What’s the Best Photoshop Resolution for Printing?

Most images in the modern world are viewed on a screen, but there’s still something powerful about being able to hold a printed image in your hands. Since it’s still a bit too expensive to hang giant screens on all your walls, printing your photos from Photoshop is a great solution. 

If you’ve ever tried to print an image that looked good on screen, but the printed result was just a blurry mess of pixels, you’ve already discovered how much difference there can be between screen resolution and print resolution. 

Depending on what you want to print and how it will be used, there are a few different “best Photoshop resolutions” for printing, so let’s take a closer look at the most popular options and how you can use Photoshop to adjust your image resolution for printing. 

Key Takeaways

  • The typical image resolution used for photo-quality printing is 300 PPI (pixels per inch).
  • Prints that will be viewed from a long distance can use lower resolutions.
  • Some technical line drawings may benefit from extremely high resolutions, up to 450 PPI.

The Best Photoshop Resolution for High-Quality Printing

If you want to cut through all the explanations and get straight to the point so you can get back to work, the best Photoshop resolution for creating high-quality prints is 300 pixels per inch

At least, that’s the standard answer that is used by most photographers and designers – but there are other situations where you might want to increase or decrease your resolution, which we’ll discuss in the next section. 

While many people treat 300 PPI resolution as a photographic rule, like most rules in photography, it isn’t really a rule but just a very useful guideline for printing anything that will be viewed at a distance of several feet or less. 

The most important factor for creating a crisp, high-quality print is perceived dot/pixel density, which varies depending on how far away you are from the print you’re viewing.

As long as you don’t need a loupe to see the individual dots that make up your print, you can be pretty confident that you’ve found the best resolution for printing. 

Specialized Print Resolutions

As mentioned in the previous section, the quality of a print depends more on the perceived dot density of the printed image than its actual density. 

Many billboards, signs, and other items that are going to be viewed from a long distance are printed at much lower resolutions than standard photographs. Because they are viewed from so far away, the perceived dot/pixel density of the image becomes increased to the point that it still looks like photo-quality printing. 

This is pretty convenient because it would take a very futuristic camera to capture a photo that could be printed at 300 PPI over the scale of a billboard measuring 40 feet by 10 feet. A quick calculation will tell you that would require an image with a resolution of 144,000 x 36,000 – and even the best digital cameras in the world don’t capture 5-gigapixel images! 

As a result, most billboards and a lot of similar signage get printed at extremely low resolutions ranging from 10 to 30 ppi. 

While some printing scenarios can take advantage of lower resolutions, technical drawings and drafting images that use a lot of finely-detailed linework to convey information at a very close viewing distance may benefit from much higher resolutions, sometimes as high as 450 pixels per inch. 

How to Adjust Your Photoshop Resolution for Printing

Once you have decided which resolution you want to use for your print, it’s easy to adjust your image using Photoshop. 

With your document loaded in Photoshop, open the Image menu and click Image Size. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + I (use the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + I if you’re using Photoshop on a PC).

Photoshop will open the Image Size dialog window, showing you a bunch of different information about your image, including the pixel dimensions, current resolution, and print size. 

The next step is essential: Uncheck the box labeled Resample. Since you only want to change the pixel density of the image, you don’t want to change its pixel dimensions at the same time by accident! 

After the Resample box is unchecked, the dialog window will update to show the fact that the Width, Height, and Resolution fields are currently linked. 

Change the Resolution field to match your desired resolution – in this case, 300 pixels per inch. As you enter the new Resolution value, the Width, and Height values will also update themselves to show the new print size of your document. 

Should I Use 300 or 72 Resolution in Photoshop?

If your image will be used on-screen only, then you can use 72 pixels/inch resolution in Photoshop. If your image is going to be printed, you should select 300 pixels/inch resolution. 

If you’re not sure how your image will be used, then you may want to select 300 pixels/inch because you can always decrease your image resolution later without losing quality. Still, increasing resolution will almost always result in a loss of image quality – or a tiny print size!  

There are some machine learning tools that can upscale images while minimizing this inevitable loss in quality, but even the best upscaling tools still can’t create authentic new pixel data – it’s always guessing about what should be there. 

A Final Word

That covers everything you need to know about selecting the best Photoshop resolution for printing, no matter whether you’re preparing a billboard, a coffee table art book, or anything in between.

Many people get mixed up when working with image resolutions, so the most important thing you can do is check with your printing staff to find out what resolution will work best for your specific situation. 

Good luck with your print project!

About Thomas Boldt
Thomas started his Photoshop career way back in 2000. After exploring Photoshop 5.5 in a high school computer lab, he developed an enduring passion for photography, design, and technology that carried him through a Bachelor of Design degree and into the wild world of tech startups.

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