Why can’t I use images from the web in my print document? | Learning Hub | Fineline Print & Web

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Hello, I’m Alec from Fineline Print, and I’m back again to talk to you about the dangers of using images copied from the web in your print documents. And it’s not just photo which are affected either because the same problem occurs with logos and other graphics too.

But why?

In the main, it’s because pictures and graphics intended for web-based applications have been compressed. This makes them smaller and less memory hungry so that pages load faster. The problems with some files types is that the method they use to compress images means that some image detail will be lost.

There’s also the matter of colour and if you check out our guide No. 4 “Why don’t print colours match what I see on screen” you’ll find an in-depth look at why colours which you see on screen are not the same as in print.

The use of web-based graphics in print is a big problem and it can cause delays and a lot of upset. So, in the next few minutes, I’d like to spend a little time to take a closer look at this subject for you. And … most importantly, show you some how to avoid the pitfalls.

So, let’s dive straight in.

One of the most frustrating things for home-based designers is that it’s so easy to find just about any graphic you want out there on the web. The images look great on screen and with a swift right-click of the mouse you’ve saved the one you want. The problem is that they are rarely any good.

You open your design document and with another quick keyboard shortcut you’ve dropped the new graphic in to it. Everything looks great so what’s the problem you ask yourself?

Well, the screen which you are looking at operates at around 72dpi (dots per inch) whereas printing presses operate at 300dpi and higher. So, a printed item is displayed at more than four times the resolution which you see on screen.

Don’t be fooled, either, by trying out a test print on a low-res desktop printer; because it might not look too bad. But take that print file to a commercial printer and you’re going to see every pixel. 

Whilst we’re talking about low-res or high res images – just what is Resolution?

Graphic 1: high res – low res lily used on our home page.

Digital images are made up of many small dots, called pixels. An image's resolution refers to how many of these dots there are per square inch. 

Lots of dots per inch (dpi) means a high res image which will be crisp and sharp because the individual dots are very close together and too small to see. 

Few dots per inch means a low-res image where you’ll be able to see the dots easily and your image will look jagged and rough.

For print, you’ll need images with a resolution of 300dpi or above whereas web-based images have been stripped down to 72dpi so that they load faster.

Is there a quick way to tell if a file is low res?

It’s not fool-proof but if the file size is less than 100k (100 kilobytes) and it’s a JPEG or PNG file there’s a fair chance it won’t be suitable for use in print.


So, enough of the theory …


What practical steps can you take to ensure that your images you download are going to be crisp and sharp?


Step 1: For stock images use an Image Library

If you are buying images, try and use a top-quality image library. There are many of them out there, but my personal favourite is Adobe’s image library which has a great range of very high-quality images which can be purchased for (at the time of writing) around £5.99 + vat per image. 



There are others out there. Some even provide images for free like this one:



Spoiler Alert: Wherever you download or buy your images please check that they are royalty free and really are high res.



Step 2: For logos use Vector Graphics

Vector Graphics are scalable images which don’t pixelate as you enlarge them and if you’ve had your logo designed professionally your designer should be able to provide this for you in vector format. 

Examples of vector graphics are Adobe Illustrator (AI) or Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) files.

But sometimes you’d need vector graphics for things like trade logos and quality marks – where can you find them … ?



Step 3: Trade Logos

Go to the website of your trade association and check out to see if they have a Media or Press Centre where you may be able to download the appropriate file. If they don’t, it’s worth dropping them an email and request a vector image of your trade association logo or quality mark. If you’re a member most associations should be delighted to help.



Step 4: Other logos and trade specific graphics

If you are having real trouble getting hold of other logos and trade specific graphics one good source can be company reports. It’ll require a bit of searching but these may contain the high res graphics you are looking for. If you have trouble stripping out the ones you want your designer should be only too glad to help.


That just about wraps this topic up and I hope you found it useful. There is a lot of technical stuff but I’ve very deliberately adopted a very light touch and hope you’ve been able to glean what you need to go and get your own graphics with a little more confidence so thank you for listening.


But before you go …

I’m on a mission this year to help You make Your Print more Profitable.

If you’ve found his article helpful and you’d like to receive regular insights and answers to industry secrets just pop your name and email in here and we’ll look forward to sharing with you.

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