The Importance of Image Resolution Explained

Many times, we’ve been provided images from clients that are low resolution. So what does this mean? And why does it matter?

To put it in layman’s terms, image resolution is the quality of an image. Higher resolution = higher quality, lower resolution = lower quality. Pretty simple idea.

So how can you tell if an image has low resolution?

Essentially, if you open the image at its fullest size, you’ll more than likely be able to tell. If the image at its full size is very small, and even blurry — then it’s definitely low resolution. If the image opens in its full size and it appears large on your screen, as well as sharp and clear — then more than likely it’s high resolution.

Additionally, if you have Photoshop, you can open the image and go to Image > Image size in the top menu toolbar. The dialog box will tell you the image size and resolution as well.

Knowing what kind of project you need the image for plays a HUGE part in image resolution. The amount of resolution needed when an image is printed on paper versus viewed on a screen is vastly different.

Image resolution for printing

When it comes to using images for print purposes, for the best quality possible you’ll want your image to be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at minimum. This allows for your image to be as clear as possible when printed, and avoid any blurriness.

Using any modern digital camera today will create a high resolution image that’s sufficient for printing.

Keep in mind, motion blur and being out-of-focus can cause your image to appear low-res, however that’s simply a mistake on the photographer’s end. Always focus on your object and don’t move while taking photographs to avoid this.

Image resolution for web/online

Contrary to images for print, image resolution for use online allows for a much lower quality while still looking great. A standard resolution used for online is 72 ppi (pixels per inch). At this quality, images online still appear high quality, but at a much smaller size.

Images for use on your screen are at a smaller resolution to allow them to load faster on the internet. This keeps your website performance up by having the accurate resolution.

3 Rules when it comes to image resolution

1. You can always decrease, but NEVER increase

When it comes to resizing images, you can always crop and make them smaller — however, once it’s cropped you cannot resize it back to it’s original size. It’s an irreversible action. In order to get the original back, you’ll have to re-open the original file, that is if you didn’t already overwrite it. Note to self: always Save As… your file as a copy, and don’t overwrite your original image.

2. Bigger is always better

Even if you’re using images for online, having a larger resolution image is best because you can always scale it down to 72 dpi (screen resolution). However, if you’re at a lower resolution than you need, you can’t scale up the resolution — this will only cause it to be pixelated and/or blurry.

3. CMYK for print and RGB for web

If you missed our blog post about it, we discussed the differences of CMYK and RGB. Remember when saving your images for the proper resolution and sizing to save them in the appropriate color profile.

We hope this article helped you gain confidence in knowing what image resolution is, why it’s important, and how to apply it to your work moving forward.