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Preparing Images

Preparing Images

The term digital media simply means electronically created content.  That might include video and audio, but in this article focusses on images.

In deciding what images are going to be needed for a project, a good place to start is to think about the different devices that might be used to view them.   A very detailed image on a large screen monitor might be hard to see on a small phone screen for example.
 

Free or paid?

There are dozens of great websites that offer hundreds of thousands of free ‘public domain’ and ‘royalty free’ images.  Royalty Free doesn’t mean that the images are free! There may be no fee or royalty but if you buy images from an online stock library, be sure to check any licence restrictions.

Image file formats can vary in:

  • file size
  • quality
  • resolution
  • compression

When you select and buy images, you’ll often find clues as the suggested use for each size.

Copyright

Copyright is the exclusive rights that are given to someone who creates a piece of work.  It protects that person’s work so that no-one is allowed to use it without the permission from the originator.  Public domain images are not restricted by copyright so you don’t need a licence or have to pay fee to use them.

So, legislation on copyright may affect your work in two ways:

  • The use of other people’s work
  • Protection of your own
     

Finding the right images

When searching for images, try to think outside the box.  Use them to imply benefits.  Let’s say your project is to find graphics to sell paint.  Pictures of the tins is not that inspiring.  Scenes of a family in a brightly coloured room makes people think what the paint can do.

And, if you can’t find exactly the right image, then think about using abstract designs.

Image types

It’s important to understand the differences between VECTOR images and BITMAPS.  Vector images are smaller in size and don’t lose quality when you zoom in.  Bitmap images are made up of tiny dots of colour.  The larger you make the image, the more pixelated it becomes.

The most commonly used format for photos is a JPEG.  The files you create can be compressed but take care to make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for size.  Make sure you learn about ALL the formats and most appropriate ways to use them.
 

Storing your images

If you’ve paid for your images, you’ll want to make sure that they’re stored correctly and always remember to keep a copy of the file in its original size.  If you convert a high-resolution image to a smaller size, maybe for a web page, save the original too.   Always, always back up your work.

Cloud storage is becoming a more popular option for backups these days and many providers now offer image management software as part of the deal.
 

Using imaging software

Most imaging software is intuitive.  You can pick it up by trial and error.  But, there are a lot of options and effects to choose from.  Fortunately, programs like Adobe Photoshop are supported by a number of websites with great tutorials to guide you through each of them.

Good imaging software will allow for the importing of RAW images. These come straight from the digital camera.  Think of them as an undeveloped film in the same way that JPEG files could be thought of as getting your holiday snaps back from Boots.  The work has been done for you.
 

Choosing the right software for you

Selecting the right software can be tricky.  Most people have heard of Adobe Photoshop which has a great range of features.  There are lots of alternatives and some of them are even free!

There can be huge differences between the capabilities of different types of image editing software. Many of the better imaging software packages will have auto adjust features.  Try using these first to improve the quality of your image.

When it comes to creating images, you’ll probably be creating Vector files in progams like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.  Some images might be for instruction or reference purposes such as those created in programs like Autocad.
 

Getting the sizes right

Quite often you’ll need to produce an image to an exact size.  Use the guidelines and dimensioning tools in the software to help and remember that you can change the options to measure in pixels, centimetres or whatever.

You might want to make it snappy!  Turning on snapping means that your objects will snap to your guides. That means that when the cursor gets close, an object will jump to align with the guide and you don’t have to do it by eye.

Unless you’re working on a very complex image, it’s likely that you’ll use only a handful of the available tools but if you practice and get to know these well, they’ll probably be all you’ll need.

It’s a great idea to just experiment with different images.  Practice cropping, applying masks or replacing colours for example.
 

Check before using

Before you fire off your images to the printers or upload them to your favourite social media site you’ll need to check that they meet the needs.  The first step is to select ‘properties’.  This will show you the image size, file size, .resolution, format and colour mode.

Choosing the colour mode when you export a file is very important.  RGB is based on LIGHT.  If you project a red light, green light and blue light together, the result is white.  CMYK is based on ink.  Superimpose Cyan ink plus Magenta ink plus Yellow ink, and you get black, although this format also encodes Black (K) directly.  When a colour is converted from RGB to CMYK, the appearance may change. Most noticeably, bright colours in RGB will look duller and darker in CMYK.

Use RGB if you can. The colours will closely match what you see on the screen. Select CMYK, only if you are sending files to a printer and they insist on CMYK.  If you make a PFD file to send to the printer, the conversion to CMYK is done for you.
 

Making sure it’s fit for purpose

If an image is not exactly right for purpose some quick fixes are easy and others may require the use of tools you may not have yet discovered. 

A common issue is people uploading images to web sites directly from their digital camera. Let’s say the photo was taken with the camera set at 14 million pixels.  The image would be 4320 x 3240 pixels.  Taking it down to a suitable size for the web is a quick fix and a lot of software packages have ‘export for web’ features to help.

Ever seen a photo that looks like it’s been printed on orange peel?  That’s called Moiré (pronounced m’wa) and it’s often caused by scanning a photo from a magazine.  Again, there’s a quick fix if you know where to find it but take care not to reduce the quality.

What about that picture of a black cat taken in a dark cellar?  Find the ‘gamma’ tool and experiment.

That’s just a few examples.  The key message is get to know what your software can do.  It can save you a lot of time and produce great results.

Consult.PW

Based in leafy Hertfodshire

07887 800822