A low resolution photo will always print poorly. We recommend the print industry standard resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 100% of the printed size. This baseline quality measurement also applies to any other graphics or logos used in your label design. But you should never use JPEGs, even at 300 dpi.
JPEGs are bad, and your labels will look bad
The JPEG file format is a “lossy” format, meaning that in order to keep file size small for the intended use (web design) the detail and quality of the graphic or image is sacrificed. Image quality and detail decrease as data is removed from the file to make it less complex. This works well for on screen display such as web browsers and Powerpoint presentations, but JPEG files will print very poorly. Even at 300 dpi, JPEG files will never be as sharp as those intended for printing.
Vector format, or "line art"
Design elements like logos and text are best set up in a “vector” format. Vector format is the native filetype of graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator. It can also be called “line art”. Files created in the vector format are infinitely scalable with no loss in quality. This means if your logo was set up in the vector format it will be as sharp and clear on a business card as it would be on a 60 foot billboard. Common vector file formats are .EPS, .AI, and .SVG.
Raster format. or "pixel art"
On the other hand, graphic design and artwork elements created in or imported into Adobe Photoshop are “rasterized”. The raster format is based on pixels rather than lines, and any time a raster file is scaled up (increased in size) there will be a noticeable loss of quality and sharpness. All photographs are raster based files. The raster format is common and does not need to be avoided, as long as the source file is at least 300 dpi at 100% of the size to be printed. For example, if you need the photo to print at 3” wide by 4” tall the original “source file” needs to be that size or larger to begin with. There is no vector equivalent for photos or Photoshop files, but even logos and line art can be printed just fine as raster files as long as the resolution is high enough. Common raster file extensions are .PSD, .TIFF, .JPG, and .PNG.