The Complete Guide to Using Images in Emails Wisely
Include or not include?
This question has always polarized email marketers, dividing them into supporters and opponents of including images in emails. And the recent Impact BND study has increased this division even further.
The researchers did A/B testing to investigate the difference between images with and without emails, and found that the ones without images showed higher click-through rates.
Although somewhat compelling, these results are still questionable.
The source studied only their emails, meaning that the research was limited only to the source’s industry. The researchers also confirmed the feedback that they received was not absolute.
What does the general statistics say about using images in emails?
The 2020 email marketing stats round-up by Snov.io has shown that:
emails that include some kind of imagery have a 4.5% higher CTR than text-based emails;
two-thirds of people claim they prefer receiving emails consisting mostly of images;
best-performing emails have the text to image ratio at 60:40.
Indeed, if you open your inbox, the percentage of marketing emails with images will be considerably higher than of plain-text emails.
But, judging from the statistics and the study mentioned above, you need to do it right to make email images work for you.
To help you achieve that, we prepared the complete guide with tips on using images in email marketing.
Let’s dive in.
Benefits of using images in emails
Before you learn how to use images in emails, let’s take a look at a few more benefits of including imagery in your email marketing campaigns.
Emails with images are easier to digest
Take a look at these two versions of the same email:
(Source: Email from Coursera, with images)
(Source: Email from Coursera, plain-text)
Which version would you rather read, the visual one, or the plain text one?
We bet that it would be the first one. And science would confirm our opinion.
According to research, our brain is wired for visual content – images transmit information 60 000 times faster than conventional text would. This happens because visuals are the natural stimuli for our brain to start processing the information.
It works the same way in email marketing. A photo or any other visual in an email helps us process information in it faster and determine its value easier.
Images in email improve brand recognition
When Google acquired YouTube, it also re-branded all YouTube’s email marketing campaigns to fit Google’s brand. You can notice a similar design and style of images in Google’s and YouTube’s latest marketing emails:
(Source: Really Good Emails)
(Source: Really Good Emails)
In these examples, you can see that Google uses the same approach to the font and the visuals in YouTube’s emails, thus building its brand as a part of Google.
Such an approach serves well to make the online presence of your brand more consistent, which, in return, can increase your revenue by up to 33% and significantly improve your brand recognition.
Visuals in emails improve engagement rates
The primary goal of a marketing email is to improve click-through rates and increase conversions. But can a plain text email achieve these goals?
If you go back and take a look at our visual vs. plain text example, you will confirm that an easy-to-digest copy is also more engaging compared to cramped and unreadable text.
HubSpot’s 2020 research confirms this statement: over 20% of surveyed marketers stated that proper brand-oriented email design significantly helps improve their email engagement.
So, while email images may not have worked for Impact BND, they are working quite well for many other brands, especially B2C companies, which vastly use visuals to promote their products via email marketing.
Types of images for email
The sky is the limit when it comes to the types of images you can include in your marketing emails. But let’s take a look at a few examples that you might find inspiring and fitting for your email marketing campaign, along with a few images of email examples.
Black and white
This type of imagery might not be your first choice for email marketing, as you’d be more tempted to include something more colorful.
However, black and white design of an image can help you achieve a certain purpose, as it has a few significant benefits:
it eliminates distractions. While every element in a colored photo usually draws attention to itself, resulting in distorted perception, the black and white design helps perceive the image as a whole. As a result, it communicates your message more clearly;
monochromatic imagery adds to a certain emotion. Depending on the mood of your email, the black and white design can make it seem more intense;
subtle tones promote minimalism. If you want to focus your marketing email on a certain message, the black and white design is the best choice because it’s minimal and subtle.
If you want to see all these three benefits in action, take a look at this email from Everlane:
(Source: Email from Everlane)
Please find more examples in our Black and White Emails blog post.
This type of imagery became a popular addition to emails a long time ago. Many brands have built up their email marketing campaigns using GIFs, and they were quite right to do so.
Indeed, if you see an email containing a GIF, it instantly engages you and puts you in the right mood. Take a look at this marketing email from Chubbies:
(Source: Email from Chubbies)
A GIF, in combination with the right message, can be a powerful marketing tool, which you can clearly see from the example above.
But why do people like GIFs so much?
According to the research published by Sage Journals, people prefer GIFs because they create a so-called “networked effect”, meaning that a GIF initiates a quick interaction between a brand and a customer. And you know how much customers love being a part of a brand.
GIFs, however, are not universal and don’t fit into every marketing email. So, make sure the images in email are in line with the purpose of the message.
