Published on Fri, May-11-2012 by George

Focus on pixel resolution

Understand the nature of every pixel in your image and learn the right way to resize your photos without damaging them

The foundation of everything we do digitally is dictated by pixels – tiny bits of colour that we can barely see. When we talk about quality, pixels are more often than not part of the equation, and this is where resolution comes into play.

Resolution is number of pixels per inch in your image, and for short this is know as ppi. There are two resolution values which are commonly used in digital artwork and photography: 72 and 300ppi. The larger the ppi, the bigger an image can be printed – and for on-screen purposes 72ppi is used, and 300ppi is best suited for printing.

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But the factor that decides the final quality of an image is it pixel dimensions. The lower the pixel dimensions, the smaller the image size. When you increase the resolution (ppi) of an image that already has small pixel dimensions, you effectively make its print size even smaller.

Resolution is the difference between an image with lots of definition and an image with a blocky, pixilated appearance. Always look out for high-resolution stock images to use in your artwork. This enables you to print bigger, zoom in closer and still have good definition.

In this guide you’ll learn how to control resolution, whether for print or for on-screen purposes. Discover what happens to your image when you resamples pixels – and we also uncover what the tick boxes in the image Size menu really mean.

“In this guide you’ll learn how to control resolution, whether for print or for on-screen purpose”


Constrain sizes

Open the dialog box and make sure the Constrain Proportions box is ticked. Keep the Scale Styles box ticked and uncheck the Resample image box. The pixel dimensions section should grey out.

Adjust resolution

Using the Resolution field, enter a value suited to your purpose. For printing enter 300, and for on-screen use enter 72. You’ll notice the Width and Height value change to show the document’s size.

Adjusting pixels

Tick Resample images to change the pixel dimensions of your image. PS adds/removes pixels to cater for the change in size. Pick the Resample method for best results, depending on your image.

Image Size Menu

Under Images>Images Size, the image’s pixel dimensions are gven, as well as document size and resolution is in pixels per inch (ppi for short). The resolution of 300 ppi is used for print.

Image Definition

This image has a large pixel dimension, so at 300ppi its print size is close to A3. Image clarity is good too, and we can see closer to the details when we zoom into the image at 100%

Croop tool

Using the Crop tool removes important pixels from your image, and as a result lowers an image’s resolution (ppi) and ultimately reduces print size.

01 Printing Advice

When you print an image, the best resolution is 300ppi. When printing with inkjet printers with photo paper, 200-300ppi would suffice.

02 Inkjet Printing

The difference is in the definition and clarity of the result. More definition can be seen in an image printed at 300ppi than at 200ppi.

03 On-screen Resolution

If your artwork is for the web, images resolution should be 72ppi. The extra pixels in 300ppi become redundant for displaying on-screen.

04 Resample dimensions

The Resample option enables you to adjust the number of pixels in your image, resulting in pixels being either added in or taken out by Photoshop.

05 Interpolation

A list of options becomes available for methods of interpolation – the way PS blends each pixel. Resampling affects quality and definition.

06 Cropping

The Crop tool lowers an image’s pixel dimensions, and effect its print size. The Croop tool can be set to a certain resolution for the cropped image.


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