Using Photos on Flags and Banners: How to do it and what not to do

About Us is the leader in online custom flags.  We offer more than just flags. Banners, tents, table covers, a-frames, pop-ups and more.  You name it, and we can probably do it.  We produce the best flags on the highest quality material.  Our world class team will work with you to get the product you want at the price you deserve. 

When you’re looking to create an eye-catching, “stand out from the crowd” custom flag or banner, including photos is a no-brainer. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules or guidelines to consider. 

Keep reading to learn our do’s and don’ts for adding photos to your next flag or banner project.

Do’s of using photos on flags and banners

  • Do use high-resolution images. While an image may look great on your computer screen, it could print out grainy, blurry, or pixelated on a 3’ x 8’ banner or a 4’ x 6’ flag (and definitely on a 20”’ x 30”’ banner), so when choosing photography, it’s essential to ensure the photo is high-quality and will print clearly and crisply in a large format. Because of the need to scale images up for large format, we typically recommend files set at 300ppi (pixels per inch), especially for projects that will be viewed up close.  However, depending on the size or placement of your flag or banner, a resolution of anywhere from 150-200 ppi may still look great. Also, these PPI recommendations are based on your file being at 100% scale of the finished flag or banner. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our design team for guidance, or check out our artwork guidelines for additional information.
  • Do set up your file to scale. If your file isn’t set up to be at 100% scale of the finished product size, you might think your PPI meets the recommendations above, but when it actually goes to print, it could still look pixelated. For example, a 4” x 6” photo at 300ppi might seem like it’s well above the recommended sizing. But if you try to enlarge that to 4’ x 6’, it will end up well below the required file size (25ppi to be precise). So when you are exporting your file, make sure that your file is to 100% scale.
Example of how it's important to set up files properly to scale when changing print sizes
  • Do use images that align with your concept. Consider the first impression you want your flag or banner to make when choosing photos. If you’re fundraising for a children’s group, a picture of kids on a playground would draw supporters. You don’t want to confuse visitors with a misleading image, so picking the right photo for your business, cause or team is important.

  • Do know your image types. Just like using the correct resolution, you also want to make sure to use the correct image type for your flag or banner. One image type is raster graphics, which are photos taken on a digital camera. Common raster files include JPEG, TIFF, and GIF

Visual representation in the difference in quality between a vector and raster image

  • Do use vector graphics when available. High quality photos are a great addition to any large flag, banner or sign, but vector graphics are guaranteed to print crisply at any size, so we recommend using these whenever possible. Vector graphics are another image type and ideal for large projects because they can scale without becoming pixelated. These are created in software programs like Adobe Illustrator and include EPS and PDF files. So, while adding a photo to accent your design is great, make sure to use vector versions of logos, illustrations or background patterns. 

Don’ts of using photos on flags and banners

  • Don’t forget about design principles. When designing a flag or banner, principles and guidelines for design can help make your photos stand out and ensure a professional-looking, easy-to-read flag or banner. While there are many schools of thought around what makes good design, some fundamental concepts, such as balance, contrast, hierarchy, and alignment, will never steer you wrong. As a general rule, we would say don’t have a photo take up the entire banner, but rather have it be an accent to the banner. For more information, check out our guide specifically discussing designing a great custom banner.

  • Don’t DIY. Suppose you’re operating on a shoestring budget or paying out of pocket. In that case, it’s understandable to want to save a few bucks by downloading images from social media or the internet, but this could leave you with grainy photos on your flag or banner. Why? Because every time an image is uploaded, it’s compressed into a smaller size for storage management, which means it will be distorted or grainy when scaled up to a larger size. To ensure the best-looking photo, use it directly from its original source. This could mean hiring a photographer, taking your own photos with a high-quality camera, or downloading an image directly from a stock image source. 

  • Don’t violate copyright. When choosing images, it’s important to understand what, if any, copyright rules apply to them. If you’re using stock images, read the fine print explaining how you can (or can’t) use the photo and how the artist needs to be credited to avoid any legal hassles. Another situation to be mindful of is printing logos onto flags or banners. Most logos are protected by intellectual property rules, so checking them before printing a photo or image is essential. As a general rule of thumb, if you aren’t the owner of the trademark (or haven’t been given permission by the owner to reproduce it), BestFlag won’t be able to print any banners that include it.

Photos Can Make Your Flag or Banner

If you keep those principles in mind as you are designing, we are sure your custom banner will turn out great. And if you need any assistance with designs specifically or your next custom flag or banner project in general, the BestFlag team is happy to help in any way we can.

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