Brands often choose banners among other email images if they need to notify a customer about an upcoming promotion or some other news regarding sales.
Banners are a good choice for such purposes because they drive attention directly to the promotion that you’re trying to market. You can see how it works in the following email example:
(Source: Email from Tanner Goods)
However, banners work well not only for promotions but also for company newsletters and other notification-type emails. In this case, banners can include a company logo, a relevant image or can be used to highlight the message itself. Please watch our video to learn more about types of banners and ways of building them:
A great way to diversify the imagery in your marketing emails is by including 3D images. They are, of course, 2D images, but the 3D effect is achieved by a certain combination of a single-color background as well as the dynamics of other elements in the image.
You can see how it works in Hulu’s email below:
(Source: Email from Hulu)
As you can see, the black background contrasts with red, grey, and white on the photo, creating a 3D effect.
You can also use 3D images in email to demonstrate a product and highlight its main features. Make sure that you use a white background so that other elements in a photo don’t clash with it.
This type of email marketing images fits well if your purpose is to brief your customers on something that usually involves numbers. It can be the results of a survey, poll, performance round-up, etc.
For instance, in the email below, you can see how CloudApp uses infographic to notify a customer about the performance of their cloud storage:
(Source: Email from Central)
The use of infographics in your marketing emails promises you good performance. According to Venngage, people are 30 times more likely to read infographics from top to bottom than plan text.
As you can see, users are interested in this type of content, mainly because it is educational and delivers immediate value. That’s why it can be a good addition to your marketing emails.
Background images in email deliver no message, however, they do complete the entire design idea. Such images could be bright, pastel — no matter. But they ought to have no certain ornament on it as background images are often cycled/repeated in emails. And you never know when it stops and starts again in a user’s inbox. So, in order to make the background seamless, please avoid using images with distinct ornament.
Requirements for the email marketing images
Now, as we’ve covered the benefits and the basic types of email marketing images, let’s move on to discussing the requirements for including imagery in your emails.
The format of the image
There are three main formats that you can use to save email images – JPEG, GIF, and PNG. Let’s talk a bit about the differences between these three formats.
JPEG images – you can use this format if you want your imagery to retain color, but you should keep in mind that JPEG format will shrink your image, reducing its quality significantly;
GIF images – this format works great if your email provider doesn’t allow including videos, and you still need to include some action in your email. The significant drawback of GIF format is that it doesn’t show colors as vividly as the JPEG format would;
PNG images – if you need to effectively place an image with sharp edges, include a logo or a visual with a transparent background, this format should be your first choice. The PNG format also retains the quality of an image regardless of its size and color saturation.
Keep in mind that if you include heavy PNG images, it will also increase the size of your email, affecting its loading time.
The color profile of email images differs from those that go for print.
When working on imagery for your marketing emails, make sure that you save them with the RGB color mode. As opposed to the CMYK color profile used for printed images, RGB color mode uses red, green, and blue to create a wide diversity of colors to show them correctly in digital mode, but doesn’t work for print.
As we already mentioned, including heavy images in your emails can negatively impact their loading time or distort the way the image appears on the screen.
On average, we recommend including email images that have the maximum size of 1MB and 72 DPI. This file size is enough to appear correctly in the digital format and won’t distort the quality of your overall email design.
To make sure that all images show correctly on your email template, use email images with a width of 600 pixels if your email is of the standard width.
Did you know that you can set your custom width with Stripo:
Of course, the size of your email images will also depend on the design and format, the number of background images in email, and the number of columns. For instance:
564-pixel images are recommended for full-width sections;
264-pixel imagery works well for 2-column designs;
164-pixel images are perfect for 3-column email templates.
Keep in mind what content you include in each block and indents between blocks of your email template because it will also impact the size of the imagery.
Please be advised that you can resize, crop, and edit images with the Stripo embedded photo editor.
In case your audience has trouble loading the full version of your email and in order to comply with the Email accessibility rules, you need to include alt text that will appear in the plain text version, or in case users blocked images.
When writing alt text for your email images, make sure that:
the alt text is concise. Alt text doesn’t need to be wordy, but it should precisely describe what the image shows;
include keywords. Make sure the alt text has the main and a couple of additional keywords, but don’t overstuff it with too many keywords and phrases;
don’t mention the word ‘image’. The format of the imagery is enough to determine the type of content you’re describing in the alt text.
Tools to optimize the images for your email campaigns
If you want to increase the performance of your marketing emails, you need to have a toolkit for editing email images. Let’s take a look at a few of our best image editing picks that will help you create high-quality email images and optimize them for different devices.
