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DPI vs PPI – What’s the Difference? Online & Print Resolution Explained

DPI vs PPI – What's the Difference? Online & Print Resolution Explained

DPI stands for dots per inch, while PPI stands for pixels per inch. To know the best resolution on your screen, you'll need to know which one you have.

A pixel is nothing but just a DOT.

The term ‘Pixel” has come from the words “picture” and “element”, which is the smallest unit that measures the digital image.

The number of pixels makes a high-resolution picture, and the low number of pixels makes little quality pictures.

The number of pixels in a grid determines the resolution on your screen. Pixels usually are situated in a 2-dimensional grid.

A pixel is a photographic theory that has a history, Frederic. C. Billingsley, an American engineer in 1965, came up with the ideology of pixels by being the first to publish a picture element in two papers.

Though DPI vs PPI is both terms for describing the resolution of images – no, they are not the same thing.

DPI is dots per inch, representing the physical dot of ink to be printed on paper for that image, whereas PPI is pixels per inch, which describes the number of square pixels on a digital screen.

Understanding details about how a picture is utilised, how they are availed, and how they are engraved can make a vast, impressive difference in the proportion of documents, web pages, emails, etc.

PPI (Pixels Per Inch)

Ppi Vs Dpi

Let us understand what PPI stands for.

PPI stands for pixels per inch. It's a measurement that describes how many pixels are displayed on a computer screen, TV, or other digital devices.

It's measured by dividing the number of pixels in a square inch of the display area by the number of pixels per inch the device can display. For example, a 4K TV can have approximately 8 million pixels.

This will strongly affect the quality of your image's output and print size.

So when there are two fewer pixels per inch, the pixels will be huge, and you will get a very pixelated image; this is how it will affect the output quality.

It seems rudimentary, but for many, the actual confusion about DPI vs PPI starts here.

A few different kinds of numbers are put around for an acceptable PPI for a printout of your image. A lot depends on the fact that the size of the print is small or big.

You get away with a lower PPI, making the image look okay because you look at a giant print from a far distance than a small print.

By this, you understand that PPI affects the print size of your image.

You can change the image's print size by resampling or not. Resampling will change the print size, which is usually not supposed to be done, nor is it advised.

So just in case you don’t resample, changing the PPI settings will increase or decrease the print size; it will increase if you drop the PPI and decrease if you improve the PPI.

Pixels do not exist on paper, but to simplify the explanation of PPI and print size, I want you to imagine that each image pixel from the digital file is represented by a small square on the photo paper.

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Resampling is not suggested; when you resample and change the PPI, you will lose the pixels (when you set it to low PPI), or you will have pixels created (if you boost the PPI).

Creating pixels is an awful idea; computer-created pixels are not those, and the output is not satisfying, so it is not suggested.

Throwing away pixels is fine if you don’t need a more prominent image size. That is why saving an original file is a good idea.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

Dots Per Inch

So now, let's understand what DPI is, what it stands for, and what its role is.

Dots per Inch is the number of dots per inch that can be reproduced on a printing device. The higher the dots per inch, the better the print quality.

DPI is referred to as printers too. Nowadays, printers use more colours for every pixel output as it is made up of different coloured inks, but earlier, they used only 4-5 colours.

You are making up the colours for the image. The printer needs to be able to mix the inks, so a little number of colours is recommended.

Sub-pixels – every pixel of your picture is made up of a series of small tiny dots. Generally, the more you raise the DPI, the better the tone colour of the image; the colours should look nice and combine two colours, and there should be smoothness.

When you use too much ink, the print job will be passive.

You should be changing your printer setting to the low DPI to save the ink and make the print job active; you will recognise a difference in the quality.

But it should be best to change it to the lowest setting, where it doesn’t affect the quality and doesn’t drop down the colours.

Printers create a print by spraying little droplets of ink on the paper. It takes many dots to form one pixel for the image.

The ink droplets' layout is taken care of by the internal software of your printer.

Tiling pixels directly on top of one another is a big no for recreating your image; printers don’t do that.

Instead, it is better to recreate your image by sputtering out minute dots consisting of a blend of different colours, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black), which in-cooperate to generate hues by the decreasing colour model.

DPI measures the density of the space between the dots.


Resolution Pixel Examples

The unit resolution expresses measurements of width x height, which is the measure of the pixel for any image, whether on a digital platform or in print form.

More decision means an incredibly detailed picture. Higher DPI means high resolution, and no resolution does not indicate size.

They are different terms altogether. There is always a tiff about the resolution, images are to be bigger, but that is not the case. 300 dpi is the standard resolution.

This all matters to the client because, as a thumb rule, the higher the resolution, the better the tonality and the smoother its colour blending will be.

150dpi is almost the minimal standard for excellent quality photographic recreation in books and magazines.

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The newspaper usually uses 85dpi, and the effect is apparent; individual dots are visible, and some details are lost. You can never guess that billboards go as low as 45dpi because you view them from far.

The difference between DPI vs PPI

Pixels Vs Dots

The primary difference between DPI vs PPI is that DPI is physical ink dots to be printed on paper. In contrast, PPI means the number of square pixels in one inch of an image displayed on a computer monitor.

DPI represents the characteristics of the physical printer, and PPI represents the characteristics of a digital image.

The difference between DPI and PPI for screens and print is that while a print image will usually appear sharp at 100% DPI, a screen image will not necessarily look as sharp. This is due to how images on a screen are processed and how the pixels are arranged on the display panel.

For printed pages, it is common to use DPI values around 300-600. For screens, the DPI value is usually set to 150-300. At lower DPI values, screens tend to be less detailed, but at higher values, the screen is more detailed.

The pixel arrangement (or pattern) on a computer screen can vary depending on the manufacturer, operating system, browser, and display device. In general, however, we recommend using DPI settings around 200-400, as these will produce sharper and more detailed images on most devices.

This is not to say that you should use higher resolutions. You should always choose a resolution that suits the needs of the design. A 300 DPI screen with a 1200 DPI image would likely look blurry.

In summary, if you have been advised to use a lower resolution for your screen, you should find an alternative that will provide a similar level of detail.

However, a higher DPI does not mean your printer will print crisper lines. It is simply a guideline for the number of pixels in a single print inch.

So, to answer the original question, at a resolution of 600 DPI, a typical inkjet printer can create an image of approximately 15 lines per inch. If you were to create the same image at a resolution of 1200 DPI, your print would look far sharper.

A high-quality printer (such as those produced by HP, Epson or Xerox) can produce higher-quality prints at a lower resolution. The minimum resolution you should be aiming for is 1200 DPI.

If you are looking for a higher-quality print, your options are more comprehensive. While there are several printer options, laser printers have become popular again as they are more affordable than other types. A laser printer can produce crisp, clear lines at 2400-4800 DPI resolutions.

You can also use higher quality paper. However, it may cost you more to print on photo paper.

Another option is using a custom inkjet printer that produces the highest quality print.


So why is the definition of resolution so challenging to understand? It's probably because it's a technical concept that people don't get in the real world.

If we break it down, a resolution is the smallest amount of detail or space that something can have.

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In our minds, we think of resolution as being very high or very low. But in reality, a screen or a picture has more than one resolution.

A computer monitor will show you what it thinks is the most crucial detail. But it's only a single pixel.

A newspaper, magazine, and TV screen have a higher resolution and will show you what they think is important at a higher level.

On top of that, printers don't print the whole thing; they just draw on the page, and each colour is made up of millions of tiny dots printed together, called pixels.

To learn more about the pros and cons of each, read this article on DPI vs PPI.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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