Sometimes when I create a collage in Canva it looks perfect in the preview but comes out blurry when I download it. Or sometimes MOST of the collage looks fine, but one image element is badly pixelated.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong for the LONGEST time, and I figured it had to be a bad setting in Canva. Maybe I clicked the wrong setting or filter or something, or maybe Canva just didn’t export images correctly.
I did some research, and it turns out it’s not Canva’s fault at all! (Well, mostly not Canva’s fault.) My problem was totally user error.
Luckily, it’s totally fixable and very easy to avoid doing in the future, if I take some care and make sure not to just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
If you’re having issues with your collages coming out blurry or pixelated, too, keep reading:
How to fix blurry collages
Use high quality image elements.
When you’re creating digital artwork, you’ll want to use the highest quality images you can get. This ensures that your entire art piece is also high quality.
Use images that are a minimum of 300 DPI. If you’re planning on creating posters or other large pieces, use a minimum of 600 DPI.
What is DPI?
I am not a tech guru so this is an un-technical answer, but basically:
DPI is dots per inch. For digital images, it’s the pixel density. The higher pixels density you have, the more detailed and fully fleshed-out the image will be displayed. In other words, it’s the RESOLUTION. (If you would like to learn more about DPI and see specific examples of quality vs. pixel density, click here.)
So what that means for us digital collage artists is: the more pixels an image has, the more you’re able to manipulate it and still have it look good when it’s printed out.
I ONLY use images with 300 DPI. This is the reason I’m able to stretch and enlarge certain collage elements, because of their high resolutions. If they’re lower-quality, stretching them would make them look pixelated and/or blurry in the final image.
How to find DPI in an image
There’s a few ways to find the DPI/quality/size of an image. If the image is on your computer, right-click and find the “image size,” “dimensions,” “resize image” or similar option. That should have both the dimensions and the resolution.
To cheeck DPI on a Mac (which I have): open image, go to Tools > Adjust Size and the menu should have both the resolution and dimensions.
If you’re downloading an image from a digital resource site, it should have the quality listed somewhere on the page. For instance, Pixabay lists the dimensions of their images on the right sidebar. Be sure to download the highest possible quality image available.
This is why it’s beneficial to download your own collage elements and upload them into Canva rather than depend on their images or doodles. That way you’ll always know the resolutions and sized of your images and don’t have to wonder if one of them will end up blurry once you use it.
Double-check image dimensions.
Also keep in mind that the original DIMENSIONS of an image can affect its final look.
Here’s an example with my piece Ambiance, which I had a LOT of problems making because of using images with small dimensions. Originally, I created Ambiance on Canva’s poster size of 18″x24″. However, when I went to get it printed as a poster, I got a warning about low-quality images.
Since I knew that I had only used images with 300 DPI resolution, it should’ve been fine. However, I neglected to take DIMENSION into consideration.
Here’s Ambiance (original poster size) and zoomed into 100% perspective. You can see the map background is badly blurred, especially if you compare it to the little cross doodles in the top right.
I double-checked my image and yes, the map background is 300 DPI…but its dimensions are 6.4″x4″! By stretching it to fit a poster-sized canvas at nearly 3 times its original dimensions, I’d inadvertently created a blurry mess.
For Ambiance, I ended up resizing the canvas to 8.5″x11″ and that fixed most of the issues. Which brings me to my next point:
Choose the correct canvas size.
Two things to remember:
1. Small canvases cannot be sized up into larger prints.
2. Small collage elements cannot be sized up into a larger canvas.
What that means is: if you have a collage canvas sized at 8.5″x11″ (standard printer paper size), you can’t resize it up into poster size (18″x24″) without massive quality loss.
Likewise, if you have small-sized collage elements, you cannot resize them to fit onto a larger canvas without losing quality. Like I said above, even if your image is 300 DPI, if the original dimensional size is 3″x3″, you can’t stretch it to 12″x12″ without producing heavy pixealation.
Therefore, you’ll need to use both the correct canvas size and the correct image dimensions.
If you want to make a poster-sized collage, make sure you’re using correspondingly sized elements (with high-quality resolutions). If you want to use tiny collage elements, make sure you’re putting them on a smaller-sized canvas.
Bonus for Canva Pro users: you can resize your canvas any time you want. If you make a poster and it turns out to be the wrong size for the image resolution(s), you can use the Resize menu to adjust down. Like I did for Ambiance! Here it is resized into 8.5″x11″ and at 100% zoom:
Check your art from different perspectives.
I’m so guilty of this I’m a little embarrassed to admit it. I tend to create my collages from a smaller zoom so the whole page will fit on my screen. Usually, this means I’m working at something like 15-25% of the actual size.
What’s bad about doing that is: a collage will look fine on my computer as s tiny preview image, but when I try to print it as a poster, it’s blurry as heck! See: Ambiance from above.
I never bothered to zoom into 100% perspective, so I never caught onto the fact that the background was blurry and horrible. That’s why I’m saying for YOU to do it– so you don’t make my mistakes! Check your work from different perspectives regularly, so you can catch mistakes before they get too bad.
Forgo filters and image effects.
Sometimes, but not always, applying a filter or effect to an image makes it look blurrier. I’m not 100% sure why, but I’ve noticed it particularly on my focus images when I try to apply a filter that involves a lot of color changes.
Obviously, I just don’t use that filter for that particular image. Luckily it’s very easy to remove a filter from an image element!
Export at the highest quality possible.
This is the one area where Canva can cause problems. Canva’s default image export (“Download”) is NOT 300 DPI. Even the “highest quality image” PNG options tops out at 96 DPI: fine for online galleries or emailing to friends, but not for printing as posters or prints.
If you want the highest resolution possible for your digital collage art, download the PDF Print. If your print company doesn’t accept PDF files, you can convert the PDF into a .png or .jpg and it will come out at 300 DPI, which is exactly what you’ll need.
Remember that whatever you’re printing onto needs to match the original canvas size. You can’t export an 8.5″x11″ piece and send it to a printer to make into a 16″x24″ poster– pixelation!
And that’s how I (almost always) manage to make my digital collage art come out perfectly! If you found this post helpful, please share it with a friend.