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Images, Print Quality, and your Art Storefronts Site

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Image Basics

Getting Started

 

When you’re first setting up your Art Storefronts site and are learning your way around this new way of doing things, you may have a lot of questions about how digital images work and what you need to do to get the best images you can for your site.

 

This article is intended to be a basic overview of how images work, intended to help artists who are new to working with digital images and photographing their artwork. For more specific information about how to set up your images for your site, there is a second tab which includes more specific detail about formats, settings, sizes, and recommendations.



Image Resolution

To put it into very basic terms, an image file is a way of storing a picture as a series of coloured dots (called pixels) which can be displayed with a specific width and height. The more pixels in an image, the larger the image file will be, and the larger it can be printed. For best results, you will want to be using the largest images you can get as a starting point before processing them to upload to your site.

 

The resolution of your image is the width and height of the image in pixels. The higher the resolution, the larger and more detailed the image is, and a higher resolution image also means you should be able to offer larger prints of the image.

 

Note: High-resolution images are only necessary for Art Print Store products. Products being added to a Standard Store don’t require images that are as large and detailed, as these normally won’t be displayed any larger than 1000x1000px on your site.



Image Formats

Image formats represent different ways of storing the image data which takes up less space by compressing the visual information in such a way that it can be uncompressed to display on your computer or on your website. You can see this in how images are named on your computer, with what are called extensions at the end of the image name.

 

Image Name

Extension

File Name

flower

.jpg

flower.jpg

cat

.png

cat.png

landscape

.tif

landscape.tif

Note: You may need to change settings in your computer in order to be able to see file extensions.

 

When the photo is first saved in the camera it will be assigned a format. This can be changed by re-saving the image file with a different extension later, but while you are taking your photos you don’t need to worry about this. It’s only something you’ll need to keep in mind once you have transferred your images to your computer to prepare them before uploading them to your site. If your images have been saved in unsupported formats, they will need to be converted or re-saved at that stage.

 

Recommendation: Supported formats to upload to your site are JPG, PNG, and TIF. For greatest compatibility, we would suggest converting your images to JPG before uploading them. The only situation where we would suggest otherwise would be if you need your images to support transparency, in which case you should upload them as PNG.

 

Important: When saving your images to upload to your site, the filename should only use normal characters (letters a-z, numbers 0-9, and the underscore and dash characters). If there are any special characters in the filenames of your images, you may be required to rename images before they enter production, which can increase production time of your order.

 

Important: HEIC and HEIF images are not supported. This format is the default image format used by recent iPhones. If your images have been saved in this format, they will need to be converted into JPG before they can be uploaded and used on your site.
Important: Art Storefronts does not recommend the use of a cellphone when photographing your art work.



Photographing Your Art

The most important measure when taking photos is the size of the sensor that takes photos in your camera or phone. The sensor is the component inside your camera which processes the view which comes in through the lens, and turns that view into the digital image which gets saved - you could think of it as “digital film”, with the size of this film determining the resolution of the images it records.

 

When taking photos of your art, because different cameras have different sized sensors which create images with different resolutions, it makes it impossible to give general instructions that can be applied to all devices. 

 

Our best recommendation would be to utilize a camera when capturing your images rather than a cell phone as most cell phones (and older digital cameras) have smaller sensors which are limited to smaller images that may not be able to be suitable for reproduction at large print sizes. Most phone cameras (including iphones) will take pictures that are under 12MP or megapixels in area. 

 

In practice photos of physical artwork, once the 12MP image has been cropped, may only be 8MP in size (resolution of around 3200x2400 pixels), which has an optimal print size of around 10x8” at 300DPI.

 

In addition to this it’s possible to have images that have enough width and height that their resolution may allow them to be printed large, but if the quality of the photo is poor—if it’s blurry, out of focus, or poorly lit—it may not produce good prints at those larger sizes.

 

If you would like information about photographing your art, you might want to read our blog post on How To Photograph Your Artwork for Reproduction:https://blog.artstorefronts.com/photographing-artwork 

 

Important: You should closely review all images that you intend to upload to your site in order to check that they are sufficiently sharp and well-lit, as these qualities are not things that the system is able to check for you.



Print Sizes

The print sizes for images uploaded into your Art Print Store are being generated from the dimensions of your images (literally the width and height of the image) to determine what sizes your images can be printed at.

