There are few things in the design world that are more irritating than a pixelated photo—working hard on a design just to have it less than perfect because of subpar photo quality. Why does this happen, and is there really anything that can be done about it?
Is your cover photo pixelated? Let’s fix it. The good news is that there are ways to fix this annoying problem without needing to retake photos. When trying to launch a professional social media presence, high-quality cover and profile pictures, as well as the content that is on your page, are extremely important.
There are a few different ways to fix pixelization, and it will be helpful to take a look at why your image is not high quality on different sites and programs. The fix can be easy, and once you know what you are doing, there will no longer be a pixel problem in your life.
What Is Pixelation?
Pixelation is actually a pretty common problem on social media and cover photos, but few people really know what it is and how to fix it. If you have ever seen a grainy photo that is not very sharp in the precision of the lines, then you have seen a pixelated photo.
Photos are made up of individual smaller image squares referred to as pixels. When a photo is at a size that matches the level of resolution, then you will not see the pixels unless you zoom in very closely.
Pixelation happens when a photo is meant to be viewed as a smaller photo, and it is enlarged or projected on a big screen. When this happens, the individual pixels are easy to see. This decreases the sharpness of the image, making it blurry.
Pixelation is not attractive and can ruin anything your design for social media or any cover photos you do.
Why is My Image Pixelated?
There is really only one reason for an image to be pixelated, but it may occur in a different way depending on the program you have put your photo into.
What looks like a quality picture on your phone or camera, may not have the resolution capabilities to be enlarged or put on some kind of branding merchandise. Don’t worry, though; we will get to the part that teaches you how to fix the pixel issues you may be having.
When you are working on mockups for any reason, whether it be a social media graphic or cover photo and your photo is grainy or blurry, it is because the image is pixelated. This happens with a mockup because the image becomes too big.
When using the image for these types of uses will not always be possible or easy and may take some effort to produce a quality end product. There are sites that are better for graphic design and merchandise products than others.
One of our favorite mockups site that are amazing with cover photos and graphics of any kind is placeit.net. They have templates for basically everything, and some of the mockups are even free. If you are a newbie to design and need some guidance, go check out that site.
There are some instances in photoshop where getting a pixelated photo is actually normal and part of the program. However, the editing process is not intuitive, unfortunately. The process of uploading and editing photos in this programing requires research, following the instructions that the program provides, and possibly contacting the help desk.
It is possible to fix your pixelation problems using photoshop, and we will get to that later in this post. We did find, however, that pixelated photos in photoshop are common, and sometimes the help desk and forum answers do not help.
When social media photos are pixelated such as a Facebook cover photo or profile picture, among other images and posts, it is due to over enlarging a picture that already had poor resolution.
Most of us have had this problem in our social media experience and get frustrated because the photo looks so good on our phone. We just don’t understand why it does that or what to do to fix the problem.
How are Images Made?
Knowing how to fix pixelation will only make sense once we know how exactly images are made and why they have pixels in the first place. Graphic designers have a huge knowledge base for this kind of information, and we really think they must see life as a grouping of pixels.
The rest of us are not like this. We just know there are pictures and whether or not we look good in that particular picture. When the normal human beings of the photo world look at a picture, we just know if we should keep it and share it will all of our social media friends or delete it.
There is so much more to photographs than meets the eye. Graphics you see on the web, as well as everyday photographs, are something called raster images. In lay terms, a raster image is simply an image that has pixels.
Pixels are small parts that make up the image and show what we see with the naked eye. When a photo is saved, we choose a resolution. You may not pay attention to the resolution numbers, and press save. If you do that, you need to know that the more pixels cannot be added. The resolution cannot change.
At this point, we will only be able to fix or smooth the photo using a very helpful online program, software, or app. This may not sound like good news to you, especially if you are having pixel problems with you cover photo or graphics.
The good news is that even if we can’t add more pixels to an already saved program, we can still make the image look good.
How Can I Fix My Pixelated Photo?
Now that we have gone through the process of why images have pixels, what pixels are, and how images get pixelated, it is time to get the main event. How do we fix it?
Pixelated images are, sadly, very common, and some people just take what the photo gives them and live with a less than stellar image for their cover photo. Maybe this is okay for a personal page (we don’t think there should ever be a low-quality photo anywhere online), but it is never okay for a business page.
The professionalism really does start with graphics, and what people see on social media or on your website could be the first impression of you and your business. Do you want their first impression to be a blurry cover photo or subpar pixelated graphic? We don’t want that, so let’s get started.
There are a few different ways to fix a pixelated photo and based on your access and comfort level; you will need to choose a method. You can try a few different options before you find your favorite, and that is perfectly fine.
Photoshop is probably one of the top programs out there for editing programs. There are several different editions of this program and options for people of all skill levels. The only caution I would give is that even the basic program is not that intuitive.
This is not a plug-and-go program. But we are going to walk you through the process of fixing a pixelated photo with this program.
- Opening your photo in photoshop is the first step you will take in editing your photo.
