Here’s a tutorial on how and why to resize your images. It looks like a lot to read, but it’s actually a simple procedure — I’ve just explained a lot of fiddly little details.

Have a look at any Etsy listing and you’ll see that it says “zoom” underneath the largest picture. Click that or click on the picture itself, and you’ll get an even larger view. This is the size of the actual picture that the seller used in the listing process.

Two neat tricks that your browser (IE, Firefox, or whatever you use) can do when displaying an image outside of a webpage:

  1. It might automatically zoom out to make the picture fit in your screen. If you move your mouse over the image you’ll have some way of zooming in to see it full size. In Firefox you just have to click on it; in IE there might be a box that appears on the bottom right corner of the image, and you click that.
  2. It will let you look at information about the image. Click the image with your right-hand mouse button and the menu that comes up will probably include something like “Properties”. Click on Properties and you’ll be shown an information panel. One of the things it will show you is the size of the image in pixels. Try it on this image and you’ll find that the size is 886 x 1012.

Ideally, you want this picture to give your customers a closer view than the picture on the listing page can give. At the same time you don’t want it to be so huge that they see every grain of dust and can’t focus on the subject of the picture!

Also, the bigger the picture is, the more data it contains, and the bigger the file size will be. A bigger file will take longer to upload and download. If your customers have slow internet connections they won’t want to sit around waiting for a really enormous picture to display.

The size that Etsy recommends for the full zoom picture is 1000 pixels wide. That will look pretty good on most people’s computers (the smallest laptops and netbooks these days usually have a screen width of 1024 pixels, so a picture that is 1000 pixels wide will almost fill it horizontally).

Start up your GIMP and we’ll walk through resizing one of your pictures!

Pictures straight out of my camera are 3456 x 2304 pixels, and the file size is about 2.7 MB. You will probably find something similar. Once you’ve got the pictures off the camera and into the computer, you can click on File on the GIMP’s menu bar, and choose Open to find your image. You’ll get a window that lets you browse through your computer’s folders. Once you find the image, click it and then click the Open button in the bottom right corner of the window.

Your image will probably display zoomed out in the GIMP’s main window, just like your browser does. At the bottom of the screen there’s a little box that shows the zoom level, probably as a percentage of the full image size. If you click it and choose 100% you’ll see it at full size. On my computer, when I open a fresh image from the camera, it starts at 18.2%.

Note that this is just displaying the picture differently — when you change this zoom level you are not changing the image itself! You’re just changing the way the program is showing it to you right now.

Now we’ll get into actually altering the image. Remember that whenever you do anything in the GIMP, if you make a mistake you can click on Edit -> Undo on the top menu bar to change back whatever you just did. (You can also hold down the Ctrl key and hit Z to do the same thing.) Also, if you close the program and tell it not to save your changes, the image will be the same as it was when you started. So don’t be afraid of ruining your picture.

To resize an image, click on Image on the top menu bar and choose Scale. This is the bit where you’re actually changing your image.  Don’t worry about most of the features in the Scale window for now. All you need to know about are the height and width boxes.

Note that the height and width have a little picture of a chain connecting them. That means that if you change either the height or the width, the other one will be changed proportionally. The aspect ratio — the relationship between the height and width of the image — will remain the same. (In most commercial cameras, the images are 1.5 times wider than they are high. The aspect ratio is expressed as 3:2, which means each image is 3 units wide and 2 units high.)

If you tried making the width smaller without making the height smaller proportionally,  you’d end up with a very tall and very narrow image. When widescreen movies were first shown on television, they were often squished this way because television screens had a different aspect ratio than movie screens. The result was a lot of tall skinny actors! (These days they either cut off the horizontal edges, or add black bars at the top and bottom. You can also buy televisions with the same aspect ratio as movies.)

Anyways. Click on the width box and replace whatever number is there with 1000. Then click in the height box and it will change automatically. Click the Scale button at the bottom of the window, give the program a few seconds to do its work, and presto — your image will be genuinely smaller.

The last step is to save the image. It’s a good idea to preserve your raw images and save the resized one as a copy, in case you want to go back and do something else with the original. To do this, click on File again and choose Save As (not just Save).

  • Give the new image a new name by typing it at the top.
  • Browse to the location where you want to save the image on your computer.
  • Click on Select File Type (By Extension) at the bottom of the window, and choose JPEG Image (this is a widely-used image file type, and one that Etsy can upload).
  • Click the Save button!
  • If your camera’s original images were not in JPEG format, it will ask you if you want to export the image and flatten it and do some other technical things. Just click the Export button and continue on.
  • If it gives you a screen about different options for saving JPEG images, don’t worry about most of them — just make sure the slider bar marked Quality is moved all the way to the right so that you get 100%. Click Save, and you’re done!

Now you have a smaller image that will take less time to upload to Etsy, will take less time for your customers to download, and will look great on the web! When you list your item on Etsy, and it asks you for your images, look for the new one (remember what you named it).

Next time: getting rid of wasted space in your images!