Canva is an online template repository with both free and paid options. Here, you can pick up a template for any purpose, from logos to newsletters and infographics.
Canva’s online editor allows you to change the color and the shape of the template and save the result in the PNG format, which is perfect if you need high-quality images for email.
This platform also has online tools to create logos and other types of imagery for your email. However, it’s most useful feature is capturing and adding screenshots to any digital content. All you have to do is enter the URL, and PlaceIt will insert it in your email template.
If you don’t have any HTML skills but need to create an email template that includes different types of images, you can use Stripo.
You can also gather inspiration from more than 350 free email templates, create a personal library, and test your template when it’s done to make sure that all email images work fine.
This is another platform that helps you check the compatibility of your emails in a variety of email clients, and test the emails before you send them.
In addition, Email on Acid also checks the responsiveness of your emails and offers solutions in case some of the email images get blocked.
Stripo is integrated with Email on Acid. Be sure to screenshot test your emails prior to sending them to your recipients to know that your users will see exactly what you want them to.
Using images in emails: best practices
Now, as you know the types of email images, requirements, and tools to edit them, is it enough to craft high-quality email templates?
This knowledge is substantial to create great images for email, but we want to share a few best practices to make their performance even better.
1. Optimize email images for mobile devices right away
Today, optimizing emails for mobile devices is no longer a choice, it’s a requirement.
The study by InvespCRO confirms it, reiterating that:
2 out of 3 emails get opened on smartphones or tablets;
75% of smartphone owners use their devices to check email;
70% of mobile device users immediately delete an email if it is not rendered correctly.
In addition to that, the source also says that responsive emails have a 15% higher percentage of unique clicks for mobile users. That is why, when designing your email images, consider how they will show in a mobile-optimized email.
To do it, you need to keep in mind a few important details:
the design of your template;
the number of columns;
the size of the image;
the format of the image.
Please be advised that with Stripo you do not need to design different images for desktop and mobile devices. You may just activate the "Responsive Image" option on:
Then your images will be fully responsive across all mobile devices. Just see examples below:
So, to make sure that your email images display correctly, optimize them for mobile devices.
2. Use a combination of imagery and text
There is no doubt that for marketing purposes, emails with full-width images are the perfect match. They are more engaging, interactive, and better showcase the product.
However, if your email only consists of images, there's a chance it will get blocked by email clients.
So, the best solution here is to include both images and text in your email. But keep in mind that just as your images need editing, your text needs proofreading as well. You can automatically proofread the text for your emails using online editors from a thesis writing company of your choice.
In your templates, you can follow the 60:40 ratio:
Even if this message shows as plain text, the subscribers will still be able to get the sense of the message from the text.
3. Target your audience with your choice of email images
We already mentioned the importance of your email images for the recognition of your brand. But most importantly, the imagery that you choose for your emails directly represents who your audience is.
While this company presented below also has merchandise for men, from the images in its emails, you can see that they mostly cater to their female audience:
(Source: Email from Thumbtack)
That’s why, when crafting images for your email campaigns, consider your main audience and their preferences. Such an approach will also benefit the recognition of your brand.
4. Avoid stock photos for email images
Creating images for email can take a lot of time, especially if you want them to represent your brand in the best way possible.
That’s why it might be tempting to get a stock image and speed up the launch of your email marketing campaign.
However, using stock photos as your email images does not benefit your authority as a brand. Reportedly, only 23% of marketers say that stock photography does well for promotional purposes.
There are quite a few reasons why stock photos are not the best choice for email images:
it’s someone else’s vision. A stock photo cannot represent your brand’s identity, therefore harming your brand’s marketing efforts;
stock photos often lack originality. Such content often looks cliché and worn-out, which does not add credibility to your emails;
someone else might have already used them. There is a high chance that a subscriber has already seen the stock photo you’re using in another email, which only confuses their perception of your brand.
If you want your email marketing efforts to pay off, it is better to create original images that represent your brand and its values. Besides, you can always reuse your original images for other marketing purposes.
The debate around the use of images in emails will probably never end. But what’s the purpose in it if there is enough evidence that images in emails work great for marketing?
But if you do want to make email images work for you, you need to approach them wisely. Make sure you keep up with all the requirements, including image size, format, color mode, and alt text, and use editing and testing tools to check how your emails perform.
Also, don’t disregard the best practice tips that we shared with you. They will help you create email images that are in line with your brand’s identity, which is very important if you want your marketing efforts to pay off.
And, if you’re not sure if using images in your emails will work for you, you can use Stripo’s ready-to-use templates and editor to map out your own email template.