Image Resolution In Print Design

It is an all too common occurrence for us to reject beautiful graphic-design jobs due to unsuitable image resolutions, causing delays. Sometimes designers fail to realize that when it comes to the images they print, size usually doesn’t matter, resolution is king. Here’s a handy guide on how to create a print ready design by keeping your eye on the resolution.

What is image resolution?

To begin let’s discuss what resolution actually is. Image resolution refers to the amount of pixels that make up and image. The density of these pixels within the image is measured in PPI (Pixels Per Inch). In general, the higher the resolution the more detailed the image will have.

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When we design for web, e.g., websites, email, and blogs, an image resolution of 72ppi will usually suffice. That is because the pixel density of a monitor is relatively low compared to ink. When we print something we no longer refer to resolution as Pixels Per Inch, instead we refer to it as Dots Per Inch, that’s the density of Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black dots placed on the paper. In general a resolution of 300ppi is required for any image that is being printed. Although different, the terms DPI and PPI are used interchangeably.

To demonstrate this we’ll create (2) 10×10 inch documents in Photoshop. The first (left) has a resolution of 300ppi, the second (right) has a resolution of 72ppi. You’ll notice the 300ppi document is much bigger. This is because of the pixel density.

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The image below demonstrates what happens when an image that is 72ppi (right) is transferred into a document that is 300ppi (left). A 10×10 document at 72ppi can only hold 720 pixels across the width of the entire document. A 10×10 document at 300ppi can hold 3000px.

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Resampling VS Resizing

In order for a 72ppi image to fit in your 300ppi document, we would be required to enlarge the image. When we enlarge the image, we are adding pixels, and the program has to guess what color pixels to fill in. This is what leads to the fuzzy image you see in low-resolution files. We call this Resampling.

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You can also change the resolution directly of your image from 72ppi to 300ppi. The photo-editing program will then shrink down the size of your document. This is called resizing.

The key in print design is to start with an image large enough to fill the space required at 300ppi. Exceptions do apply when designing for some large format collateral like banners, which at times require much lower resolutions than standard prints. Contact us prior to beginning your design or visit or FAQ section for more information on how to setup your files.