The Beginner’s Guide To Understanding DPI

When it comes to the world of digital images and print, it can often be a confusing place with acronyms being thrown around everywhere. One of these is called DPI which is to do with the resolution of a printer and so we thought we’d take a closer look.

The full name for DPI is ‘Dots per Inch’ and it’s a common term in the world of design. It’s related to resolution, which is related to how clear an image looks. You may hear people describe an image as low resolution or high resolution, with the higher resolutions looking better.

What DPI Exactly?

While we may have just explained that DPI is ‘Dots per Inch’, this may still leave you scratching your head. What are the dots? An inch of what? DPI is a term specifically for printing, as monitors have instead ‘pixels per inch’ or PPI.

Each one square each on a photo or print can hold a certain amount of information, with each dot being able to produce either a different colour or shade to produce a whole picture when viewed from far away. This is often why if you zoom in too close, you end up seeing large ‘blocks’ of colour!

The more dots per inch an image has, then the better quality and the clearer the picture ends up! This means that an image with a dots per inch of 600 will look better than that of 300 and so forth.

Beware The Limitations

Technically, you could make an image with a ridiculous number of dots per inch, but it would be unlikely that you’d be able to view it as it should be. That is because monitors come with a maximum number of dots that they can display, so above a certain point the quality will not change as it is simply not possible.

There is also the issue of file sizes, as images that are created with a higher DPI will obviously have a larger file size than those with lower DPI. This is because high dot per inch images use far more space to portray a high-quality image, which is reflected in the image size in turn.

Printers also have a limit of how many DPI they can print, with laser printers having a higher limit than inkjet. This means that even if you create an image with 1200 DPI, it will only print at 600 DPI on a 600 DPI laser printer.

It also means that if you try and print a picture with a low DPI, it may look great on your computer screen but terrible when printed out. This is because your printer is capable of far more than a monitor, and so has lots of missing spaces of information that causes images to look poorer. If you do plan on printing out images, then make sure to print on photo paper to help improve the quality of your prints!

Sarah Jubb