How to tell if you have high- or lo-resolution art or photos and will it print well

Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Blog, Design tips

One of the biggest requests I get from my clients is to see if their art is the right size for print or multi-media. Without getting too technical, “lo-res” is considered 72 dpi and is best for web, and “high-res” is 300 dpi for print. A lot of the photos from small non-profits are event shots. They are usually taken from a phone by an attendee who may or may not have knowledge of how it will eventually be used. A lo-res (72dpi) shot may not be a problem for your website or powerpoint presentation, but it may be a problem for your printed newsletter or annual report. So, how can you tell if the shot will print well and at a reasonable size? I did some research for you and spoke with a few industry gurus in pre-press and photo-retouching to find out. I discovered you can indeed see the resolution as well as pixel size on your PC. Here’s how:

3-Clicks to Find Image Resolution (I tested this in Windows 7 and 8)

1. Right click the image file

2. Select “Properties” from the menu

3. Select the “Details” tab and scroll down

The samples below show both 300 dpi (circled in blue) and 72 dpi (circled in red) images, but that’s not the end of the story. Now you know which is hi-res, but can the lo-res be printed? You need to take into account the overall size because I can alter the resolution in Photoshop to hi-res (300 dpi) and the files overall dimensions will shrink. Stay with me for a minute, the black circled areas show width and height, but pixels are too abstract, what are the inches? And why the heck do the two files have the same pixel size? Well, short of doing some math, yuck, and getting complicated, I’ll generalize. We usually do not print the photos larger than 3×5 in your basic 8.5″ x 11″ newsletter, so knowing that, lets give you an average pixels size to look for. 1800 pixels is 25″ at 72 dpi and when “resed-up” to 300 dpi become only 6″. The Takeaway: you can indeed find the resolution on your PC and if you check the pixel size and see 900 x 1500, you know that is good to print at 3″ x 5″. Please call me if you have any questions, and to my tech friends, let me know if there is anything I should expand on here that would be beneficial and I’ll make another post.

Sample shows pixels and resolution