- Select “filter” and then select “blur” before selecting the specific type of blurring effect.
- Go to Gaussian Blur. Once you are here, there will be a slide to control the effect. You get to choose what you think makes your photo look the best. Once you have done this, then you need to click “okay.”
- Filter and sharpen will be your next step.
- Go to Unsharp mask and use the slide until you find the preferred image look. Once you approve of the image you will click “okay” one more time.
- Save the Image
If this does not do enough and you are still not happy with the way the image looks, or it is still too pixelated, then there is another method that can be used with photoshop. This method can be used in addition to the method we just went through or independently.
The second way to reduce pixels basically adds a layer of light to mask the look of the pixels on the photo.
- Right-click the image and select “layer” and then “create new layer.”
- Select blending options and go to soft light
- Click filters and noise
- Click despeckle until you are satisfied with the photo
- Select image, adjustments, and brightness/contrast until you are satisfied
These are the two basic ways within photoshop that will allow smoothing of the pixels in the photo.
If you don’t have photoshop and have no desire to own photoshop, then all is not lost. There are many editing programs online, and some of them are free online for a basic version. Depending on the website you use, the steps will be different.
Unlike photoshop, many online programs are somewhat intuitive, and if they are not, there may be instructions in the FAQ section of their website. One site that seems to be pretty good and user-friendly is Pixenate.
Pixenate has literally two steps to follow to smooth an image.
- Upload the image that you want to fix onto the website.
- Select the smooth icon in the sidebar where the picture has uploaded to edit. This is all you have to do.
The only downside to websites like this is that the end result is based on the initial quality of the photo. If the photo was only minimally pixelated or even middle of the road in terms of quality, it might help enough to have a decent cover photo. However, if the photo is very pixelated, then this program may not be good enough.
Photoshop can be very expensive, and if you are just starting out and cannot or will not spend that kind of money on a photo editing software program, then there are some viable options on the internet that will save you those valuable dollar bills.
An online program that runs a close second to photoshop and is free is Paint.net. This program is more user friendly than Photoshop and is, of course, budget-friendly. That being said, it is not as powerful as photoshop.
The results will be close to professional quality but won’t quite make it. We would encourage you to give it a try if the other online platforms don’t work as well as you need, but you aren’t ready to commit to photoshop.
- Upload your image to the platform and prepare for editing.
- Click effects, blur, and then gaussian blur. This step is similar to photoshop and should show you how close in nature the two programs are.
- Use the slide until you are happy with the effect.
- Next click effects, photo, and then sharpen.
- Use the slide one more time to achieve the effect you want to see.
- Once you are happy, save the image.
As you can see, if you compare the steps that you use with photoshop and the steps you use with this program, they are nearly the same. But as we said, photoshop is more powerful in reducing and smooth pixelation in your cover photo or graphic design.
Who of us is not on our phones all of the time? We take photos with our phone, manage our social media with our phones, check our email. It seems like our whole lives can fit in the palm of our hands and be managed from everywhere. This goes for editing photos as well.
Since most of our photos are taken from our phones, it only makes sense that we would be able to edit them and fix our pixel problems from our phones as well. There are some really great mobile apps that can help us accomplish this.
- Sharpen image is a very specific app. It is only used to sharpen images and nothing else. If the only thing you need to be done to your cover photo is to sharpen it and reduce minor pixelation, then this is your app. You simply get the app from the app store on your phone and get to work.
- Adobe Photoshop Express is the little sibling of the big photoshop we mentioned earlier. This app can do a lot more than Sharpen Image. It is hard to believe that the Adobe app is free, but it is. If you are more serious about editing, then you may want to look into it. There are in-app purchases, so keep that in mind.
- Pixlr is the last app that we want to mention that will help with the pixel problems you may be experiencing. This app is super intuitive and is great for any skill level. This app is also free to download, so there are no risks involved.
Mobile apps are great, especially when they are free because you can download them, try them out, and if you don’t like that particular app, you can delete it. Not everyone will like the same app or program.
Do I Really Need to Fix My Photo?
After reading through this post, you may be overwhelmed by the information and not sure if you really even need to fix your photo. We hope that that is not the case, but if it is, we want to tell you that you really do need to fix your photo.
Even for personal cover photos, graphics, merchandise, and posts, quality photos are important. Many times, we don’t even know the people that see online, and all we get are the photos presented on a social media page or website.
While it is true that it is less important on a personal page, we believe pixelated photos just shouldn’t happen. Business pages should have the highest quality images, or at least they should look high quality. When you see a business page with a grainy cover photo, what do you think? Will you scroll past and look for another business or go to their website?
We tend to be drawn to the quality of the graphics we see online. Photos can elicit emotions and responses. We encourage you to take advantage of that as you edit your photos for your website and social media.
If you don’t think you will have time to edit the photos that will be online, we would encourage you to use a high-quality camera that will be less likely to produce pixelated images. Social media and websites rely heavily on visual advertising and marketing in order to drive traffic and business to sites.