December 17, 2014

Great Designer Tools For Determining Digital Sizes



One of the first things I noticed when I started out as a designer with a world wide clientele was that size is measured in more ways than one and not all countries use the same standard size for items like cards, business cards, clipart and papers.

Here in the Netherlands we use the metric system, meaning that we measure everything in centimeters and meters. Working with customers in the US and the UK I was confronted with using the inches system to measure things. And because I only create digital stuff, a third system was added to these two: the pixel measurement system.

Enough to get you crazy I might say, but as my great business inspirator Marie Forleo tends to say: 'everything is figureoutable' ;-) And I got to give her credit for that, because it is, if you want to put in the effort to sort it out of course.

Over time I stumbled upon some great websites that really offered the solution to my measurement craziness and I thought it would be a good idea to share them with you. In case you ever want to design your own cards for example and have no clue what size it should be in pixels, inches or centimeters.

And this blog post might also come in handy when you read last Monday's post about creating your own Christmas menu cards with the image editing program Photoscape. In that post I shared a tutorial on how to create a nice card background and how to add text. In the tutorial I used a card of 6x4.25 inches (or 1800x1275 pixels), but maybe you want to use a different size or shape. Then this post is for you! Let's find out the two steps you have to take to create the right size digital card/paper/business card.


STEP 1 - WHICH SIZE DOES YOUR DESIGN NEED TO BE IN INCHES OR CENTIMETERS?

When you want to design a post card or a business card you first need to figure out how big you want your card to be. Not all countries have the same standard sizes for post cards, papers and business cards. So before you start designing you need to know which size is standard in your country. When you want to print your design in a print shop it's probably safest to go with one of the standard sizes of your own country.
And to find out which size that is, you can easily hop on over to http://designerstoolbox.com/, a site that offers a ton of information on international design sizes.

For international business cards sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/businesscards/ (it will give you the sizes in inches and in millimeters!)
For international paper sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/paper/

And for US post card sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/postcards/ unfortunately the site doesn't give international sizes for postcards, but if I convert them to the Dutch sizes, they are pretty much the same as the ones we use over here.

Converting inches to centimeters and back

If  a website only states the size in either inches or centimeters you can easily convert these two measurements to one another. Just go to this great tool on the internet: http://www.inches-to-cm.com/

Okay, so now you have your size in centimeters or inches, but how many pixels is that when you want to make a digital item?


STEP 2 - CONVERTING INCHES AND CENTIMETERS TO DIGITAL PIXELS

The thing with pixels is that you can't just say: so many inches is that many pixels. Digital items have a certain resolution that makes them either suitable for web use or for printing. When you design something for printing, like a post card or a business card, you will have to design it in a high resolution (more pixels per square inch) for the best print results, while if you want to use an item just for online use, you can do with a lower resolution. The most important thing to know is that a resolution of 300 dpi (high resolution) is best for printing. Anything lower than that is okay for online use.

So if you are going to design a post card, a business card or a paper for printing you have to set your design to the 300 dpi resolution. That means that the amount of pixels per square inch is a lot higher than when you would use the design for online use. And that is the reason why you can't just convert this many inches to that many pixels.

But no worries, for every problem you can find a solution somewhere. And for this particular issue the solution can be found over here: http://auctionrepair.com/pixels.html

On this site you can either put in an amount of inches or pixels, then select the dpi resolution, and the program will automatically convert everything for you! Since this program only uses inches, you might need to use the aforementioned inches-to-centimeters calculator first when you start out with centimeters in mind.

Putting this into an example to make some sense

Maybe your head is spinning right now with all this mathematical mumbo jumbo, but don't worry. Let's take a look at the example of the menu card I made in last Monday's tutorial:

* first I figured out the size I wanted use over here: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/postcards/ - I decided to make the menu card 6x4.25 inches, which is the size of the smallest US standard size post card.
* I knew I wanted to print my design, so I needed at least a resolution of 300 dpi. With this info I went over to http://auctionrepair.com/pixels.html and put in the inches and the resolution, which resulted in a pixel size of 1800x1275 pixels as you can see in the image below.




Once I knew the size in pixels I had to use for my design I could start my project in Photoscape. It might all look a bit like abracadabra when you read this for the first time. But like Marie Forleo says: everything is figureoutable. Just take some time to let this info sink in and I'm sure you will be able to start making correct sizes for your designs from now!

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