To find out how large you can print a digital image the first step is to determine the resolution of your image by looking at the pixel dimensions of your file. Once you know the pixel dimensions of your file, you can figure out how large you can print it.
What is the resolution of my image?
The pixel dimensions of an image are displayed in the file properties on your computer, in your camera, and in photo-editing programs. It’s easy to identify because it is two numbers such as: 4000 x 6000, 6000 x 9000, etc. You can easily see your image’s pixel dimensions by right-clicking on it and selecting “Get Info” on a Mac or hovering over it on a PC.
Print Size Chart
To determine the full resolution, divide each number by 300 – this will give you the size in inches. If you don’t want to do any math, use this handy chart to find the recommended size to print your photos without sacrificing quality.
|Pixel Dimensions||Full-Resolution Print||Distance Viewing Print|
|1200 x 1800||4″ x 6″||12″ x 18″|
|2000 x 3000||6.7″ x 10″||20″ x 30″|
|3600 x 4500||12″ x 15″||36″ x 45″|
|4500 x 3000||15″ x 10″||45″ x 30″|
|4000 x 6000||13″ x 20″||40″ x 60″|
|4800 x 7200||16″ x 24″||48″ x 72″|
|6000 x 9000||20″ x 30″||60″ x 90″|
|7200 x 10800||24″ x 36″||72″ x 108″|
|9000 x 13500||30″ x 45″||90″ x 135″|
Full resolution print
A full-resolution print is so detailed that even when viewed closely, the image looks great. Take a look at this close up of ‘Black and White Splash’ by Duncan Young.
A full-resolution print is the best quality reproduction of your image possible on most printers. Printing at full resolution means printing at 300 pixels per inch. While your print won’t necessarily be perfect, it will be as good as the original image can be. Full resolution printing refers to a printer’s ability to accurately render the image on paper and having a good image to work with is essential. If the subject of your photograph is not in focus or if it is too dark or too light, the quality of your print may be less than optimal when printed to its full size.
Making a larger print
You can make a larger print than the full resolution print which still look great when viewing from a distance.
However, as opposed to being viewed on a computer screen, a print may look different than you’d expect if you print it larger than the full resolution print size when viewed up close. For example, the edges of the image may appear soft there may be artifacts in areas that should be smooth. You might also notice choppy transitions between tones, or any flaws that the lens captured will be magnified – you might see colour fringing, distortion or spots. These issues may also occur if your printer isn’t a very high quality.
Making a smaller print
For any given image, you can usually safely print at a lower resolution than the full resolution print. However, when making a very large jump down in size, your image may sometimes appear slightly soft due to how the printer or print software interprets all that excess information. If you’re concerned about the size of the image, you can resize it with appropriate image manipulation software like Photoshop.
The distance you view a picture from can have a big effect on how you perceive it. So for big prints such as Michael Paul Bennett’s ‘The Dream Catcher’, you can use a lower DPI because the viewer typically looks at it from farther away.
If you’re going to be viewing an image from a distance of five feet or more then 100 DPI is absolutely fine.