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Digital Darkroom, Post-Processing & Printing
Pixels and Printing: Size Matters

How many pixels per inch to make a good-looking print

An important factor in print quality is the number of pixels per inch (ppi) used to make the print. The more pixels per inch, the finer the detail in the print will be and the sharper it will look.



Probably the minimum value for reasonable print quality is 180ppi. For a better image you can go to 240ppi and for the best quality you may have to go to 300ppi.

An important factor in print quality is the number of pixels per inch (ppi) used to make the print. The more pixels per inch, the finer the detail in the print will be and the sharper it will look. Probably the minimum value for reasonable print quality is 180ppi. For a better image you can go to 240ppi and for the best quality you may have to go to 300ppi.

The table below shows the file size you need to make common sized prints. For example if you want the highest quality 8x10 print you'd need 2400x3000 pixels which you could get from an 8MP camera. If you didn't need the highest possible quality, you could get by with 1440x1800 pixels, which you could get from a 3MP camera.

Print
Size (")
File size required for Print
180ppi (good) 240ppi (better) 300ppi (best)
4x6 720x1080 - 0.75MP 960x1440 - 1.4MP 1200x1800 - 2.2MP
5x7 900x1260 - 1.2MP 1200x1680 - 2MP 1500x2100 - 3.15MP
8x10 1440x1800 - 2.6MP 1920x2400 - 4.6MP 2400x3000 - 7.2MP
11x14 1980x2520 - 5MP 2640x3360 - 8.9MP 3300x4200 - 13.8MP


There are programs which can "upsize" images to help you make larger prints from smaller files, but these should be used as a last resort. The better the input (image quality right out of the camera), the better the output (final print) and in general you'll get superior results starting with images from a DSLR than images from a digicam, even though they both may have the same number of pixels. Larger sensors and larger pixels tend to yield higher print quality.

 

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