Web Images vs. Print Images

What is the difference & why can’t you just download the image from Google?


As designers, we get asked these questions quite a bit. The simple answer for the web vs. print question is clarity or image crispness… and to designers the difference is Dots Per Inch otherwise known as DPI.


Why are Dots Per Inch (DPI) important? 


As the name suggests, DPI measures how many dots fit into a linear inch (not a square inch).  Therefore, the higher the DPI, the more detail an image can show.

At O’Daniel Designs when we are designing a web project, we commonly ask our clients, “will you be using this image for print as well?”.  Why is this important?  Because if we are purchasing a stock image for a client project, we believe that our client should only have to purchase the image once.  A image at print quality (300 dpi) can always be downsized to web quality (72 dpi) without any loss of image clarity.  This is not true if a web quality image needs to be used for print.


If an image is stretched for print, it loses its clarity and becomes pixelated, or grainy looking.


A common statement we hear as designers is … “I found this image on Google, can’t I just grab it and put that on my website (or print project)”.  The short answer would be … well.. no.

As designers, we can’t do that for a few reasons.  These include:

  • Copyright.  Images pulled from the Internet are likely owned or licensed to the user who has these displayed on their website.  They are not “Royalty Free” or free to take.
  • Clarity.  Print quality images generally are not made available for download from the Internet without paying a fee. Thus, you most likely will be downloading a web quality image that is unsuitable for print.



As designers, we are always happy to answer your questions, suggest Royalty-Free sites to download images available for a small fee, and recommend photographers in your area who can shoot photos specifically for you and your business needs.


Gina O'Daniel

Gina is an award-winning designer and brand strategist with over 30 years experience in the design industry and has worked with small start-ups to large corporations both nationally and internationally to ensure their logos, business sets, marketing materials, signage, display advertising, social media design and website work together to ensure brand identity and maximize the company's image potential and profit.

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