Petting a peeve

Things are a tad topsy-turvey, its been in the high 60s (15c) here. Which for January is record breaking, I haven’t had the heat on for 3 days. We are so going to pay for this later. If New England doesn’t get enough moisture in the winter then our summers are hot and dry and never really green enough. I am getting nowhere on 2 projects, going to sleep at 4am or 5am and waking up 5 or 6 hours later. I suppose I would get further if I didn’t stop to snack every time I got bored.

Anyway enough about me, I want to talk about YOU. Yes YOU Mr and Ms Bookseller and all the ships at sea. If I teach you this one little thing before I die, I will probably come back as something more than an insect:

Not all IMAGE FILES are the same. If you already know this fine, go get a snack, if not pay freaking attention. (yes, I AM dumbing this down to a NEED to know level -there are many more factoids to learn if you really get off on this sort of stuff) Digital images are THREE dimensional, they have height and width and depth. The depth is pixels per inch – or pixels per centimetre if you aren’t from around these parts. Image files used for printing need MORE pixels per inch and are larger files than images files meant to be seen backlighted on a computer screen. The average JPG file that you see on the internet is 72 pix, for a decent 4×6 snap shot you need at least 300pix – preferably more. You can look at a lovely 300 pix image on a screen and it’s LARGE and detailed – but if you try to PRINT a 72pix image it looks like crap. It looks like crap because there is not enough detail.

The figure on the left would be a 4″x6″ 72pixel JPG image, seen on a screen it is lighted from behind and looks good enough to the naked eye. The image on the right represents the same 4″x6″ image from a digital camera with 300pix. Obviously one is a bigger file than the other. You can easily make a 72pix version of the 300pix image for use on a website. but you can not inflate a 72pix image to 300 without losing a LOT of detail and clarity, the information simply ISN’T there. If you have a logo for your business on your webpage, that image file is almost never suitable for printing, (you can sometimes get away with a business card.)

Logos and line art are generally GIF files, which are restricted to 256 colors and take up a lot less room than a JPG of the same image. Photographs online are usually JPGs or PNGs, which are larger images but not restricted in color palette. Good images exclusively for printing are quite often TIF files. If you ever see one of Dover’s Clip art discs, they offer images in JPG and TIF.

What does this mean to YOU? when you are having printed matter created: letterheads, envelopes, invoices, t-shirts etc . . . give the maker the largest, best, most appropriate images files you have. And if you ONLY have 72pix JPG images from your website don’t expect it to look like a 500pix TIF image. When you are choosing your logos or images and manipulating them FOR your website, KEEP TRACK of the original files. Burn them to a CD or a flash drive and SAVE them somewhere just as you would your business license or your birth certificate. You may never have that image printed on anything tangible but you can always recreate your online images in any size you need. And digital image files DO go astray on your hard drive just like everything else : you forget where you saved something, or you haven’t accessed a file in many years and it gets ‘cleaned’, or simply you could have an accident and loose all your data files. Your logo is YOU, you have to keep track of YOU and present the best YOU you can.

Here endeth the lesson.

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