How do I make my art photos the right size?
Understanding Image Resolution
Whether you are creating photographic images of your artwork for the web or for use in printed materials to promote your exhibitions, in order to show your work off to its best advantage it is important that you understand the concept of image resolution.
Whilst understanding image resolution is possibly one of THE most tedious things to get your head around it will help you get the most out of photos of your work, both on the web and when getting things printed.
Image resolution - the size of your image
“Do you have any high res images of your work for this gallery invitation I’m printing?”or something similar and wondered what on earth that meant. Well, here we go...
Like a lot of things, images work differently on the web to real world printing. Understanding these differences will mean getting the crispest, highest quality image every time.
- A digital image is made of tiny spots of colour. The more spots of colour packed into an area, the greater the detail in the image. This is known as DPI or dots per inch. Literally the number of dots of colour packed into an inch of the image. The more dots per inch , the more information available in the image, the higher quality and crisper it is. An image at say for example 300dpi would be classed as High Resolution or “Hi-Res”
- Often, if you look in “image size” in any image editing software it will tell you the DPI of the image.
- Now, the main thing to understand is that DPI relates primarily to images you are going to print in the real world. If you send an image to a Printer [I mean a proper chap here who has inky fingers and works with large printing machinery], say to create some postcards to promote your work, it needs to be around 200 to 300dpi in order to print nicely. The higher the DPI, the bigger you can print the image without it looking blurred and ropey as it has more dots of ink and detail per inch.
Image size and the web
When you use an image on the web what matters is PIXEL SIZE. The physical size of the image [i.e. its dimensions across the top and side measured in pixels] influences what size it will display on the screen. Its only if you come to print the image onto paper or similar that DPI comes into play.
One of the common mistakes on the web is to have an image on screen that looks a sensible size. However, it takes AGES to download and slows the website down. If you were to right click and save the image onto your desktop you would find that the actual size of the image is huge. Its actually a high resolution image and you could print it out in fine detail. You want to avoid this mistake for two good reasons.
- It slows your website to a crawl, a factor that can annoy people and make them leave the site
- If you are worried about copyright you are handing visitors a high[ish] quality copy of your work
The standard DPI that you should set for the web has become widely accepted as 72dpi. [There is debate about this but 72dpi is a good standard ballpark figure to use]
So basically, if you want an image for the web that looks good on screen, won’t slow the website down and will look OK, but not too high-res when printed, set the DPI of your image to around 72 and image size to the correct dimensions in pixels of the space in the web page you want the image to fill.
To give you an idea, web pages are rarely wider than 970 pixels across the whole page content area. If you aren’t sure what size image you need, a very rough size guide would be to make an image no more than about 550pixels wide.
NOTE - If you are uploading an image to an Artfolio Artists Website your image will be resized to the correct size automatically so you won't need to worry about all this. However, its good to be aware so you can check your images on other sites you may use.
Imagine a balloon with a face on - honestly...
A good way to visualise the idea of resolution and its relationship to size is to imagine a balloon.
Imagine you blow up the balloon to a medium size and draw a picture of a face on it. This is your original resolution.
Then blow the balloon up as big as it will go. The face becomes distorted and the stretch marks in the balloon become apparent. This is because you have enlarged the image far beyond its original resolution and there isn’t enough information in the image of the face. It starts to look low quality.
This shows why its not a good idea to print an image greatly enlarged from its original size and resolution. [Increasing the size will reduce the DPI or dots per inch of information in the image]
Now imagine your medium size balloon again and let out some air to deflate the balloon further. The image looks fine as the balloon shrinks and the image even looks a little crisper.
This shows how reducing dimensions can increase print quality and why.