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I'm looking to snag some open source image from this collection on Flickr and print them on a 3in x 5in sheet in notebooks like this:

enter image description here

I know the resolution is much lower than it needs to be (72dpi vs 300?) but are there any strategies I can use to lessen the pixelation effect? One thing I was thinking about was making the images 50% transparent. They're just background images so I don't need them to be crystal clear.

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Some of those images would work.

You need a minimum of 240ppi for most print production. 300ppi is often referred to because it's a nice round number, but the reality is for 150 lines per inch (most print production) you can get away with 240ppi. And more pixels per inch are never an issue.

If you download the original of many of those images, open them in Photoshop, then choose Image > Image Size UNCHECK Resample Image and enter 240 or 300 into the Resolution field, you'll see the width and height change to meet the new resolution. Many of those images result in a 5x4" (or close) print resolution image. They'll be pretty clear regardless of any transparency.

After resetting the resolution, as described, Click OK. If you then need to resize slightly, you can. Simply go back to Image Size and CHECK Resample this time, then enter a new width or height for the image. Photoshop does a pretty good job of resampling (interpolating) images for resizing as long as you aren't enlarging to some extreme value.

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I wasn't able to find, on a casual search, any images that would be too small to fill a 3x5 notebook.

Don't be misled by any "72 ppi" that you see. It's a very common misconception (even among beginning designers) that this is something to pay attention to. It's not relevant at all for print purposes, because all that matters is the actual resolution (in pixels, not pixels per inch) of the image. (The confusion enters in because of an unfortunate use of terminology: the same word, "resolution," is used to refer to both the absolute number of pixels in an image and "pixels per inch." In this case, only the absolute number of pixels is useful.)

For a 3x5 page background image that's at 30% or less opacity, you don't really need more than 450 x 750 pixels, which works out to 150 ppi, if you're printing with a digital press. For offset, 200 ppi (600x1000 pixels) would be adequate. Both of these are very common numbers for those enlarge "ghost" images that fill a page on which a smaller, full color version is displayed. It's a popular design style used in pictorial calendars and photo books.

In the case of these particular images, especially the photographs (which are almost all soft to begin with), you could get away with less, but the point is moot because all of them are more than large enough for your purposes. Just be sure to download the "Original" resolution and you're good to go.

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The quality of images available for download from that Flicker account should be adequate enough when you print them.

They aren't very low resolution, so like mentioned in the other posts, you should be able to get by without having to stretch or resize the images. I would either use Illustrator or Indesign to print the work if you're not planning on editing those images, especially if you're planning on having written material on the right side.

Photoshop isn't your best friend when you're trying to print images with text beside it. When exported font's are rasterised and don't print well.

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