Why Can’t I Print Art from the Web?

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SitScape logo resolution

How old is the web now? and I still get the question, “Why can’t I print art from the web?” It all has to do with resolution. Screen resolution (sharpness) is measured in dots per inch (dpi). Your computer screen is viewed at a much lower resolution (72 dpi) than anything being printed.

Print requires at least 300 dpi. Low resolution = fuzzier. High resolution = sharpness. You can easily convert from high to low, but not the other way around. Anything captured off the web or a computer screen is 72 dpi and cannot be printed clearly and sharply.

The dpi of your printer matters, too. If your desktop printer has a low dpi, it won’t be able to handle detail and subtle color shades.

We designers are faced with this problem every time we ask for a client’s original logo and hear, “Just grab our company logo off our site.” Huh? We can’t use the site logo at all for print, and we can’t successfully enlarge the site logo for web use. Thus begins a search to find the original vector logo, from which we can create any format at any size and resolution needed.

Whoever designed your company logo should have provided it to you in various file formats:

Original vector file (such as an Illustrator .eps or native .ai file)
Vector art is what used to be called “line art” – an illustration or text, not a photograph. It is path-based. This is the grandaddy of all logo files – the one that can be enlarged to infinity. Your company may not have the software to open the file, but no matter – your designer will. They’ll open and convert the file for whatever use is required – print or web. And they’ll be able to resize it for large-format printing or signage, for example. Your designer should have also converted any typography into outlines, because not everyone who opens the file will have the font that was used.

Raster files (such as a Photoshop TIFF, JPG or PNG file)
A raster file is pixel-based, and it cannot be enlarged successfully – it will pixelate and show rough edges. All photographs are rasterized. A PNG is best for saving with a transparent background, and also is great for PowerPoint use. A JPG is typically very small in file size, making it a flexible format for storage and exchanging files. A TIFF file is usually high-resolution for print, and is saved as CMYK (reflecting the 4-color print process).

It’s a must to archive all your logo files (or any important branding graphic), so they’re easily obtained when needed for a print project, a tradeshow booth, a presentation or Web use. And it’s a good idea to tell more than a few employees where they are, to save time and money searching for the vector “gold” file.