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PPI and photo-quality printing

It’s important to use the correct pixels-per-inch setting when preparing image files to print, or your results will look disappointing.

Check the pixels-per-inch setting

All images are saved and stored with a default pixels-per-inch setting (ppi), such as 72 ppi or 300 ppi. However, when making inkjet prints, it’s essential to prepare your images at 200 ppi, so you can get the maximum size photo-quality print from your file. In Photoshop Elements, the ppi setting is displayed at the bottom left of the image window, as shown above. The ideal value is 200 ppi.

How big is a pixel?

Unlike real-world artifacts, pixels actually don’t have a fixed size. Instead, you determine their size by setting the ppi in your image-editing application. The original data created by your camera only determines the pixel color, not its size. Pixels are scalable in size and you can make your pixels 1 yard square or make 200 fit into a linear inch!

Printing at 72 ppi (too low)

If you’ve tried to print an image you’ve downloaded from a web page, you know it will look like the example at left. Images prepared for viewing through a web browser are created at 72 ppi, but at this setting the pixels are clearly visible as blocky square shapes and too big when printed out.

Printing at 200 ppi (just right)

To make your image file into a photo-quality print it’s essential to make the pixels small enough to become invisible to the human eye. When prepared at 200 pixels per inch, images will print with perfect detail and with no sign of square pixels. You’ll also achieve the biggest print size possible from your file.

Printing at 300 ppi (too high)

If your image is set at 300 ppi, you’ll still make a pin sharp photo-quality print, but because you have made the pixels too small, the overall size of your image will be smaller too. The print shown left was made from the same image file as the 200 ppi example but reproduces smaller on the paper because it’s been printed at 300 ppi.

Changing to 200 ppi

If you need to alter the ppi setting, select Image > Resize > Image Size, as shown right. Make sure the Resample Image option is unchecked, then enter 200 in the Resolution box and click OK.

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