What about Resolution?

Photo quality. Supplying files that look good when printed is essential.

Unfortunately, not all printers will alert you if there’s an image in your file that isn’t the highest quality available. When the order’s delivered, you open the box, all excited, but for some reason unknown to you, your image or logo is either blurry or jagged. You call the printer but here’s the line:

“It was supplied that way. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

I don’t know what to tell ya, they are right. You’ve just spent $ on something you don’t love.

Most computer users believe that what they see on their screen is what they get.

If you read no further take this home: If it doesn’t fill your screen, don’t use it.

Here’s the rub: The colors, textures and basic look of a photo could change when put on paper (or screen print… but we won’t get into that here). See, all monitors have a resolution of 72-100 pixels per inch.

That’s “pixels per inch” which is essentially the same thing as “dots per inch”… (I will be using them interchangeably). However!! Printers can print a photo (or “Raster Image” at a resolution of 300 dpi. Do you know what 72 dots stretched to 300 dots across looks like? It ain’t perty.

3 Considerations of Image Resolution & Quality:

  1. Dimensions = # of pixels wide and tall an image is. Expressed as: width multiplied by height (i.e. 250 x 600 ppi). To find, just hover over the image in your windows file browser. It will tell you dimensions.image dimensions
  2. Print Size = actual size, in inches (not pixels), that the image will print on the page.
  3. Resolution = Dimensions (across or down) divided by desired print size, 400 pixels across divided by 2 inches on the page = 200 dpi
      OR Print size x Optimum Resolution to get dimensions required

    Remember optimum resolution for images is 300 dpi at 100%. Any image larger will still print @300 dpi, so there is no reason to go larger than that. To Note: 300 dpi is better than 200 dpi – but most people (including most of your clients) won’t be able to tell the difference.

So, Here’s Scenario 1 :

You want to use your image for your business cards. They say that you can build rapport with your clients that way. The file size: 7” x 4” @ 72 ppi OR you can see in your browser that its dimensions = 504 x 288.

Business cards are 3.5″ x 1″, but you really don’t want your pic any bigger than say 1 3/4″ across, do ya? That’s half the card…
504 pixels divided by 1.75 inches = 288 dots per inch

Go for it. It will look great.

Scenario 2 :

You have a beautiful image you want to use for an 12″ x 18″ poster with a full background. Dimensions = 1200 x 1600 pixels. This meets the “fills the screen” rule!
1200 divided by 12″ = 100 dpi… so, this image wouldn’t even stretch to the bottom and it’s way too small. I wouldn’t advise using it as a central element of the poster. There is no reason you can’t use it at … 4″ wide because 1200 pixels divided by 4″ is 300 dpi.

When you “bump it up” you lose quality:

3″ x 3″ @ 300 dpi
6″ x 6″ @ 150 dpi
12″ x 12″ @ 75 dpi

You can’t make lemonade from a bad file. I’m not even sure how you would do that. One of the most common mistakes people make is “bumping up” the resolution of the file that is low-resolution. Just because the dimensions are “right” now, you cannot give a file information that it doesn’t already have. The program will “resample” the image, but all that means is that it “blurs” the edges to make it less jagged to your eye. I wouldn’t recommend this as a “fix”.

Real quick like: How close are faces to your piece?

A large poster doesn’t have to be 300 dpi… because people aren’t going to be right up on it. 150-200 dpi is good enough. A billboard is 50 ft or more away so, that could be 30 dpi and be just fine! (I’m not a scientist, ask the billboard company!) Closer to the face = 300 dpi.


Web Images

Generally, if a photo is used for your website – it’s not going to work unless you are using it for a business card photo. Find the original, look at the dimensions and do the math.

Have you ever uploaded a file only to see it explode something on your screen? If you remember, the monitor’s resolution is 72-100 ppi, so, you can better guess how large it’ll display on your screen at 100%.

Now that you know how to get the dimensions, and how to figure if it will work for your project, have some fun with it.
I recommend Dreamstime.com. They are reasonable, really great quality, and they even have free images to use.

Shout-out for the images used in this post:

Kitty © Tony Campbell | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Computer © Foto_jem | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ask questions below if you have them. I would love to answer them. ~angieO


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