Submitting Artwork

Here are recommendations for submitting artwork to greeting card companies like ours, or to any other kind of company.

From time to time we get requests from artists who wonder whether their style would be a good fit for our cards. And naturally they send us their artwork to look at. As soon as a see the email I know whether I like the artwork. But I also know whether I’ve got a problem with the email.

Recommendation #1

If you send an email with some images, make sure they are small images. No one wants to have their inbox filled with huge images they didn’t expect nor did they ask for.

I don’t want my mailbox filled up with email attachments. And I can’t solve the problem by deleting the attachment. The only thing I can do is delete the email. And when I do that then I have lost your email address and your details. But I have to do it if you send huge image files.

OK, so what is a small image and what is a huge image?

Every attachement – and it doesn’t matter whether it is a Word document or a photograph or an illustration – is a file. It has a size. Text documents are tiny. The file size of a text document may be something like 40KB. That’s forty kilobytes. That’s nothing.

A full size JPEG on the other hand, might be anything up to 10 MB or more. That’s ten megabytes.

A megabyte is one thousand times the size of a kilobyte. A ‘byte’ refers to a quantity of information, and is a standard across all kinds of digital files.

Hello Ewe

Look at this photo of a sheep.

Advice for artists submitting artwork to greeting card companies illustrated with a photograph of a panting ewe in labour.

The original RAW file of this photograph is about 20MB. A JPEG saved full size at 100% (no compression) is about 2.5MB.

The photo of the sheep you can see here is not a full size JOEG. It is small – just 800pixels wide. I took the original file and prepared a small version for the Web. As you can see, this small file is plenty wide enough to display on the Web or in an email. The file is 113KB.

That’s about one twentieth of the full-resolution JPEG and about one two hundredths the size of the original RAW file.

So recommendation #1 is, don’t send people files that are many time bigger than they need to be.

Of course, if they like your stuff and want you to send full size artwork, that’s a different point all together. If that happens, the company may ask you to send large images using an image transfer service like WeTransfer.

Recommendation #2

I’ve explained why it is better to send small files. But if you send ten files then the KiloBytes will start to add up.

A better idea is to send just one or two small images and tell the company where they can see more of your work.

It other words, get a website where you can show your work. One good place to find a home for the images is to make a free website on WordPress and upload small versions of the images there.

Just to explain – there are two versions of WordPress. There’s where you have to find a web host and build the site yourself. And there is where WordPress itself will host your website. The link I put in the previous paragraph and again here – WordPress – is to It really is a gift to people wanting to get on the Web without any hassle.

You need to know how make small versions of their images to upload to your website or you will start to fill up the space on the free website. If you have Photoshop you can use that to make small images for the web.

Or you can make small images using the online tool Image Optimizer or something similar.

So – small images and get a website. With those two recommendations you can avoid gettng off on the wrong foot with the person you are sending your images to.

If you want to know a bit more about why computer screens are different from printed images, read on.

Printing Versus Computer Screens

If I take a photograph to a printer and ask them to print it full size, they would print it at 300 dots per inch. Each dot is a squirt of ink or pigment onto the paper.

When viewed from a ‘normal viewing distance’, an image printed at 300 dots per inch will look continuous to the human eye, meaning you won’t see that it is made up of individual dots. Of course if you put your eye close up to the image you will see the dots. But close up is not what we do. We look at the normal viewing distance.

It’s always that normal viewing distance that’s important.

For example, if I ask the printer to make a really big print it will work. But there will come a point when there are so few dots that the image loses definition and I will see that at the normal viewing distance.

But it depends on the viewing distance. If I asked the printer to print the photo ten metres wide to put on the side of a bus, he would have to print it at a much smaller number of dots per inch. But I would not look at the bus from one metre away. I would probably see it from at least twenty metres away. And my eye would piece together the dots and I would still see the sheep.

When you stand very close to a giant poster or to the side of a bus, you can see the individual dots. But from further away, your eye and brain rolls it all together sees one continuous image. Again, what looks OK depends on what is the normal viewing distance.

Why Computer Screens Are Different

Computer screens are different. Each model has its own native resolution or pixel density.

72 dots per inch is usually taken as a good standard. And here is the crucial difference. Unlike with printing onto paper, you can’t cram or squirt more pixels onto the screen. You may be able to lower the screen resolution in the settings, but you can’t increase the screen resolution.

The screen is built to a specification and you can’t make the pixel density higher. You can’t cram in extra pixels and you can’t make the image look denser. That means any ‘extra’ pixels are wasted. And each unneeded, extra pixel increases file size.

That’s why the small file of just 113 kilobytes is enough to fill the page on this article. Any more pixels would just be wasted.

Wrap Up: Submitting Artwork to Greeting Card Companies

So now you see that when submitting artwork to greeting card companies there is no advantage sending big files that will be looked at on a computer screen. They are not going to see the difference unless they actually try to print the small image at large size. If the company likes your work and asks for bigger files to print – on a greeting card or whatever – that’s a whole different thing.

Best of luck, and keep on sending that artwork. But do it the smart way.

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