Pixels To Print: Understanding Resolution

January 31, 2019

Understanding Resolution

Ok, let's talk about your Resolutions - and no, we don't mean your New Years Resolutions! If you've ever had a graphic or image designed for print or web use, then you may have heard the term "300 DPI' when you submitted your files. DPI, along with PPI and CMYK are fairly common terms when working with files in the design industry. However most people don't know the meaning behind them or the differences between them, which at times can cause confusion. So let's take a minute to dive into what these terms mean, and how to optimize the resolution of your images for print or web.

Print Resolution
When printing, printers use a combination of Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K) ink (also known as CMYK) to create the colors in your image. If you look at the ink under a magnifying glass, you can see that it's printed in a dotted pattern to create the illusion of different colors when viewed from afar. To measure the density or resolution of a print, we calculate the Dots Per Square Inch (or DPI). Naturally, the higher the number of dots used to create an image, the better the clarity of a photo. At 300 DPI, these dots are indistinguishable to the human eye. Thus the magic number for printing is normally 300!

The only exception is when the designated viewing distance will be greater than normal (such as with booth backgrounds or pull up banners) and in those circumstances the DPI required for those prints can be lower, or around 150 DPI.


Web Resolution
Over time, the term DPI has also been associated with monitor resolution. However the proper term to use here is PPI, which stands for the measurement of Pixels Per Square Inch. As it turns out, web graphics are more dependent on the document dimensions than the number of pixels. Meaning that if a graphic is created at 100 pixels, the PPI assigned won't matter because no matter what, the graphic will always display online at the 100px by 100px size it was intended to be. Back in the days when internet was young and connection speeds were mere kilobytes, file size played a big part on how long a webpage would take to load. Optimizing file size was key, so the standard resolution for web images was 72 PPI. Nowadays, internet connections work at blazing speeds, so as long as the graphic is a moderate size it won't matter what the PPI is.

If you ever have a question regarding file size or resolution, feel free to ask the NorthPoint Design Team! We pride ourselves on making sure that the image resolution of our work is optimized for web and/or print!

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