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Meaning of Resolution; How does DPI mean different than PPI?

What is the meaning of Resolution? What is the difference between DPI and PPI? Which one is better? Or alternatively, is there a direct relation between PPI and DPI? Can they be used interchangeably? These are a few burning questions in our industry. You must be familiar with them if you are a designer like me or a photographer, by any chance.

Read along as I am going to dive deeper into this seemingly confusing mess of acronyms and numbers. I will try to answer these questions in the easiest way possible.

What is the Meaning of Resolution & Why is it Important?

As you have reached this far in your research. It is safe to say that you are a designer or a photographer. Regardless of your experience in the professional field, you must have come across PPIs or DPIs. These are two types of resolutions. So, what is resolution? Resolution is simply the density of something in any particular square unit area. In the case of PPI, it is Pixels Per Inch Square. In the case of DPI, it is Dots Per Inch Square. The higher the resolution of any digital artwork or a print, the sharper, crisper, and more beautiful it will become. The lower the resolution, the more distorted and blurrier it will be.

What is PPI (Pixels per Inch) and what does it mean for an image?

To understand this, you need to first understand what a pixel is. A pixel is the basic building block of any pixel-based graphic – those square-colored boxes you see when you zoom in on a picture to the absolute extreme.

meaning of resolution
A high-resolution picture of a green-colored leaf with a circular zoom lens showing the pixelated nature of a pixel-based graphic.

As the acronyms suggest, PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch (squared). It is often referred to as the resolution of a digital artwork or a photograph. In the design industry, the most commonly used resolutions are 72 PPI, 150 PPI, and 300 PPI.

The resolution of 72 PPI is often used as a standard for any piece of digital content that is intended for screens in RGB, like websites, and mobile applications. We use 72 PPI for websites because this resolution is high enough to make websites load faster and look nice at the same time.

We use a resolution of 300 PPI for anything intended for print. Print can include a variety of elements, most of which tend to be in vector format, so resolution does not matter as vectors can be scaled up infinitely. Any pixel-based graphic used inside a document going to be printed requires 300 PPI resolution, which is crucial for producing a high-quality print.

Anything in between can range anywhere from 72 PPI to 300 PPI in terms of resolution, depending on the intended use.

You can tweak PPI for any pixel-based graphic in any photo manipulation application like Adobe Photoshop. Open your graphic in Photoshop and go to “Image” and then “Image Size”, you can play with the settings to produce different resolutions and sizes until you are satisfied.

What is the meaning of DPI (Dots per Inch) and why it is important for print?

DPI is a concept that requires slight learning and practice. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch (squared). It refers to the density of overlapping physical colored dots that are produced by a printer (machine) on a piece of paper. These colors usually print inks, for example, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black), hence CMYK. These dots overlap with each other during the printing process to produce visuals of images and artwork.

dpi meaning
Image Source: edgecolours.com. A closeup shot of a picture having two halves digitally printed, showing a dot pattern that is printed by the printer to product images.

What is the difference between DPI and PPI resolutions?

The short answer to this question is no, there is no direct relation between PPI and DPI. Let me explain! As you have already learned, PPI is a pixel density of a digital thing, whereas DPI is the density of physical dots. PPI can be manipulated in any pixel-based graphic software like Adobe Photoshop, whereas DPI is decided by the printer (machine) manufacturer at the time of production of that specific model. Yes, you heard me right, DPI is different for each printer (machine).

We are in an age where technology has advanced so much that it offers so much that we barely need half of them at a fraction of the cost. For context, a 300 DPI image displays 90,000 separate dots. Nowadays, an Ink Jet printer can produce a resolution of around 300 to 720 DPI, while a Laser Jet printer produces images from 600 to around 2,400 DPI. As long as the DPI of the printer matches or exceeds the 300 PPI, the image will print at a high quality. The greater the DPI, the smoother and crisper the printed image will be.

In conclusion, understanding the difference between DPI and PPI is crucial for achieving high-quality digital artwork and prints. Remember, there is no direct correlation between them, and each printer model may have different DPI capabilities. By optimizing your design with the appropriate settings, you can create visually stunning results for screens and print materials. Embrace this knowledge to enhance your design journey and create remarkable visual masterpieces.

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