Graphics Compression Tips for Print Design Projects

Graphics Compression Tips for Print Design Projects
Photo by Dot D

Although compressing images isn’t as essential for print design as it is for web design, being able to compress graphics certainly comes in handy on some occasions. Hopefully the following article will help you with tips for print design compression.

Digital data for graphics for print design projects can be compressed three ways:

JPEG  - Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and pronounced jay-peg. JPEG is a lossy compression technique for color images. Although it can reduce files sizes to about 5% of their normal size, some detail is lost in the compression.”The name JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the committee that created the standard.” according to Wikipedia.

PDF - Short for Portable Document Format, a file format developed by Adobe Systems. PDF captures formatting information from a variety of desktop publishing applications, making it possible to send formatted documents and have them appear on the recipient’s monitor or printer as they were intended. To view a file in PDF format, you need Adobe Reader, a free application distributed by Adobe Systems.

Zip or Stuffit - A Zipped file is a  file that contains one or more files that have been compressed into the ZIP format. Also called a “ZIP archive,” “zipped file” or “zipped archive,” the ZIP algorithm is the most popular compression method in use. Usually, the files in a zip file are compressed so that they take up less space in storage or take less time to send to someone. Some software that you might know about for zipping or stuffing are  PKZIP, , WinZip, Netzip for Windows, MacZip, Zip, UnZip, and Stuffit. After a user receives a zipped file, then they will have to extract and decompress this  file by using the same kind of tool that was used to zip the original file.


A JPEG or JPG is an image file. It is cross-platform compatible and is the most widely used image file format. It can only be used with images. Text must be converted to an image file in order to use the JPG compressions.

JPEGS can reduce a file size by as much as 75 percent, possibly more, depending on the original file size and complexity. Most programs which create JPEG files have a default setting that generates a jpeg file at around medium compression. Advanced image manipulation programs, like Photoshop, allow the user to control the amount of compression. With the available compression rates through Adobe Photoshop, The highest rate, 12, produces the best final image, but it is a larger file. The lowest rate, 0, produces the smallest file but the lowest quality image.

A JPEG in Photoshop with 100% Quality

This is The original Photo with 100% Quality and No Data Loss - This is the best quality JPEG available, but it has the largest file size.

A JPEG in Photoshop with 50% Quality

50% Quality - This quality of this JPEG is still pretty good.

A JPEG in Photoshop with 20% Quality

20% Quality - This photo is starting to show the loss of quality, but at least the file size is much smaller.


A JPEG in Photoshop with 0% Quality - This is the worst quality JPEG available, but it has the smallest file size.

toon - This clip of an image shows the lossy compression distortion in the fuzz, clouds or gray specks in the image which should not be there

The problem with jpeg compression is an image can get dust, scatter or noise (the term varies) especially at the highest compression rates. This is called lossy compression, meaning that some visual quality is lost in the process. This clip of an image shows the lossy compression distortion in the fuzz, clouds or gray specks in the image which should not be there

Noise is a reason a completed graphic design project generally should not be converted to a jpeg for file reduction purposes.


PDF is a licensed file type of the Adobe family of software. The PDF reader program is a free download. The full version of Adobe Acrobat must be purchased. PDF files are cross-platform and include some high desirable advantages.

1) With the full version of Acrobat, a PDF can be left completely open to another user can modify it, or it can be locked in various stages, allowing a user various permissions such as filling out forms, copying or modifying certain parts. It can also be completely locked so that another user cannot modify or even print the PDF without the password.

2) Fonts, provided the font is licensed for embedding, can be included in the document. If the PDF is not locked, or the password is sent along, changes can be made to the document with the font even if the user does not have the font in his system. Note - The font cannot be removed from the document to be installed in another user’s computer.

3) It reduces file size. How much depends on the size requested. Maximum compatibility, which allows users with older versions of Reader to look at the document, will be a larger file than Minimum File Size, which requires users to have at least the same version or later of Reader as the Acrobat program which created the PDF.

4) Most pagination programs will create a PDF with a Save As or Export As option. The drawback of this is the PDF file may or may not be locked and you have no choice over this. Also, some programs can temporarily overwrite font embedding restrictions, making you believe the font is embedded when it is actually not. For that reason, if you create a PDF with some other program, always check it with Acrobat before sending it off.

quarkpdf - Most pagination programs will create a PDF with a Save As or Export As option.

5) A PDF file can be imported into a pagination file and then re-saved as a PDF without losing any image or document quality. This can be done repeatedly without fear of losing image and document appearance quality.

6) The best part is the files are cross platform and cross program compatible. A PDF file created on a PC in Pagemaker, can be opened on a Mac even if the Mac does not have Pagemaker. A Mac user can save an Illustrator file as a PDF and a PC can open it even without having Illustrator.

Zipping Files

Zip (PC) or StuffIt (Mac) are two compression programs that can compress any kind of electronic document. Updated versions of Zip and StuffIt will open files created by the other program. Once a file is compressed this way, it must be uncompressed in order to use it. Files can be compressed and uncompressed repeatedly without worry. The reader programs are free. Limited use of Zip and StuffIt is sometimes permitted without buying the full program, depending on the programs creating a file which needs to be Zipped or Stuffed.

The drawback is files are not innately cross-platform compatible. Further, the user receiving the document must have a program which can read the file. In other words, if a Pagemaker file made on a Mac is Stuffed and sent to a PC, the PC must have Pagemaker installed (high-end pagination programs can read files from cross-platform computers). If a QuarkXpress file on a PC is Zipped and sent to a Mac, if that Mac user does not have Quark, the file will decompress, but not open.

Nothing is embedded in Zip and Stuffit files. Special fonts and images must be included with the files, if the other user does not have access to these.

[tags]graphics compression, graphic compression, smaller images, smaller files, zipping files, stuffing files, compression, images, graphics, image compression, jpegs, jpgs, jpeg compression, lossless compression, pdf compression, pdfs, pdf[/tags]

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  1. JoshuaCreative
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    also important to note that in JPEG compression it’s possible to compress a formerly compressed jpeg—that each time you SAVE a jpeg it compresses it again. So every time you make an edit and resave that same jpeg you’re downgrading it’s quality, even if your settings are the same you used last time…

  2. Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had many instances of working on Macs, and sending Zip-compressed files (for PC clients to open-and-file on their corporate servers) and all would expand well except the Mac fonts, which would become useless.

  3. Wallen
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    what happened to png, bmp etc? not really considered as compression formats but some images would actually save smaller without appreciable loss of quality using by using them.

  4. Posted August 28, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Wow….it was nice to know that you can actually compress a formerly compressed jpeg. These tips are very helpful for anyone working with print design compression. Thanks for such a great post.

  5. Posted October 18, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    What about Tiff? If I had to save an image in the highest quality format without it having to be a .BMP, of course the obvious choice would be TIFF.

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