Using an unsuitable image resolution is one of the most common errors designers make when creating designs for print. The result is a fuzzy print quality, or having your file rejected by your local printing company. Unfortunately, we here at Patterson Printing in Bridgeview, Illinois have to reject low-resolution files quite often. If you don’t keep an eye on your image resolution right from the start you may end up having to completely recreate your design file from scratch, so here’s some useful information on what to look out for, and how to ensure your designs are set up with the correct image resolutions.
What is image resolution? The resolution of an image refers to the density of the pixels (or printed dots) that make up that image or graphic. The higher the resolution, the crisper and more detailed the image will be. A lower resolution will be fuzzy, and less detailed. Image resolutions are measured in DPI (Dots Per Inch) and PPI (Pixels Per Inch). There are differences between the two – DPI refers to a printed document, and the amount and spacing of the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black dots, whereas PPI refers to the pixels on a screen. They aren’t the same thing, but designers and print professionals tend to use the terms DPI and PPI interchangeably. Sometimes they’ll say DPI but mean PPI. For example, a 72dpi design for screen should really be referred to as 72ppi. We won't be worrying about PPI, because it is used primarily for web design. Print design is all about DPI.
When creating designs for print we’ll usually need to use a 300dpi resolution document. We might say “Make it 297x210mm at 300dpi“, so you would make a 300ppi A4 document (notice that misuse of DPI and PPI). If you accidentally created this document at 72ppi, you would have to start from scratch and recreate the design because you can’t magically generate the extra pixels you require out of thin air. If you DID change the resolution from 72 to 300, Photoshop would GUESS what color pixels to insert, but as you can imagine the end product isn’t going to look too good. This is known as Resampling. Sometimes you’ll be asked to create a print document at 150ppi. This is usually the case when working with large format graphics that will only be seen from a long distance, so the close up quality doesn’t matter so much. The lower resolution makes life easier for your computer, and results in a much smaller file size.
If you’re creating a super large document (like a billboard), we might ask you to create the artwork at smaller dimensions, but at a higher resolution (say, 600ppi). This again helps because the smaller document is going to mean smaller file sizes. We can resize the artwork in order to bump it up to the full dimensions, using that original 600ppi resolution to create a larger document at 150dpi.
Using the correct image resolution is vital to creating the best printed item as possible. The higher the resolution, the better it will look. Remember to create and save your documents at 300dpi whenever possible. It makes our life easier, and make your business card look better.
Have any more questions?
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