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Stay sharp! How to avoid printing fuzzy pictures.

Stay sharp! How to avoid printing fuzzy pictures.

Sep 15, 2014

Laura Kajpust
Graphic Designer

Everyone wants their photos or illustrations to print as high quality as possible—clear, bright, and sharp! Your photos look great on the screen, so surely they’ll print great, right?

Not necessarily. They may still print a little fuzzy, or sometimes the designer may flat-out reject your submitted files for being too low quality for print.

But why?

Chances are, your pictures are sized for screens, not print.

  • It must be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch). In order for your images to print as high-quality, their resolution should be at least 300 dpi. You can check this in any photo editing software. Many people send photos at 72 dpi—but that resolution is meant for the web, not printers!
  • Check the size isn’t too small. The resolution and actual image/pixel size are not the same thing; don’t check one and assume the other is fine! Even if you have your image at 300 dpi, if the size of the image itself is too, it won’t matter! If the pixel size is equivalent to only an inch tall/wide or smaller, then you’ll be in trouble if you try to print the image larger than that. However, if your pixel size equates to a very large inch size, you may be able to get decently printed images out of a low resolution file. The lower your resolution, the larger a pixel size you’ll need to compensate!

Remember…You can always make images smaller, but you CAN’T make them bigger! You can’t take a small image and increase its size without losing quality. Your computer knows how to take a large image and simplify it into a quality smaller size, but it can’t go from a small size to a quality large image. A small image is missing that extra information to enlarge clearly since it has less pixels, so the computer has to try and guess how the added pixels should look based on what it has…which is why images get fuzzy and blurry when enlarged!

  • “So why do they look fine on my computer?” Computers, phones, tablets…they all a smaller dpi resolution. So whether your image is 300 dpi, 96, or even only 72, your screen is going to view them as the same quality because it relies on the pixel size, not the dpi. To give you an idea, many phones are only 640 pixels wide!
  • “But the only copy I have is small and low-resolution! What now?” I’m afraid your only options are to replace the photo with a better, higher quality one…or accept that it just isn’t going to print very well. If your image is small and you keep its size small in the file, it might be passable, even if not great. (So if you have a one-inch file, avoid printing it much larger than an inch.)

To have the best images possible from the get-go, keep this information in mind when first obtaining or creating your images to begin with! Don’t save over your original files when sizing down either; you may need that larger version later.

As long as the size is right, you can send them in a variety of extensions (JPG, PNG, PDF, or TIFF). Better quality images make better books…happy printing!


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