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Image resolution simply refers to the level of detail captured in an image. Sounds fairly simple, but in practice, managing image resolution can get pretty confusing. That's why, in this video, we'll define image resolution, sizing images for your websites, and some best practices for working with both inline and background images — including how to properly balance image resolution with filesize.
Want to follow along with this lesson? Fortunately, we created a zip file which contains all the assets used in the project, and we've included that linkright here
For pixel-based images, we look at the resolution in terms of width and height. How many pixels wide, and how many pixels high—or tall.
For a lot of projects, we’ll have a photo or another type of image, and it might have a massive starting resolution because it came that way out of the camera, or from a graphic designer whose assets won’t even fit on Dropbox.
Let’s start with a vintage display: the 1999 iBook. This laptop display has a width of 800 pixels, and a height of 600 pixels. And if we wanted to have an image cover the full width of this display, we’d want to make sure that that image is sized properly.
Well...here’s a photo that has a resolution of 200x150. That’ll fit. But when it’s blown up to cover our display — even a vintage display like this — it looks horrible. That’s because the resolution is far too low, and when it’s scaled up like this, everything looks blurry.
Now from the other side, here’s a different photo—this time the resolution is 57,600x38,400. If we try to scale that down to an 800x600 display — when we scale that down to fit on our vintage iBook — it looks fine. No distortion.
But we now have another less visible (or even invisible) problem:
If we assume for a second that the iBook display here is the largest display we’re going to use for this image, then we’re wasting all this resolution. And the reason that could be a challenge is that because there’s all this extra resolution—all this extra data, we’re left with a file size that’s inefficient. And ridiculous. The file is 7.8 gigabytes in size. Besides the fact that the iBook doesn’t even have a hard drive big enough to hold the file, its built-in 56k modem would take over two weeks to download the image over AOL.
If low resolution files look bad when scaled up, and high resolution files can be too large and too slow, what are the best practices for image resolution in our projects?
Whether we’re designing for a device from 1999 or a more modern device, there are two major types of images we work with in our projects: inline images, and background images.
If it’s an inline image that you drop into your project as an actual Image Element, Webflow is automatically going to take care of this for you. It’ll create variants of this image at different sizes—different resolutions. And when a user loads up that page, the browser serves the best image based on that user’s screen size and their resolution. So on the iBook, a lower-resolution, smaller image will get pushed to that display. And it’ll look great. And if it’s a Surface Studio, a higher-resolution, larger image will load on that device.
That’s inline images.
But if it’s a background image, if we’re setting the background on a particular element of our project— like a section— we’ll want to optimize our image—we’ll want to figure out the right resolution.
Sometimes the best route is to design for the most common, practical displays. Always considering your audience. The 15-inch MacBook Pro, for instance, has a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800. You could look at devices like that and choose a width of around 3,000 pixels for your image. On a larger display, it’ll scale up and still look great.
Also, in image editors like Photoshop, we can adjust the quality of formats like JPEG to add some compression and reduce our file size. In this case, we can drop the quality down while making sure we’re not getting a visually crusty image. And if we do, we can crank it back up until it looks right.
So, inline images automatically get scaled for us. Just upload a larger resolution and Webflow takes care of the rest. And Background images? We’re always considering the displays we’re designing for. And those are some of the considerations we want to make when we’re optimizing images for our projects.
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