Biocompatible polymeric encapsulants have been widely used as a delivery vehicle for a variety of drugs and imaging agents. In this study, X-ray contrast agent (iopamidol) is encapsulated into a polymeric microparticle (polyvinyl alcohol) as a particulate flow tracer in synchrotron X-ray imaging system. The physical properties of the designed microparticles are investigated and correlated with enhancement in the imaging efficiency by experimental observation and theoretical interpretation. The X-ray absorption ability of the designed microparticle is assessed by Beer–Lambert–Bouguer law. Particle size, either in dried state or in solvent, primarily dominates the X-ray absorption ability under the given condition, thus affecting imaging efficiency of the designed X-ray contrast flow tracers. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.