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Image Advice

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Image Advice

by Lisa Woods and Lari Bishop

Images can add a lot to books and other printed material. But if you want to jazz up your pages with graphics (figures, drawings, cartoons, illustrations, etc.) and you’re printing professionally, you’ll need these tips.


All images destined for print must be high resolution, which is to say 300 pixels per inch (ppi, sometimes also called dpi) or greater. Sometimes people try to fake the size of an image, but an image is not high resolution if it was originally low resolution and then resized to force the resolution to 300 ppi, or if the resolution was simply changed. These techniques will not improve the quality of the image—and may make it worse. If you print a low-resolution image, the difference will show.

If you own images that exist only in hard copy and you plan to scan them, make sure that they are scanned in at 1200 dpi. If you are unsure of your scanning capabilities, have the scanning professionally done.

File Formats

The most widely accepted kinds of digital image files are:

.PSD (Adobe Photoshop native file)




.PDF (Adobe Acrobat file)

.AI (Adobe Illustrator native file)

Finding Images

Here are some popular stock image sources:

shutterstock.com (a subscription stock house)

gettyimages.com (also sells news, sports, and historical photos)

veer.com (also has hip and interesting illustrations)

Image Rights

Images are copyrighted, just like any other form of intellectual property. You can’t use an image that’s not in the public domain unless you get permission. If an image is in the public domain (as images from government publications and images from long, long ago tend to be), you can use it without getting permission, but you should credit the original source of the image in a source line.

Don’t use images downloaded from Web sites. They will probably be low-res, and besides, you don’t automatically have the right to use them. If you have found the perfect image online, try to contact the owner and get permission to use it. (Your lawyer will probably require that the release be in writing.) Also, don’t forget to ask for the high-resolution version.

Don’t scan images from other publications without getting the rights to use the images from the copyright holders.

Once you purchase a “royalty free” photo, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. But “rights managed” photos are another animal. Not only are they significantly more expensive to purchase, they often come with strict usage rules and restrictions. Make sure to check which category your image candidates belong to while you are shopping. Falling in love with a $2,000 image can leave you brokenhearted, or just broke.

Keep records of all the information you receive regarding use of an image when you obtain permission.

Using Original Images

If you are creating original images (vector or raster images) using imaging software, it is important that you provide your designerwith:

the original native editable file (fonts not outlined, layers not flattened)

all supporting files, including fonts and linked or embedded images

a high-resolution flattened version of the image with fonts outlined (for example, an .EPS or .TIFF file)

a printout of each image

a document that explains the format of the images provided, the software and version used to create the images, and the operating system

Image Credits and Source Lines

It is important to credit or source any image you obtain the right to use.

One way to do this is by including a credits section at the back of the book that lists the images by page with corresponding credit information. Another method is including a source line for each image near the presentation of the image in the text (for example, a line just below a graph). When you obtain the rights to use an image, the rights holder will tell you how to credit the image.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll end up with beautiful printed images—and a printer who loves you.

Lisa Woods is senior designer and Lari Bishop is managing editor at Greenleaf Book Group, LLC. To learn more, visit greenleafbookgroup.com and bigbadbookblog.com.



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