 

The largest size that you will see on the Size tab for your product will usually be the size at which your image can be printed at 72DPI (the largest print size and lowest detail level which your print vendor supports). 

 

Note: the largest sizes listed may not be shown on your products on your live site even if enabled, as different mediums offered by your vendor have different maximum print sizes and these override and disable larger print sizes from being displayed on your live site when each medium is selected.

 

Important: Having large print sizes displayed for a product does not guarantee that the quality of a print at that size will be acceptable to you. The system is unable to determine whether an image will print well at the sizes that are listed, only indicate that the resolution of the image supports the print size listed without being able to offer any guarantee about the quality of the print. 

 

You WILL need to closely inspect your images to decide whether they are good enough to be used as source images for your prints at the print sizes you have enabled. 

 

If your image isn’t high enough in quality (for example if the image is out of focus or blurry either in part or across the entire image) or the image is too low in resolution for large print sizes, you may find that prints may look grainy or pixelated. Additionally orders placed with it may be stopped by your vendor until you can provide them with a better quality image for the print size which has been ordered if their QA teams feel that the print would not meet their standards.



What About PPI/DPI?

There is frequent confusion about what makes for a quality image, and nothing engenders more confusion than PPI and DPI.

 

DPI refers to Dots Per Inch, and refers to how detailed an image is when printed - literally how many dots of ink are used when printing an image. When the same image is printed at different sizes, when the print size increases the number of dots of ink in each inch of print goes down, but each dot is also larger in size.

 

PPI (Pixels Per Inch) is a less-useful measure, and refers to the detail of an image when it is being displayed on a computer screen. Because screens cover a far wider range of physical sizes and display densities this value is unimportant. You may sometimes encounter PPI and DPI being used interchangeably, but when you’re referring to print the correct abbreviation to use is DPI.

 

When you set the DPI value in an image, that value is only correct for a single print size. As you are dealing with a Print-On-Demand system where the image could potentially be printed in multiple sizes, the saved DPI value in an image is not referred to in most situations.

 

Important: DO NOT re-save your image to change the DPI. This WILL NOT improve the quality of your image, and MAY MAKE YOUR IMAGES WORSE.



Frequently Asked Image Questions

There are so many variables that it’s just not possible to say “This is what you need to do!” to everyone because people have different needs and start in different situations. Here’s a number of different scenarios and questions that have come up in the past, and some suggestions of how best to deal with them.

 

“What if I use an iPhone 5?”

You will not be able to get usable images from a phone of this vintage. The iPhone 5 (and iPhone 6) cameras have 8MP sensors, which are very limiting in terms of image size. You may wish to consider purchasing a DSLR or a new cellphone in order to have something better suited to photographing your art.

 

“I only have old photos and I can’t re-photograph my work.”

If you only have relatively small images of your artwork, and are unable to take better ones because the artwork has been sold, you’ll be limited in print size by the resolution and quality of your images. 

 

Depending on image quality, you may be able to generate larger images using software like Gigapixel to process your old images. This software allows you to enlarge small images by extrapolating missing visual information, and while it can do a surprisingly good job of creating larger images it’s still reliant on the quality of the images you have.

 

For more information about where to get Gigapixel and how to use it, please refer to this article: How to enlarge an image using Topaz Gigapixel AI 

 

“I only have old photos but I have access to be able to re-photograph them.”

If your images are small but you have access to the pieces and can re-photograph them, doing so would be our recommendation. Having the best quality images will allow you to offer the best quality prints you wish to offer to your customers, and with newer technology allowing you to take better photographs, taking advantage of this will give you more options than your old photos may offer.

 

Even if you only wish to provide small prints or prints that match the size of small original art pieces, and have no need for large prints, having larger and better quality images will allow you to offer better prints.

 

“I want to sell very large prints, but the images from my camera aren’t big enough.”

If you wish to provide very large prints, you may find you need to have your artwork scanned, or employ the services of a professional photographer, or use a high-MP (megapixel) DSLR camera which is capable of taking very high resolution images. The larger the source image, the better the image you can then use as the source of your prints.

 

You may also be able to use speciality software like Topaz Labs Gigapixel to increase the size of your images, but keep in mind that the functionality of this software may not give the same results for all images, and it is still dependent on having quality images to start with.

 

For more information about where to get Gigapixel and how to use it, please refer to this article: How to enlarge an image using Topaz Gigapixel AI 

 

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