File resolution

Your Print Project: Everything You Need to Know About File Resolution

When you create your marketing materials, understanding file resolution requirements can help you get the job done quickly.

You obsess over every detail of your business’s printed materials, spending hours thinking about the exact wording and layout you want.

But it’s so easy to overlook a vital question: What file resolution are you using for those materials? That’s what will make your final print product look clear and sharp. And when you need materials on a tight deadline, understanding some details on file size means you won’t end up in a panic, trying to figure them out at the last minute.

What is file resolution?

Resolution describes the amount of detail in an image, and — in most cases — the higher the resolution, the sharper the image. That goes for photos, illustrations or even just your company logo or fancy fonts.

Regardless of what your marketing materials contain, those images need to be high-resolution. Of course, your printing service partner can answer your questions and help you figure out how to get everything printed perfectly. But knowing this stuff in advance will help you print your items quickly and with no need for do-overs.

Know the lingo

You may have seen the terms “dpi” (dots per inch) and “ppi” (pixels per inch) connected to printing. These are measurements of resolution, and they’re often used interchangeably.

DPI is a measurement of resolution for printed images, while ppi is for digital ones. What’s important for you to know is that the more dots or pixels an image contains, the clearer it will be.

When you prepare a digital file for print, you’ll typically be saving it in terms of ppi. A general rule is to save it at 300 ppi for a high-quality printed piece. Larger items that people will view from further away, such as banners, can be saved at 150 ppi.

Photos: Take the right shot

Photos liven up printed materials — you want to show images of happy customers or beautiful products to show off your business. To make sure your pictures can be printed at a high quality, set your camera or phone to the highest resolution possible when you take the photos.

Google Android phones and some Samsung Galaxy phones let you do this through the settings menu. iPhones automatically shoot in full resolution. However, if you’ve set the phone to optimize storage, be sure to download the full-resolution photos from iCloud when you’re preparing them for print.

Save with care

When you’re texting vacation photos or hitting “save” on laptop files, it makes sense to save images in a format that automatically reduces image size. When you’re saving images for a brochure, flyer, or anything to market your business, it’s another story. Some formats reduce image size during the saving process and make it impossible to enlarge them with clarity later. Use these rules of thumb to save your files so they look good in your printed materials: 

  • TIFF for photos you want to enlarge.  
  • EPS for illustrations.
  • PNG or GIF for logos, icons and other images that won’t need to be enlarged.
  • JPG for web images, emails and other times you use a very small image.

Use only with permission

Though it may seem obvious, be sure you have the right to use any image that isn’t your own. Skipping this step can slow down the process later if you have to find new images. Search on sites with images that don’t require a royalty or fee payment.

Sites like iStock and Shutterstock require you to buy subscriptions or plans. Others like StockSnap.io and Pixabay do not. If you have your heart set on using an image you found elsewhere online, you’ll need to contact the publisher to secure permission.

Remember: Your print and marketing partner can help you figure this out! And when you need the job done quickly, turn to Staples Same Day Print & Marketing Services. Place your order by 2 p.m. and pick up your materials the same day.