Best Practices for Using Images in Emails

Avatar for Luiza Zeccer Luiza Zeccer
Avatar for Luiza Zeccer Luiza Zeccer

January 13, 2022

5 min read

Emails in your email sequences have the ability to help you stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it feels as if, as email marketers, all we care about is being unique from our competitors. We do our best to come up with the catchiest subject lines, we work on personalizing communication to tailor it to our audience’s needs, and we do our research about the best time to send out a newsletter. But that’s not all, we also test out multiple hypotheses, starting with wording, email structure, or design.

Because the field of email marketing is such a dynamic one, we can never get complacent, and we cannot, most definitely, stop innovating. From trying out new tools to searching for inspiration or doing competition research, we are always ready for a challenge. With all the things we do for the best email marketing practices, using images in your emails should be one of them. Here, we will explain the best ways to get the most out of images in your emails.

Email images best practices

Here, at Emailable, we can relate to all of these struggles and we try to constantly come up with ideas, suggestions, tips and tricks, and best practices regarding everything email marketing. In this spirit of knowledge sharing, we will underline the best practices for using images in email campaigns.

We have identified 4 important rules that you need to be aware of before designing your emails.

Images are a critical part of any email and it goes without saying that having a design-first mindset can save one from a lot of headaches along the way. But certain questions do arise when thinking about images and email campaigns. What is the most efficient way of using images in emails? What kind of images works in emails and what don’t? What are some good sources for getting free or paid photos and/or images? We will answer all of these questions and others relevant to this topic as follows.


Designing an email template that works for your specific audience has to do just with understanding the expectations that your subscribers have in terms of the sections of your emails, but also with developing a consistent look.

Whenever you create a new email campaign, it is important to stick to your brand identity, your colors, fonts, and, most importantly, the look and feel of the images that you have previously used. Email images need to give the impression that they all belong to the same family.

The best approach to achieve consistency is to create a repository of images that you can use for various emails. Even if we are talking just about having a bunch of vectors, drawings, doodles, icons, or graphics, what you want to make sure is that they are connected to each other, based on their visual similarity or themes.

If we are talking about using photos in emails, things are becoming a bit more interesting. If you are taking the photos in-house, everything should be pretty easy, because you can develop a strategy and stick to it. If on the other hand, you are getting them from a stock photography company or a third-party photographer, then you will need to pay attention that all photos are similar in style and quality.

Avoid combining abstract photos with photos depicting real-life situations, because you are just going to fail at creating a consistent look and feel of your emails and recipients might be more likely to unsubscribe.

Test, test, test

Never settle with a pre-made recipe, even if it seems to work just right for you. If you are not testing out multiple variations of an email, it will be almost impossible for you to say with confidence what kind of email design will get you the best results. Using A/B testing or multivariate testing, you can identify areas of improvement. How do you do that when it comes to images?

Here are some things you can test regarding email images:

  • Play around with image sizes and aspect ratios. Doing so will provide you with insights regarding what your subscribers are most likely to react to positively.
  • Try combinations of your brand identity colors. Maybe relying on your secondary colors will get you better results.
  • Hop on the gif trend. Including an interactive element in your email, like a gif, could increase engagement.

Do not draw conclusions after testing out just one variation. You need to test out the same hypotheses multiple times to make sure that the results do not vary from one email to another because of other aspects that have nothing to do with the elements you were testing.

Use only quality images

This is probably a no-brainer, but we want to use this occasion to underline some sources that we think you should know about. Before going into that, let’s try to define what a quality image is.

We are talking about three main aspects: resolution, compression, and level of detail. Resolution refers to the number of pixels contained in an image, compression is the reduction in file size that takes place when you upload an image to an ESP, while the level of detail is a concept that defines the complexity and clarity of an image. Any image that you use for your email campaign needs to be sharp, clear, in focus, and have an appropriate resolution.

Free stock image providers

  • Unsplash: the largest collection of free stock photos for email campaigns
  • Pexels: a well-organized stock provider that also included free images
  • Pixabay: perfect for business and marketing needs
  • Gratisography: unique and quirky images and photos for special occasions
  • Freepik: free vectors, stock photos & PSD downloads for your projects

Premium stock image providers

  • Shutterstock: subscription-based provider for photos, illustrations, videos, and more
  • Adobe Stock: integrated with Adobe CC applications
  • Getty Images: perfect for editorial projects or emails about public events or personalities

Be mobile-friendly

Remembering what is the touch-point where you interact with your subscribers is something that will pay off generously in the long run. Because if you are designing your emails in a way where they are displayed correctly on all platforms, devices, or email clients, you will keep your subscribers happy.

Maintaining a healthy and clean email list will also allow you to improve your sender reputation and keep your customers happy. You should really give our email verification service a try. You can get up to 250 free verification credits, where you will receive a free quality report for each email list you upload or import and you will always know when you need to purchase a verification. Learn more about our email cleaning features.

Getting back to the subject at hand, you can try a tool to preview how your email is rendered on each platform, device, or email client. Litmus, for example, will check 90+ applications and devices to give you a clear picture of how your email will look for your subscribers. Paying attention to the experience that you deliver is as important as the messages you include in your emails.


Finding the right balance between content and design is something that can be achieved with time and practice. But knowing what industry best practices you need to follow is something that needs less time and less practice. Here is what we have learned today about using images in email campaigns:

  • Consistency is king: you should always strive to make your emails feel familiar to your subscribers. One way you can do so is by using images or photos that have similar styles.
  • A/B test or use multivariate testing to perfect the look and feel of your images: focus on colors, sizes, and interactive content to see what your recipients like to get in their inboxes.
  • Have clear quality guidelines: use images that will be visible and clear, make quality a priority, and stick to your internal rules.
  • Embrace all users: use an email preview software or send your email as a test and check how it is displayed on various devices or applications to make sure that all subscribers will have a great experience with your emails.

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