Stop Blurry Images

by kirupa  |  17 January 2011

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Far too often throughout the world, the following happens happens every day. You are working on something in Fireworks (or equivalent image editor), and it looks like the following:

[ what your image originally looked like ]

You copy and paste (or Import) that image into your Flash document. Now, your expectation may be that the image looks similar to what you saw in Fireworks. What you will often see is something that looks like the following instead:

[ what it looks like in Flash after being imported or pasted...eww! ]

Notice that the sharp lines are blurry, and the overlapping regions between the circles look really low quality. The text too looks a bit odd with some dithering where it hits the colored rectangle.

Fortunately, fixing these images quality issues is not very difficult once you figure out what to do.

Fixing the Blurriness
The reason you see the blurriness is because Flash automatically does its own optimization to help reduce the file size. This often results in a decrease in image quality.

The way you can fix this is by first calling up your Library by pressing Ctrl + L:

[ behold, the place where your Assets live ]

Find the file that corresponds to your image. In my case, that file is flash0.png which also happens to be the only file in my Library. Once you have found your image file, right-click on it and select Properties.

The Bitmap Properties dialog will appear:

[ properties relating to your image can be found here ]

In this dialog, you have a handful of settings that affect how your image displays. The most notable are the Compression drop-down and the Test button.

The Compression drop-down allows you pick between Photo (JPEG) and Lossless (PNG/GIF) as to how your image will actually export and be viewed when you run your application.

 If your image appears blurry right now, setting the Compression to Lossless will solve that problem:

[ Lossless provides the best image quality but with (often) larger file size ]

 In general, for best quality, I prefer going with Lossless (PNG/GIF). This isn't a set-in-stone guideline though. Sometimes, going with the Photo (JPEG) option and a sufficiently high-quality may provide a better tradeoff between file size and image quality:

[ if going Lossy, set a good quality value! ]

The easiest way to see what works is by trying various Compression settings and hitting the Test button to have the preview of your image on the left-hand side update with the new settings. Besides just the image quality, one thing you should look at is the file size summary displayed at the bottom of the dialog:

[ won't somebody please think of the children...and the file size! ]

The value after compressed = shows you the file size of the image that will find its way into your SWF file. In general, try to keep that number as small as possible to avoid various memory and performance-related issues if your image will be manipulated or animated at runtime.

Just a final word before we wrap up. If you have a question and/or want to be part of a friendly, collaborative community of over 220k other developers like yourself, post on the forums for a quick response!

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