Why are my PNG files Blurry in Illustrator? Here’s the Fix!

There are many formats available to save or export in Illustrator. PNG is a pixel file and must have the correct settings. In this article, we’ll look at why the PNG file might be blurry and how to fix it.

PNG files from Illustrator are blurry because they have been scaled, the resolution is incorrect, the receiver has changed the file or an update is required.

As a graphic designer, there are lots of different job specifications you may be required to do. Getting to grips with what format is required for each is important if you want things to go smoothly. Let’s look at png and where you should be using it.

Reasons why the PNG is blurry

There are a few reasons why the png will be blurry

  1. Scaled artwork
  2. Resolution
  3. Color Mode

Scaled Artwork

The scaling of files in different formats is the main reason that images become blurry. This is the main reason between Illustrator files and exported png files. PNG are raster files meaning they are pixel generated. Raster files can’t be scaled more than 150% (and preferably not at all) without losing clarity. The edges appear blurry because the pixels are accentuated. The best way to overcome this is to scale your illustrator file to the exact png file required and then export it. This means you won’t have to scale your png in the final app, which means it won’t be blurry.


All Illustrator files are vectors. When you create your illustrator artwork you need to make a note of the resolution you are exporting it at. Vectors always look sharp but when you export as a png you will lose clarity. If the artboard for example, in Photoshop, that you are opening or placing the png into has a different (lower) resolution than the original, the png will appear blurry. PNGs are for digital artwork and so are required to be 72dpi. If you export higher than that the resolution won’t be retained when it’s uploaded.

Color Mode

Color Mode is also important when it comes to png format. Many Illustrator files begin life as CMYK format (print files). We sometimes forget when a client asks for a png file that we need to change the color mode to RGB.

We do this through

File – Document Color Mode – RGB

CMYK colors look completely different from RGB colors and so may make your new png image look a little peculiar.

I wrote a post recently covering color changes – Why Are My Colors Changing in Illustrator?

Why do you need a png format?

PNG or Portable Network Graphics are files that can be placed into apps with a transparent background. They are fantastic for digital artwork but they are pixel format, so we need to remember that when applying them to final artwork.

So why do you need a png format?

  1. You are creating the file for someone else and they have requested a png format
  2. You need a graphic with a transparent background
  3. You need to transfer or upload a file that is small
  1. On lots of occasions, I complete auxiliary work for clients. Meaning that I do large jobs for clients but they also ask me to save sections of work (logos or images) as png that they can upload to websites
  2. If you have been asked to save a png for someone, it’s generally because they need a transparent background. Again, usually, this is because it’s going on a website or needs to be merged with another piece of artwork
  3. PNG is ideal for sending to others as they have a small memory capacity. The alternative – PDFs – are certainly smaller than they have been in the past but not as compact as png.

Vectors vs Rasters

We mentioned this above but what does it actually mean when you have a vector file or a raster file? Vector images are created using curves and lines, generated through a Math algorithm, specific to certain apps, ie Adobe Illustrator. They don’t lose quality or definition and can be scaled to any size, from a business card to a building banner, including any fonts that you are using. Formats for vectors are .ai, .pdf, .eps

Rasters on the other hand are artwork that uses pixels made up of color. When magnified raster artwork looks blocky and blurry. Most raster images are for online artwork and the resolution is usually 72 dpi or ppi. This allows the size of the file to be small, which allows for quicker speed on a website or any digital artwork. Rasters are images or photographs and are in the following formats .png, .psd, .jpg, .bmp.

When you export a vector file from Illustrator to a png you are converting it to a raster file. This is then very obvious (and blurry) if you scale it upwards.

Who are you sending the png file to?

The final destination of your png is an important aspect of the job. Are you sending it to a client or an online social media platform? No matter who is receiving it, you need the file to be correct when it leaves your desktop. The final output or upload size needs to be made in Illustrator and then changed to a png. If the person you send it to scales it up in their Word Press or equivalent it will no longer look sharp like it did when you sent it.

The other thing to be mindful of is posting to third-party (social media) sites. They want to keep their data storage as low as possible and have built-in algorithms to alter your files to suit their site. Before you change your file to a png, check the upload specifications for the site and adjust your artwork to suit.

Updates to Apps and OS

I know I say this a lot in my articles but it is really important to stay on top of updates. The Creative Cloud ones we can set to Auto-Update but sometimes we’re a little reluctant to do OS updates.

This can be for a number of reasons

  1. You don’t trust the latest update
  2. You haven’t realized there’s an update available
  3. Your machine unfortunately has become too old to complete an update

Updates allow us to progress and do new things. Sometimes you do an update and think ‘I don’t see anything new’ but in reality, every update is making our machines and apps work smarter. And sometimes the lack of an update is why your files are misbehaving.

I wrote a post recently covering why your Adobe products might not be opening which you will find helpful – Why are My Adobe Products Not Opening?

In Conclusion

PNGs appearing blurry is generally one of the items mentioned, and to be honest it’s more than likely a scaling issue. But if all else fails I would check for updates.

I’ve written some articles on Graphic Design tips, which might help you on your creative journey:

Graphic Design Tips

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on PurpleHotKeys.com

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