Why image-only emails are a big no-no

Every email marketing expert will tell you that image-only emails are a big no-no. But why is that? Some people can argue that image-only emails are accepted today thanks to the development of highly intelligent spam filters that can now differentiate between spammy behavior (mainstream, user interaction, links, etc) and a simple image-only email.

In fact, while researching this article, I came across a blog post from a design agency that actually argued for the benefits of sending image-only emails.

So why shouldn’t you send image-only emails?

Blocked images in emails

Some of your subscribers might have their images blocked in email. The result is: your emails will then look broken, and your message will not come across as intended. Some email clients actually have images blocked by default (Outlook).

Blocked email images will not hurt your click rates but your brand image as well.

Most subscribers wouldn’t think to turn on their images, and will simply assume that your company is sending out faulty, broken emails.

For example, here’s an email that looks great when images are activated:

Last call for free shipping on everything.


And here’s the same email when the images are blocked:


Inability to personalize emails

Sort of. Technically, you can always dynamic images in your emails. However, it is more difficult to customize images in emails than to apply a simple merge tag in your text.

Personalizing images in emails takes at least twice as long and double the effort. In a time when we prioritize efficiency and quality, it simply doesn’t make sense to personalize every single image for your mailing list instead of inserting a simple merge tag.

You might argue that there are tools that automate image personalization, but as Magan Lee from Litmus said, most of these tools don’t allow alt text configurations, which hurts email accessibility, bringing us to our next point.

Image only emails don’t respect email accessibility rules

When we don’t use voice assistants and screen readers, we tend to think that no one uses them as well. We forget that not everyone experiences things as we do.

Image-only emails don’t take into consideration visually impaired subscribers who rely heavily on screen readers and magnifiers. Even if you add alt images to your email design, you can’t guarantee that the tool used by your subscribers can read them out loud.

Another point worth mentioning: image-only emails can’t be translated. A subscriber that doesn’t fully understand the language of your email might want to translate its contents to their native language.

However, when the email copy is not actually text but an image, it is simply impossible to hit translate inside the email client.

This leads to lost engagement and wasted time, effort, and resources.

👉 Read more | Your full guide to email accessibility

Long loading time

Image-only emails will usually use high-quality images that take a long time to load. Add that on top of a slow internet connexion plus a short attention span, and you’ll find that only a small percentage of your mailing list will actually get to see your email content.

Lack of mobile responsiveness

We all know by now that most emails are opened on mobile devices. Hence the increased importance of mobile-responsive emails: content that will automatically adjust to the screen size of your subscribers. However, when creating an image-only email, especially if it was a single-image email, designers rarely consider the impact of screen size on the email.

If you design an image for mobile, it will look blurry on desktop. If you design an image for desktop, it will look huge on mobile. Image-only emails are rigid and don’t allow for much flexibility and automated adjustments.

Here’s an example of an image only email designed for desktop:

Do less, save more


It looks great, right?

Now here’s how the same email looks like on mobile:

The text is small and barely legible. The image looks blurry and not at all adapted to the size of the mobile screen.

How to create image emails that work?

We are not arguing that you should never use images in your emails. On the contrary, we believe that images attract subscribers’ attention, increase engagement, and adds a fun and unique touch to the email.

The key, however, is in balancing the image to text ratio.

Creating complex designs in email

People who use image-only emails argue that it’s difficult, time-consuming, and technically challenging to create the same designs on email HTML. Using Photoshop is simply put easier and allows for much more creative liberty than HTML email coding.

And for that, we would like to present you Chamaileon: the most flexible drag and drop email builder on the market. Our email editor allows you to create any design that you have in mind while guaranteeing top nudge email code quality.

You can add as many columns as you need. You can insert background images, custom fonts, video content, animated GIFs, background button images. You can adjust border radius, colors, and thickness for each side. Edit padding and margins on a pixel level.

Everything that you can create using Photoshop, you can easily recreate in Chamaileon. Then generate an HTML code file or directly export your email design to your ESP of choice.

This way you send out HTML emails that respect email accessibility and deliverability rules, without compromising on email design quality.

Rebuilding image only emails using Chamaileon

And to show you just how it is to create any email design using Chamaileon, we have rebuilt image-only email templates sent out by real brands using our email editor.

You can see here, for example, how we rebuilt this gorgeous email campaign sent out by Nadaam.

Welcome to the herd. Your 10% off code is inside


The issue with this email was of course that the email is only composed of images and no text.

Here’s how we rebuilt the exact same email design, in only a couple of minutes, in Chamaileon, without coding.

👉 You can check the rest of Rebuilt it video series here.

Wrapping up

Image-only emails are easy to create but jeopardize the quality and performance of your email campaigns. Using an email builder to put together HTML emails with the same design quality is an affordable and bullet-proof way to ensure your efforts don’t go to waste.

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