How to Tell if Your Images Are OK for Print or the Web and What DPI Are Your Images?

And a brief How To Guide to Help Save You Time, Money and Headaches When Printing Your Images

Not too long ago terms like dpi, PPI, RGB and CMYK were in a very small group of people’s vocabulary—printers and graphic designers who had access to expensive programs like Photoshop and Quark were frequently bandying those terms about.  But now that more and more people are self publishing and printing on demand it seems like more and more people are trying to make sense of those terms.

It can get confusing and fast.  We’ve put together a quick guide to help you make sure you know what types of images to use for the two main mediums people work in – print and online.
But before we launch into what works best for what, here’s a quick primer of what those acronyms all mean:

Image Terms:
DPI – Dots per inch. Photos are made up of thousands of tiny points of ink.  The more DPI, the better the photos will look.

Resolution – The common term for an image’s quality.  If an image is high resolution, it is generally at 300DPI.  If it is at low resolution, is it lower than 300DPI and generally at about 72DPI.

CMYK – Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Black. The four colors that ink jet printers use to make up all of the different color combinations to print your images.

RGB – Red, Green, Blue. The three colors that all computer monitors use to process color.

Note: Because printers and computer screens process colors differently (printers using CMYK to make colors and computers using RGB to make colors), how you see something on a computer screen will not always look identical when it comes out in print.  It’s very important to make sure that you’re working with a designer or printer who has a good understanding of color theory and color matching to make sure your images looks as much alike as they do on the screen as they do on a piece of paper (or banner, or promotional item whatever else you choose to print it on).
Print Images:

DPI:  Should be at least 300DPI.
Color Module: All images should be in CMYK

Web Images:
DPI: Should be at least 72DPI, no larger than 105DPI.  Anything larger will slow down how long it takes to view on computer screens.
Color Module: All images should be in RGB.

How To Tell What DPI Your Images Are At:
Since most people work on PC, we will use an example of how to tell what resolution your images are on a Windows system.

1. Right click on the image in question.  The dialogue box below will appear.

2. Click on the SUMMARY tab. The dialogue box below will appear.

3.  See where is says Vertical and Horizontal Resolution: 96 dpi? This means that this particular image is 96 dpi (dots per inch) making it perfect for use on the web.

You might sometimes need to change the resolution of your photos but keep in mind, while you can always reduce the DPI of an image, you cannot increase it. No matter what anyone says, if you are working with a low resolution image you cannot increase what has been taken away from the photo.

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