGB mode is usually brighter and more vibrant due to the way the colors are ‘mixed’ and displayed on the screen. When prepping images for printing, we bring them into Adobe Photoshop and change the mode to CMYK so we can see a closer representation of how it will look once printed. That way we can decide if it needs any tweaking (color, contrast, sharpness) before we send it to print. If an RGB image gets sent to the printer, it will automatically be converted to CMYK, but be aware, the colors will differ from what you see onscreen!

When we are handling vector images (such as logos, diagrams and graphics) we use Adobe Illustrator to convert them to either RGB or CMYK color mode as well. This is an important part of keeping your image and brand in line. One of the things that helps us do this is your brand palette and brand guide. Here is where we set the color breakdowns for both RGB and CMYK modes for your company colors. Because we always use the correct color breakdown for each mode, you end up with a consistent brand, and the best results possible — whether it’s onscreen images, or printed collateral.

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