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Design 101: Resizing an Image for Social Media Graphics and More

resizing an image for social media

If you are on social media you know that you need images, lots of them, preferably not stock photos.   If you have something that you like, but it doesn’t quite fit into the social platform’s specs, you are going to need to resize it.  On the surface, this is a simple task. The basic “how to” is the same on most programs, though the display options may appear different places. For example, in Photoshop you need to go to “Image” and select “Image Size”. In MS Paint, there’s a dedicated button labelled “Resize”. They both serve the same function but, depending on the complexity of the program, they will have different limitations. When resizing an image for social media, here are a few things to keep in mind:

What is an Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the height and width of an image.  When resizing an image for social media you will want to take into account the different aspect ratios for different platforms.  They are a bit different. There are only two options when you resize an image: You can either maintain the aspect ratio or not. Maintaining the aspect ratio means that when you resize the image, it will keep the same ratio between its height and width. If the aspect ratio is changed, the image may become stretched out as you resize it. This tends to be visually unappealing, though small changes might go unnoticed.

Good Resolution = More Appealing Image

If you’re using very simple image editing programs, this option might not be available. However, if you or someone you know can do this, it’s a neat trick.  Resolution defines the clarity of an image and is often represented by either the DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). DPI is a term used for printing an image, whereas PPI is used for digital displays of images.

In general, the minimum DPI/PPI accepted as “hi-res” is 300. That means for every square inch of space the image occupies, there are 300 pixels. If you are ever asked to increase the resolution of an image, keep in mind that this will automatically make the image larger. You are adding pixels to the image when increasing the resolution. If you do not increase the size of the image along with the DPI/PPI, it can often cause an image to turn out a bit blurry. What if you want to increase the resolution but not change the size? Allow the image to scale up when the resolution is changed. Afterwards, it can be resized back down to the desired dimensions. This helps preserve the quality of the image.

 Resizing vs. Resampling

Most modern image editing programs are good at preserving quality, so long as you use the proper steps of resizing. Photoshop and the like will have more options when it comes to resampling, rather than resizing, an image. When resizing, you either take away or add pixels and other data related to the details of the image. Resampling is a process that helps fill in for these changes in data.  It ensures the result is as true to the original image as possible.

Unfortunately, if you need to make drastic changes in size, there will inevitably be some loss of quality. Since resizing an image down results in a loss of data, it can lead to a more pixelated or sharp look. Resizing up can end with a more blurry or softer look, since programs will fill in missing pixels.

It’s best to try and get the highest quality original image that you can from the start. If you’re going to need a specific set of dimensions or resolution, do your research ahead of time. This can help avoid the need to resize altogether. Otherwise, the smaller the size changes needed the better, in terms of maintaining quality.

Whether you’re working on your next Instagram post or designing a book cover, hopefully this helped clarify some terms from the complicated world of digital image editing!

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