How to Choose an Image for Your Plaque or Gift

Written by
Kyle Sherman
Published on
June 29, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT June 29, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDTth, June 29, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT

When designing a customized plaque or gift, image quality is key.

Here at PlaqueMaker, you have a wide range of creative choices available when it comes to designing a plaque or gift – after all, everything we make is personalized just for you! From photos to artwork, pictures to graphic elements such as a logo or clipart, an equally wide range of design factors influences the beauty of the end product. Even though lots of folks think Photoshop can magically transform any image into a work of art, this is simply not the case.

To help with your personalized design, PlaqueMaker senior graphic designer Paulilne Mauer shares a few tips when choosing an image for your plaque or gift:

What types of images translate beautifully to a personalized plaque or gift?

It depends on what kind of printing is ordered:

● For full color images, choose a picture that is clean, not fuzzy, blurry or pixilated. Provide the image in as large a format as possible; at least 300 dpi. This way, if we need to enlarge it for the layout, it will hold its quality.

● For a laser engraved item, simple is always best. Choose a logo or graphic that has no gradients or 3D rendering. It is also best not to use scans of patches, pins or shirts because the texture on these items tends to show up once we run them through the filters used to turn them into black and white images for engraving.

Not Clean vs. Clean logo. Both images are at 300 dpi, but the left side is more pixilated than the right. This jaggedness will be visible on the final product, whether printed or engraved.

What image format works best?

● For pictures, a straight-from-a-camera .jpg is always best. These are typically large images that allow us to size the picture to fit the design without losing quality.

● Scan an image such as a photo or newspaper in full color. Most scanning programs allow you to select a resolution, so make sure the setting is at least 300 dpi, to produce a better end product.

● Email logos and other graphic images as high resolution .jpgs; however, if you have access to vector .eps, .pdf or .ai files, these options are optimal. Having vector artwork allows us to make the image as big or as little as it needs to be without losing any quality.

What should I be looking for in a visual that I’d like to use on a plaque?

● When selecting photos for an award or gift that will be printed in full color, look for a clean, high resolution photo.

● When selecting a photo for an engraved item, keep in mind that we will remove the photo’s background. We recommend images with limited high contrast areas with shadows and highlights on the main focus of the photo. We realize this is unavoidable in some situations, especially if you want to use a picture of an all-white or all-black pet. In these situations, it is best to send us a photo that has as much detail in the pet’s fur as possible.

● Please keep in mind that, in general, removing unwanted elements from a photo that already exist in the frame, or adding elements that are absent from the picture, are things we cannot do –and even when we try, the end result is usually poor. For example, if you have a favorite picture of your uncle out on a boat wearing sunglasses, and you’d like the sunglasses removed before the photo is used in a design –whether the item will be printed or engraved- all that is left when the sunglasses are removed is a sunglass-shaped hole in the picture. Also, if you’ve chosen a picture of someone that is a tight shot and an ear is cut off, we cannot draw in another ear.

How to tell if the lighting in a photo is right for a laser engraved item? The picture on the left has several extremely bright areas with little to no detail. The end result will be less successful than using the picture on the right, which has little contrast between the light and dark areas and full detail on the face.

How does the type of printing technique affect my artwork?

● Our printing process is called sublimation. We print the image on paper and use it to heat press the ink into the metal, giving it a smooth finish. We print using a full spectrum of CMYK colors instead of the Pantone color chart. Due to the sublimation process, we are not able to guarantee that the colors in a logo will match 100%.

● Also, the color of the plaque or item can affect the colors of a logo or graphic when it’s printed on it. For instance, a logo that is multiple shades of blue printed on gold metal might make the logo look like it has a slight green tint, because in the world of color, blue + yellow = green.

● For our engraving process, we first turn the image into black and white art, running it through one of three different filters, always choosing the filter that works best for that particular image and size of the design.

What design factors affect the image quality?

● When using the full-color sublimation process, we can print whatever is shown on the screen.

● The engraving process makes any gradients or 3D rendering on an image look messy or hard to read. The best image for an engraving design is one that has flat colors or elements.

This image shows what to expect when you use a 3D logo for a laser engraved item. On the left is the original logo. The right side shows what happens to the 3D image once it is filtered and cleaned up for laser engraving. This image also shows how a logo is turned into a line art/ engrave-able image.

Once I see the digital proof, how will I know the image will work? What should I look for?

● The digital proof we provide for you gives a quick look at what the final product will look like. The proofs are generally not to size; for instance, if you order a one-inch by one-inch tag, we will enlarge the proof image, so it is easier to check. Or, if you order a 48″ x 24″ sign, we will decrease the size of the proof in order to see the sign in its entirety on a computer screen.

● Focus mainly on the layout of text and art.

● Always double check the spelling and grammar of the wording you see on the digital proof. Our staff does not proofread wording submitted on order forms.

● All computer systems and monitors are calibrated differently, so be aware that looking at a proof on one computer, then looking at it on a different computer will likely make the proof colors look different.

If you are unhappy with how a proof looks for any reason, whether it is the layout, a grammatical error or the way the image has translated, we highly encourage you to contact us, explaining your concerns so we can make the proper revisions and get you a revised proof as soon as possible.