The question often comes up as “The image is on the website, can you use that?” Well, it depends on where you intend to use the image. Here’s a brief crash course on why web photos and print photos should not be used for the same items.

Defining Image Quality
In print, you may have heard the term “High Resolution”. To define this, higher resolution means more image detail. In any image, there is tiny dots that define the image. For viewing an image on screen, these dots are referred to as Pixels. For viewing an image in print, these dots are referred to as DPI or Dots Per Inch. The more Pixels or DPI, the tighter the dots are together and the clearer the photo.

From Wikipedia: Below is an illustration of how the same image might appear at different pixel resolutions, if the pixels were poorly rendered as sharp squares (normally, a smooth image reconstruction from pixels would be preferred, but for illustration of pixels, the sharp squares make the point better).

Marketing Graphic Design

High Resolution vs. Low Resolution
Images on a website tend to be 72dpi and often on eCommerce sites are roughly 300 pixels x 300 pixels.

Example #1 is a Mortise Cylinder saved as “high resolution” and is prepared for print. This is a CMYK image saved at 300 dpi. The largest size this will print without becoming fuzzy is roughly 5″ W x 4.7″ H. If it were printed larger to fill a letter size 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper, it would be stretched and would sacrifice the image quality.


Example #2 is the same Mortise Cylinder saved as “low resolution” and is prepared for web. This is a RGB image saved at 72 dpi. The images on screen look the same. When viewed on a graphic program such as Photoshop, they are different. The image size is set for 200 pixels wide, or roughly 2″ for print, though it is not recommended to use this for print.
Example #3 is the same Mortise Cylinder. This is the results of what happens when a web image is saved larger for print. The image dpi/pixels are sacrificed and the image becomes fuzzy.
Why can’t you use a web image for print? You can, but you are not able to print the image larger than the size used on the website. In the example of the mortise cylinder in example #2, if this image was saved from the website and needed for printing a brochure, the image can not be used larger than 2.778″W x 2.542″H. Measure that on a piece of paper, it’s pretty small.
What’s the Final Verdict?
Reversing the request is possible though. You can use a print image for web as long as you have compressed the image.
It’s preferred to not use web images for print. Can it be done? Sure, it can be done. In the locksmith business, if you are helping a homeowner gain access to their home you can drill a perfectly good functioning lock out of a door but it’s preferred to pick it instead.
Kathleen Kempf is the Marketing Manager at IDN-H. Hoffman.
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