Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My etsy pet peeve of the day: all the jpeg shop banners

It's no secret that the average etsian is more likely to be a good photographer than a computer expert, and that's okay. We're all good at what we're good at. But something has been bugging the CRUD out of me lately: jpeg shop banners that should NOT be jpeg.

The jpeg file format was optimized for compressing photographs... images taken of real life, where colors merge and shades change and backgrounds blur. For product photos, it's super.

But lots of etsians don't use photos in their shop banners, they want a professional clean "website" look. The banners have digitally created text, smooth lines, perfect gradients... stuff that doesn't occur in nature, just publishing. And that's okay! If you use the right file format.

When jpeg compression sees a perfectly straight line with contrasting colors on either side, it doesn't think the cleanliness is all that important. It approximates the colors on either side of the line... that's why you get jpeg "artifacts", or the little blurry dots and squares on the edges of an otherwise clean field of color.

They can be subtle... but they always look like crap.

So what format should you use?

If your banner consists of very few colors, like text on a plain background, gif will make for an accurate representation without using a whole lot of kilobytes. The fast-loading image will make people happy.

If your banner has lots of colors, but consists of mostly digital components like text, gradients, lines and shapes drawn in your graphics program, .png may work the best. While the file sizes can be slightly larger, .png is a lossless algorithm so your lines will stay crisp. Play with it a bit, see what it does to your file size.

by Louis Brandy

If your banner is a mix of photos, textures, and digital components, .jpeg still might be the best choice but be sure to check the compression settings when you save the file. If your quality is lower than 95 or so, you could end up with a cheap looking banner.

We work so hard on shop cohesion and lovely banners, it's a shame to think of losing quality because we pick the wrong option when we "save as". Don't be afraid to drift away from jpeg, even if it's the format you've known and loved for years. There's no such thing as the perfect tool for everything.

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