Image Quality: How Big is too Big?

I want to make a really large photo or banner, but how do I figure our how big it can be before it becomes fuzzy and pixelated?

Let's look at the relevant factors that come into play when enlarging images.


Enlarging an Image

Imagine that your photo is printed on a square piece of stretchy spandex. When two people grab either side and pull it apart, the image will expand in all directions. When we enlarge an image, this pulling apart is what is happening. The two factors that dictate how large you can go before the image becomes fuzzy and pixelated are dpi & the original size.


DPI & PPI

Dpi stands for "dots per inch" and was a reference for how many dots a printer made within a square inch when creating an image. Because we've moved into a more digital age, ppi is a more appropriate term, meaning "pixels per inch". The more pixels or "dots" within the square inch, the more we can stretch it apart for enlargement.


72 dpi = poor image quality = very limited enlargement :o(

300 dpi = standard image quality = limited enlargement :o\

600 dpi = great image quality = go big or go home! :o)


Original Image Size

Another important factor to consider is the original image's size. If it has a low dpi and is also very small in size, then enlarging will be very limited. An image's size is normally represented in inches (5x7) or by it's pixel resolution (900x520). You can locate this information by selecting the properties of your file and going to the details.

Summary

When it comes to digital images, bigger numbers mean better quality. A higher dpi and larger dimensions give you greater opportunities to enlarge your images and keep them looking crisp and in focus. Double digit dpi's and small dimensions make enlarging next to impossible without causing the image to appear fuzzy and pixelated. Double check your file's properties to see if enlarging is a possibility.

Rylee relaxes after a hard day of sharing her knowledge of all things copy and print.

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