Best Image Resolution for Printing
Gustavo BanerTeam ColorCopiesUSA.com
Updated: 2023-07-18 //Date Published: 2020-03-01//
Topic: Technical Knowledge - Image Resolution for Printing
The #1 reason that printed pieces show an image quality problem: Poor Image Resolution.
When putting your project together, your creative team should prepare the artwork at the proper best resolution so that the printed output looks as planned.
In this article we will respond to questions such as:
- What is the “perfect image resolution for printing”?
- When the resolution isn't set correctly, how are the images affected?
- My pictures look great on my phone but look so bad when printed. Why?
- Final Tips: Things to avoid.
This is an article where we go deep with suggestions for the best image resolution.
You will find tips to improve your artwork as well.
There are 4 recommendations for image resolution that we present, based on the type of print required:
- Smaller Printed Pieces such as flyers, brochures and catalogs - Click here to see more
- Large Format Printing: Indoor Signage - Click here to see more
- Outdoor Signage Printing - Click here to see more
- Garment Printing - Click here to see more
What goes wrong when the image resolution is bad?
Depending on the way in which the artwork was created, the images could look unclear, and the copy could be affected as well. Some design software handle and output both pictures and copy as if they where images.
How can you tell that the image resolution is incorrect?
- There are No Details in your image: The print will show a lack of sharpness and low clarity making it difficult or impossible to visualize details
- Pixelated Images: The images look jagged and pixelated
- This is more evident when the size of the print is small and you look from a close distance.
Take a careful look at the following image:
- Right Side Image: shows a High-Resolution image where there are details, sharpness, and definition.
- Left Side Image: The image on the left is a Low-Resolution image: it lacks that sharpness, detail, and appeal.
#1 - Printing small pieces such as business cards, flyers, booklets, and menus: How high should an image's resolution be for printing?
This type of printing is done using high-quality printing on digital printers or in an offset press.
It is 300dpi that you ideally need to achieve the image resolution quality that you probably expect. In your design software, make sure to set the magic number of 300 ppi, or pixels per inch, at the final size in the layout If you design a small to enlarge it later, that produces severe quality problems.
“If an image is small, enlarging it does not improve its quality. It just makes it a larger bad-quality image”
Pictures: If your image comes from a picture shot by a camera, the picture must have the proper dimensions in its origin. Pictures from the web, or shared via WhatsApp and text message sharing are usually low resolution and not good for print.
Software: Depending on the design platform that you are using, manually setting 300dpi might not be available. On Photoshop, Corel Draw and many other tools, you can set it. Usually, online design software meant for web publishing might not be even capable of giving you a 300dpi back.
My image looks good on my phone/computer monitors. It should print well, right?:
n a computer /phone screen, you typically see 72 dpi or dots per inch or pixels per inch. To get that image printed on paper, you will need at least 300 dpi. What it means is that you need 300 dots along an inch to create an image, instead of 72 which the computer screen needs. Those dots or pixels look tiny when you print them, and when you enlarge them, each dot grows in size. It's like overinflating balloons for each dot. The resolution gets affected.
Tips for this category:
- If you are hiring a graphic artist to create your artwork, be specific in requesting artwork for print, with a resolution of 300 dpi. Otherwise, the artist will probably create for the web, which has a different set of requirements.
- If there is copy involved in your design (words, paragraphs, titles, fine print, it is even better to increase the resolution to 600, design, and then bring it down to 300.
Resolution in practical terms. How do I know? If you are not a graphic artist with deep knowledge, these tables will help you know what is probably a high-resolution file and what is unlikely so..
|Typical Size in
|4" x 6"
|1700 x 2200 pixels
|5" x 7"
|3400 x 2200 pixels
|8" x 10"
|3400 x 4400 pixels
|11" x 14"
|4400 x 6800 pixels
|16" x 20"
|4800 x 7200 pixels
|16" x 24"
|5400 x 7200 pixels
|24" x 36"
|7200 x 10800 pixels
#2 - Large Format Printing - Indoor Signage & Decoration:
Because signage is looked at from further away than when reading a brochure, the eye perceives a higher resolution for that reason.
Designing at 150 dpi is usually good for this type of application. When you go below, you will start to see the
Tip: Our recommendation is that you design at 300dpi in real size, and ultimately reduce the resolution to 150. This recommendation makes all the copy look so much sharper overall.
#3 - Outdoor Signage for roads or open-air events / Flag Printing
For outdoor signage and advertising, a minimum of 96 dpi is required for this application.
Not only these signs are viewed from a long distance, but most of the time you are either moving or really far away. In this case, what would be considered a "poor resolution " for indoor signage might look fantastic in this case of use.
Flags are slightly different in terms of the requirements because the visual contact with them is either from afar or can become a close-distance encounter as well. In this case, we recommend the resolution to be higher than 150 dpi.
When the resolution is too low, the impact of your signage is affected. Unsharp edges and blurry images are usually qualities that get passed through to the product being advertised, so it does have an effect.
#4 - Garment Printing
Screen Printing: If the printing method is screen printing, our recommendation is not to use raster artwork (images), but vector artwork. There is a separate article about vector files.
Vector artwork is not subject to resolution or size limitations, because it can shrink or grow indefinitely keeping its quality. But..... you can't have pictures in vector format.
Direct to Garment Printing: This printing process involves using high-resolution inkjet printing. Therefore the requirements for the artwork are stringent, as for the printing of catalogs, booklets or brochures reference in group #1.
When the resolution is too low: The printed shirts can look really bad, killing the fun and social purpose.
Final Tips: Things to avoid to have crisp high-resolution printing:
- Web images. Those are mainly low-resolution, at around 72 dpi. Even though the images look good on your monitor or device screen, they are not good for printing. By saving images from websites, you might be violating the creator's rights, and almost for sure, you won't obtain a crisp, sharp beautiful print with it. Search images for stock photography. There are many free and paid sources with amazing selections.
- Increasing the size of a low-resolution image does not improve the image quality. Even if you have upsampled (grown) your image using Photoshop or other software. What will come out of that process is yet another bad-quality image.
- Using pictures that have been shot on your phone, if you have the proper settings, might be an option. You will have to email that image in order to preserve its quality.
If you are using instead an image that you received via WhatsApp or other messaging or social media apps, those platforms degrade the quality of the images to a point that is still pleasant to look at but no longer has the large definition properties. Do not use pictures shared as described
Conclusion: We understand how difficult and frustrating the process of preparing artwork is. Our team of graphic artists can provide support or review your artwork before you get it printed. Just give us a call at 1-877-421-0668