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Image Resolution for Printing

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image resolution

Resolution is the measurement of how many dots/pixels fit into one inch.

The higher resolution, the sharper the image will be. West Press recommends resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) for crisp, clear results. Lower resolution images appear fuzzy, jagged and blurry.

Resolution rules:
  1. Images should be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at the final size in the layout.
  2. Images which include text should be 400 dpi at the final size in the layout.
  3. Resolution and image size are inversely proportional to each other. Enlarge an image, the resolution decreases; reduce an image, the resolution increases. Example: a 2 x 2″ image at 300 dpi (acceptable) enlarged to 4 x 4″ has a new resolution of 150 dpi (unacceptable).
  4. Low resolution images print fuzzy, jagged and blurry.
  5. The settings used during the original “capture” of an image (ie: scanning, digital camera, etc) determine its base resolution. Resolution can only be improved by decreasing the image size, or by recapturing the image at a higher quality setting.
  6. Recommended minimum resolution for printing is 300 dpi; computer monitors generally have a display setting of 72 dpi. If we indicate that some of your images have low resolution, they may not look bad on your monitor but will likely print blurry or jagged.


Things to avoid:
  1. Web images are predominately low resolution (72-96 dpi) GIF or JPEG files. This resolution is good for quick transmission over the internet, but is not acceptable for use in printing. Do not save images or graphics from a website to use in your print project!
  2. Upsampling is when a low resolution image is saved to a higher resolution with no changes in dimensions. Upsampling adds more pixels/dots per inch (dpi), but creates blurry images, ugly blocks of color, and high contrast in images. The only way resolution can be improved is by decreasing the image size, or by recapturing the image at a higher quality setting.

Stock Photography

  • Know what size the image will be in your design layout and purchase appropriately. If in doubt, overestimate the size you will need.
  • Read all the “fine print” prior to purchase as it will determine price, color, file size, copyrights, resolution and quality. Images should have a resolution of 300 dpi (400 dpi if the image includes text) at their final layout size.
  • Royalty-free: Purchased images can be used as many times as you want and for almost any purpose. Royalty-free images cost less than rights-protected images, however you have no control over who else uses that image.
  • Rights-protected: Images are purchased for a specific use. Cost varies depending on how image will be used (circulation size, production medium, etc.) and cannot be used in any way other without permission. A certain level of exclusivity is usually guaranteed.
  • Get the image in CMYK if possible. To print on a four-color printing press, all RGB images need to be converted to CMYK.

West Press’ talented staff is here to help you each step of the way – from graphic design to printing to mailing services to large format to website development. Contact West Press or your Account Executive at 520-624-4939 today.