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  • Writer's pictureSarah Bryce

Answers to Your Digital File Questions!

What You've ALWAYS Wanted to Ask....But Were Too Afraid.

You're new to the world of graphics and discussions of the digital world and how it all comes together on the internet or in the print shop. You've heard of large file versus small, JPEG versus TIFF file and talk of "pixels", but what does it all REALLY mean?

Q. "What is a PDF and why do we print from them?"

A PDF is "Portable Document Format". A PDF file is the best format to send to your printer because it has the perfect balance of file size, compatibility and quality. Since artwork files need to be transferred over the internet, the smaller the file size, the faster it can be sent. Those design programs that create advertisements, such as Indesign or Photoshop create files that are just too big to easily send.

PDF documents have the ability to preserve high quality artwork and keep file size down making it the ideal format for sending to a commercial printer.

Like it’s name implies, the PDF promotes portability of your artwork. It includes assets in one file, including source images, preserving fonts and placement.

* If you DIDN'T use a PDF to print, your designer would have to "PACKAGE" your ad with a folder containing your fonts and any photos ,logo or graphics linked to the ad, and would need Dropbox (a file hosting service) because the folder would be too big just to simply email.

A PDF embeds( integrates) all the linked art and fonts. YES!

Q. "What is the difference between JPEG, TIFF & PNG Files?"

What the heck is a TIFF image anyway? Why do they call it PNG? You shouldn't print from a PNG? Really?

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) are large files that preserve quality. TIFF images create file sizes that can be as much as eight times larger than JPEG, because TIFF images are uncompressed and therefore contain much more detailed image data. 

They are the best for printing. And are the type of images often used by designers in for ex. magazine ads, jewelry magazines... and then compressed into a PDF for a rich final output.

JPEGS are meant for the web. (they are"okay" to print on your home printer.) They compress detail and make files smaller. In addition to losing quality in compression, JPEGs don’t support transparency.

PNG (portable network graphics) are files that support transparency for the web. This is when you want that logo over a photo without that white box around it! PNG files are small files that maintains its original quality.

A PNG is made up a 3 process color RGB, red green and blue light. But is not set up for CMYK or print and can have a funny output if you print from them professionally!

Q. "What's all the talk about PIXELS ?"

Pixel resolution is the number of pixels measured width × height, that can be displayed on the screen. For example, a device with the resolution of “1020 × 760” has a 1020-pixel width and a 760-pixel height. A web ad, a Facebook cover etc.. is measured this way.

Pixel density is measured in PPI (Pixels Per Inch), which refers to the number of pixels present per inch on the display. A higher pixel density per inch allows for more sharpness and clarity when using the device. Web images are about 72 pixel per inch.

The reason why an image appears "blurry" is that pixel density is too small for the width and height it is being displayed on screen.

PRINTING: DPI-(dots per inch) applies to printing. It describes the amount of ink dots on a printed image. Print documents dimensions are measured in INCHES (height x width).

When your design is going to be physically printed, the printer will use DPI. Each model and style of printer produces its own unique DPI based on its settings. Inkjet printers produce a resolution around 300 to 720 DPI, while laser printers produce images anywhere from 600 to 2,400 DPI.

* A printed image can ALSO appear blurry, if there is not enough pixel density for the width and height it is being printed.

300 DPI is generally considered industry standard quality for print.

You can see the dimensions and the pixel density of an image by viewing your image files details inside a folder on your desktop:

A photo taken on a quality digital camera will give you an image size of 6000 x 4000 pixels with 300 resolution, versus a cell phone which can take a photo around 5000 x 2000, but at 72 pixel resolution.

This explains why those cell phone pictures just don't work as well for printing , cropping, or resizing up for a website. It's always better to start with large images then size down.

Q. "What about the entire FILE SIZE?"

MB, means megabytes and KB means kilobytes. Which describes the weight of the file or the

"unit of memory measurement". MB is the largest, KB, the smallest. A digital camera photo file has a lot of detail and is a heavy file which is the biggest MB. Cell phone pictures, PNG files, jpegs copied off the internet are typically KB. This explains why using "copied" images off the internet to post on Facebook or try to use in homemade graphics often appear blurry and pixelated. They are small files with small dimensions and small resolution which equals a small file measurement.

Sarah Bryce Designs is a woman-owned small business & designer in the Bethany Beach area. Sarah specializes in marketing & design work in both digital and print.


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