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Resolution in Printing

Image resolution is not one of those terms that is in everyone's vocabulary, in fact it remains elusive even to people who should know better. Although you may not be familiar with what image resolution means, people are becoming more and more aware of it subconsciously. It happens when you've got an older phone and you're wondering why your pictures don't look as good as the newer models. It happens when you see something shared on Facebook and the text or image looks pixelated and blurry. It happens when you try to print a picture off the internet and it looks terrible when it scales up to the size of the page. These are all conflicts with poor image resolution and if you find yourself in a position wherein you will be ordering printed products, resolution can make or break a project no matter what the skill level of your printer.

Stairs Resolution

Image resolution is the quantified amount of detail that an image holds. The term applies mainly to rasterized digital images which are images that are composed of pixels. While there are many ways to measure image resolution, the standard for the printing industry is DPI (dots per inch) which refers to the amount of dots a printer will print within a given inch. Higher resolution means a higher DPI and more image detail that can be printed. The images above and below show the difference between low resolution (72 DPI on the left) and high resolution (300 DPI on the right) within a zoomed-in portion of an image. The choice is clear for which you would rather print with.

Flower Resolution

Why aren't all images automatically created with a higher DPI? This question takes us out of the print realm a little bit. The higher the image resolution the more information is embedded in an image to attain higher detail which yields larger file sizes. File size is the main reason. At the end of the day most images that we experience on a day-to-day basis are relatively small on our computer screens or phones. These images don't need to be so large because the venue for seeing said images is still so small by comparison. Images on the web are typically restricted to 72 DPI which compresses images to a much smaller file size and allows for fast load times with minimal data consumption.

So what do we do if we have a low-resolution image and there's no access to anything larger? This is the biggest issue with rasterized images. You can convert a 72 DPI image to a 300 DPI image but the image will become much smaller in size and remain susceptible to becoming pixelated. At this point it's all in the design. We would never recommend blowing up a 300 DPI image with a size of 2" x 2" to a full 11" x 11" print however you could blow it up a little bit and try to fill the design with other elements. Every project has challenges but being knowledgeable about image resolution can take this little quandary out of the equation.

We classify images composed of pixels as rasterized but are there other images that are not made of pixels? Actually... Yes. Vector images are images created with special art programs wherein the visuals that you see on your screen are actually composed using mathematical equations. Sounds a little daunting right? From a design perspective, designing with this software really isn't all that different than working with raster-based programs. The programs used end up generating these equations automatically which is the reason why a vector image can be scaled larger or smaller to infinitum without getting pixelated in the slightest. The DPI of a vector image is essentially infinite unless the image is saved in a format that requires the image to be rasterized at which point you can define your image resolution entirely based on your own personal needs. With all of that said, vector images are the optimal image type for anything print related. The image belows shows the difference between blowing up our tiny logo with vector (left) and raster (right).

Vector VS Raster

When it comes to bringing your project to life, the importance of who you choose to work with can not be overstated. The team at South Shore Customs is not only committed to providing a fast and affordable service, we also stand by our craft as artists who are invested heavily in creating the highest quality products for our clients. Have questions about process or pricing? Want to get started on a project? Speak with one of our knowledgeable team members today.

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