Why is My InDesign Export Blurry? Here’s why!

You have completed the InDesign project and clicked on export, but it’s all blurry when you open the exported file.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Read on to find out how to fix it.

InDesign export is blurry because it is:

  • The wrong format
  • Images are missing
  • The Effective ppi is too low
  • The compression settings are incorrect

It’s frustrating when you have completed a project and can’t get over te last urdle. Let’s look at how we can solve this issue.

Wrong Format

There are many export formats available to InDesign. The trick is to use the correct format for the particular job.

PNG Icon

PNG – Portable Network Graphic – is used widely on the web. It offers the ability to have a transparent background and works with gradients. On the downside, it doesn’t support CMYK. PNGs don’t lose clarity but are slower to load.

If you are choosing PNG it must be for Web-based exports. If you need to print the export it will be blurry as the resolution is too low.

JPG Icon

JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group – is a go-to for many when exporting. Similar to PNG it works well with the web, however, JPG compresses the image and so loses some of the quality. This can result in a blurry export file for some images, especially if there is text within the file.

PDf Icon

PDF – Portable Document Format – are good for all sorts of reasons. They are secure, they can be loaded onto the web, they can be printed at hi-res, and they can be interactive.

PDFs reduce the size of your output file enormously. However, if the images in your InDesign file are lo-res to begin with, a PDF will not increase them and so the export result will be blurry.

Image Quality

You may have exported your file in the correct format but are still seeing problems with your output. Images that are blurry or just not as sharp as you would like them to be. There are two reasons this might be the case.

Low-Resolution Images
Missing Images

Low-resolution images look fine on screen. They are designed to work with screen resolution and so are sometimes a little deceiving when it comes to output.
If you are sending a file to print your images need to be at least 200 – 300 ppi (the higher end is better). If not, when you generate your export ie PDF they will be blurry.

To check this go to Windows – Link Panel – and check the Effective ppi

Effective ppi

If this is below the 200-300 amount then your images are going to be blurry. If this is your problem, skip to the next heading to fix it.

The other reason your images are exporting as blurry is possibly that your images are missing or need to be re-linked.

You’ll know this is the case by a little icon above your image is either a ? in a Red Circle or an ! in a Yellow Triangle. Your file will still export even though it can’t locate your images. But the images will be blurry and it won’t print at a print shop.

I recently wrote an article about this which you might find useful – How do I find missing images in InDesign

Missing InDesign Images
InDesign Images that need to be Relinked

By tapping on it twice it will show you the path to follow to update or locate a missing image.

Tapping twice will bring you to the original Path

Then once you have located all missing or altered images, re-export and your file will now be clear.

Effective ppi

Looking at the resolution of the images we need to look at the Effective ppi.

InDesign Effective ppi
Photoshop Actual ppi

You can’t increase the resolution of a PS file but you can open the image and increase the image size. This will then increase the Effective ppi in InDesign. By scaling your Photoshop file up and your InDesign file down your Actual ppi doesn’t change but your Effective ppi will increase.

It’s not an ideal way to alter the resolution of a pic but sometimes needs must.
When you place your file in InDesign you can see that your Effective ppi is now at a better print output level and will reduce the blurriness of your images.

When you export it, it should now be less blurry. Printers and print shops don’t really like when you do this, they prefer when files are hi-res. But for all other export options, ie Web will work perfectly.

Compression of File

When you are exporting your file, we sometimes are in the habit of clicking export and clicking ok. We don’t really think about the options that are available to us within the export panel.
We should check before we click ok what we are asking InDesign to do before we click Ok.

Do Not Downsample any Image on Export

If you ensure that nothing is being compressed, you won’t lose the quality of your images. Your file will however grow in size. This is perhaps the only solution and it certainly may be a large file but it won’t be as large as your original InDesign file.

You can also export an Interactive PDF and change the compression. You can select Lossy / Lossless and adjust the resolution.

Exporting Interactive PDF

As I say, an Interactive PDF is for viewing on the web so your pics may still be a little blurry but unless unviewable I would live with it.

You can also adjust a PNG and JPG resolution but you can’t export multi pages as one file. They become a whole series of individual files. Which works perfectly if you have single-page docs.

Exporting PNG

By running through each solution hopefully, you will find the one that can adapt to you and solve your problem.

I’ve written a load of other articles on common InDesign problems that you might come across:

Why is my text highlighted in InDesign?

Why Will My Image not Place in InDesign?

Missing Text InDesign – Solved

If you are curious about other Graphic Design Tips check out our Graphic Design Tips Category

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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