At what resolution should I save my photos and graphics?

Resolution is the measurement of how many dots/pixels fit into one inch.
The higher resolution, the sharper the image will be. The Printing Express recommends resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) for crisp, clear results.
Lower resolution images appear fuzzy, jagged and blurry.

Resolution rules:

  1. Images should be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at the final size in the layout.
  2. Images which include text should be 400 dpi at the final size in the layout.
  3. Resolution and image size are inversely proportional to each other. Enlarge an image, the resolution decreases; reduce an image, the resolution increases. Example: a 2” x 2″ image at 300 dpi (acceptable) enlarged to 4” x 4″ has a new resolution of 150 dpi (unacceptable).
  4. Low resolution images print fuzzy, jagged and blurry.
  5. The settings used during the original “capture” of an image (ie: scanning, digital camera, etc) determine its base resolution. Resolution can only be improved by decreasing the image size, or by recapturing the image at a higher quality setting.
  6. Recommended minimum resolution for printing is 300 dpi; computer monitors generally have a display setting of 72 dpi. If we indicate that some of your images have low resolution, they may not look bad on your monitor but will likely print blurry or jagged.

Things to avoid:

  1. Web images are predominately low resolution (72-96 dpi) GIF or JPEG files. This resolution is good for quick transmission over the internet, but is not acceptable for use in printing. Do not save images or graphics from a website to use in your print project!
  2. Upsampling is when a low resolution image is saved to a higher resolution with no changes in dimensions. Upsampling adds more pixels/dots per inch (dpi), but creates blurry images, ugly blocks of color, and high contrast in images. The only way resolution can be improved is by decreasing the image size, or by recapturing the image at a higher quality setting.

Is white considered a printing color?

Not typically. Because white is the default color of paper, it is simply recognized as the absence of any ink. However, when using colored paper, white ink may be used if any text or graphic requires it.

File Format Setup

High-resolution PDFs (which include applicable vector data) are nearly always the ideal file format. Following is a list of other acceptable formats, with disclaimers:

  • JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP – text and vector shapes may lose sharpness.
  • Microfoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Publisher – Font substitutions may occur, multiple cross-platform issues may arise.
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator – Fonts may be rasterized or substituted.
  • InDesign – Fonts and Links (images) may be missing.

What is “Bleed” and why do I need it

If you want the printed image to extend to the edges of the paper, your document will need to be designed with “bleed”. Bleed refers to the process of extending all background elements past the document edge, producing a margin that can be trimmed off. This prevents any white edges remaining on your final product.

This is a diagram that demonstrates how to properly apply bleed to a business card layout.


  • The document size is 1/4 inch taller and wider than the final business card size.
  • The red shaded area shows which portions will be cut off.
  • The area inside the dotted red line shows where it is safe to place text.

You can use the following principles to apply bleed to any document.

  • Determine the width and height, in inches, that you want your finished product to be.
  • Create a document that is 1/4 inch taller and 1/4 inch wider than your desired product size.
  • Create 1/8 inch margins on all sides of your document. The interior edge of these margins will be your “Cut Line”
  • Background colors and images should extend all the way through this 1/8 inch margin. Do not place anything you wish to be visible in the final product in this 1/8 margin, as all material in this area will be cut off of the final product.

How do I set up a booklet

Please submit booklet pages as a single multi-page PDF, sized according to the desired printing size. Do not combine pages into spreads. If booklet design includes bleed, please create bleed on top, bottom and outside of each page.

Spot color printing

All design intended to print on an offset press outside of the CMYK color model, which includes colors besides black, must be designed using your selected spot colors ONLY, and submitted in PDF, AI, or INDD formats. If color separations are not prepared correctly, customer may be asked to make the correction, or pay a design fee.

What is “Raster” and “Vector” Graphics

  • Raster graphics are bitmap images made up of individual pixels/dots, laid out in a grid. Raster images have a fixed resolution (dots per inch) and lose quality when enlarged. Not recommended for text, as edges will likely appear jagged.
  • Vector graphics are graphics created with mathematical lines and curves. Vector graphics are resolution independent and scalable. Recommended for text, as edges will be clear and crisp.


If possible, your files should be set up using the CMYK color model

  • Scanners, digital cameras and computer monitors use red, green and blue (RGB) light to display color.
  • Commercial printing presses print with cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) ink, called process printing, instead of RGB light, and therefore produce a different range of color.
  • To print on a four-color press, all RGB files must be converted into CMYK color.
  • Certain RGB colors that you can see on your monitor or camera (in particular, bright vibrant colors) simply cannot be replicated with standard CMYK inks. These unachievable RGB colors are said to be “out of the CMYK color gamut.” When selecting colors for your print project, we recommend using CMYK color builds to avoid potential RGB conversion issues.
  • You are more likely to notice color shifts when you use a solid, bright color as a background or fill.

Spot Color or 4-Color?

Spot colors use ink that is custom mixed. Generally, spot color is used with 1- or 2-color printing. Inks like fluorescent orange, metallic gold or Pantone colors are examples of spot color. For more color choices at a lower cost, use CMYK color in your design. Full-color photos are always printed in CMYK.

Black and Rich Black

Black colors in print are not all the same. On computer monitors, all blacks will generally appear consistent. But on press, different ink combinations can create a wide range of blacks. When black is the text color, use flat 100% black (0-0-0-100) for the crispest results. If you have a solid black area larger than two square inches, we recommend using a “rich black” for a darker, more uniform color. The rich black color build we recommend is 60-40-20-100.

Type Size, Color and Fonts

Type smaller than 10 point can be difficult to read. Type smaller than 24 point should be made with 3 or fewer of the CMYK colors to avoid mis-registration. Minimize the number of font styles for your entire design (preferably 3 or less). Keep it simple!

Line Width

“Hairlines” or very thin lines will not print well. Set line thickness to at least .25 points or .003 inches in width. A one or two-point line looks great around photographs.

Why does my proof not match what I see on my monitor?

Most people are surprised at how well their job matches what they see. But because of wide differences in monitor calibration and the different technologies used, some printed colors may not exactly match the colors on a your specific monitor. We do our best to make your job look good.

How can I tell what resolution the image from my digital camera is?

Some digital cameras will let you know what the image resolution is, while others will tell you what the pixel dimensions of your image are. If you know what the pixel dimensions of your images are either from the camera itself or through the image editing software, you can do a little math to determine the resolution, and the size you can print the image at for clear and crisp printing.

Simply write down the pixel dimensions of your image and divide those numbers by 300 if the image does not include text and 400 if the image does include text. For example: An image without any text has a pixel dimension of 600 x 900 pixels. Once each dimension is divided by 300 the result is 2 x 3 inches. This means that you can use this image at 2 x 3 inches or smaller in your layout for quality printing results.

If your image editing software does not tell you what the pixel dimensions are, but it does tell you what the resolution is, then you know the maximum size you can use that image in your layout. We recommend that images be at 300dpi in their final size in the layout and 400dpi if the images include text. Please keep in mind that resolution and physical dimensions are in direct proportion to each other. If you have an image that is 2×2 at 300dpi and increase its size in the layout to 4×4 the new resolution is now 150dpi. So remember, when you bring an image in to your layout you can shrink it down in size (because the resolution will increase) but you will be limited as to how far you can increase it in size.