Creating collages can be awesome. It’s a creative experience, and one filled with excitement once you’ve uploaded your file to the printers to have them print it, and send it to you. Maybe even frame it.
But it’s also nerve-wracking for those who know a little about graphics and printing and can result in bitter disappointment for those who don’t. That’s if you get your image accepted by the printers anyway. Many, including us use software to determine the image quality before accepting it for printing.
When the software determines that the image is of too low quality to be able to print to a high-quality standard, you’ll get a message that tells you basically that no – we can’t do that.
What it really means is your image is a low-resolution image and cannot be used to print to the size you want. Most often, for the print to be of quality, the size would be so miniscule you wouldn’t want it anyway.
What you really need is to convert a low-resolution image to a one of a higher resolution.
In a perfect world, you’d be able to look at your print properties, change the 72 ppi to a 300 ppi then carry on. That’s your pixels per inch. When you’re transferring them for online printing, those pixels per inch need translated into a dpi, meaning dots per inch. And if you try your hand at PhotoShop, they’ll throw you a curve ball by introducing an lpi, which stands for lines per inch. It’s enough to make you give up on the whole notion of creating your digital collage.
What you can do
If you’re a PhotoShop Pro, you could alter the image using the image resampler feature.
For those who aren’t a pro in graphics design, that’s an expensive option just to resize your image. The next best thing is to use a free alternative to PhotoShop and one of those is Gimp. It’s a free desktop application with many of the features of PhotoShop, but it doesn’t give you the resampler feature.
For that reason, it takes a little creativity. Just like most workarounds to expensive solutions do. Creativity goes a long way.
So here’s the simplest way to increase the quality of your low resolution photos and other images…
Cut and crop
That’s it. Instead of one massive image that’s low quality, cut parts of it out. There’s the option to use layers and you will need to use that option to create a collage.
What you’re doing is breaking the image up into different images, and then layering them on top of each other. In practice, for a collage of nine photos, you’d need to create nine different individual photos, save each file, and then select open as layers.
Once each photo is added, select the flatten image option, save it, open another layer, insert your next photo, position it and keep on going until you have all nine images.
Saving your new image
When you save your final version of the image you want to print, the format you save it in matters. JPEG file formats are best avoided because when you save as JPEG, it’s going to compress the file which results in certain aspects being lost, such as transparency which that format doesn’t support. Another problem with JPEG is bright white colours can be printed with a yellow tint because they don’t support RGB (Red, Green and Blue) and CYMK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black) colour profiles.
A popular choice is to save images using PNG format, as it supports the two main colour profiles used in print – RGB and CYMK.
What it also does though is disregards the pixels per inch (ppi) which makes it an unstable file format for printing your photo.
When digital photos are printed, the pixels per inch need to be translated into dots per inch. Ppi to dpi.
The safest file format to do that is to save your images as a TIFF (Tag Image File Format).
The best option would be a vector graphic, but they’re difficult to create when you’re reproducing images, rather than creating them. For upscaling what’s called raster images (TIFF, JPEG, PNG) into high quality and print ready images, save it as a TIFF image, then try uploading it. You’ll likely find the alterations to the image results in a higher resolution.
If you still find that the image isn’t of a decent enough quality to print, there is a math whizz that went to work creating a tool that crunches the pixel numbers for you.
BeFunky.com has an image resize tool. It’s something you may find handy if you find you’ve tried to upload your photos only to find the resolution isn’t high enough to order a print. By altering the pixels in the image, it should be able to scale to a slightly larger size than you were previously able to prior to resizing it.
You can also crop and enhance your images and print as a collage by using our unique photo editing tools on our photo collage page.