Written by Lynda Colon
These are the two basic reasons why your images you use for printing magazines, books, posters or anything else do not turn out as well as you may have anticipated and what the two simple things you can do in order to correct this from happening in the future.
1) Use The Correct Color Mode
Commercial color printing requires that your images be in the CMYK color mode. Much of the time images are submitted in the RGB color mode, which is reserved for web/screen/photography only use. You may ask, “What’s the difference?”
The CMYK mode uses a combination of colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) to mix all colors in an image, also known as “four color process”. This mode is designed to be laid onto paper or other opaque objects by a color printing company.
The RGB mode is used for web graphics or images that will only be seen on screen as well as in photography. In this mode, the colors Red, Green, and Blue are used to mix all colors in an image. This works well for screen graphics because they are not opaque. Light shines through the images making them look sharp and vibrant on the screen, while keeping the file size down to allow for faster loading.
To check your color mode: Open your image in Windows Photo Viewer, select “file”, click on “Properties”, click “details”, scroll down to the “Image” section. Look at “Color representation”.
To fix your color mode: Color modes can easily be changed in Photoshop. If you do not have Photoshop, your commercial printer or graphic designer can convert the color mode for you. Most of the time color conversion is seamless, but sometimes shifts in color can occur, so it is important to review the converted images before they print. If color shifts on press, you get what you get. At that stage of the game it is too late to make color corrections.
2) Use The Correct Image Size
Images used for commercial printing should be at least 300 dpi (high resolution), and sized to fit their space on the page. For example, if your image is 6”x6” and you want it to fit a 2”x2” space, the image itself should be resized to 2”x2” (not just resized within the image box on the page). A high resolution image sized to fit its space, will ensure a great looking print.
Low resolution images (72dpi, 150 dpi) are used for web graphics and desktop printing respectively, and will not look sharp when commercially printed. However, you may be able to shrink a large low resolution image to a small high resolution image in Photoshop. Remember to UN-check “resample image” or you will still have a 72 dpi image. Ask your printing company if you think this may apply.
Keep in mind, a large image can be reduced in size, but a small image cannot be enlarged. This is because digital images are made up of a series of dots, or squares, called pixels. Enlarging a small image will stretch the pixels making it look jagged or blurry.
To fix your image size: If you do not have a program that will resize your images, ask your printer or graphic designer to resize images for you. Expect a fee for this service.
You can improve the look of your print images by staying on top of these two easy steps. As a busy professional, you may not have the time or inclination to master these steps yourself, but now you know what to look for, and if necessary, how to fix the problem.
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