Print Resolution

A common issue when printing customer designs can be pixelation. Pixelation occurs when images look blocky due to artwork being too small for the physical size at which it is being printed. This guide should help you to understand the concept of resolution and what requirements we need from you to produce great artwork.

Basic Explanation of Resolution.

One of the common problems that we encounter is people that state “it looks fine on screen, why won’t it be ok to print?”. The technical answer to this is that a screen will only display a design at 72 dot pers inch (dpi) dpi refers to the number of these dots (or pixels) per inch. The more pixels there are, the higher the resolution of a graphic is and the sharper it will appear. Problems occur when an image is stretched to fill a space – so for example if a 72dpi image has a size of 300mm x 600mm if we resized the graphic to 600mm by 1200mm the dpi will drop to 36dpi and become distorted. These images are made from dots, and software is unable to replace the dots when you resize the image. It is technically impossible to increase the resolution of an image – to improve it you will need to go back to the software that you have used to create the design. It is possible to avoid this by vector graphics, these are graphics made from equations and will never distort at any size.

How to Check the Resolution of a Design.

The easiest way to check the resolution of a document is to view the image on a screen at three to four times the final size that it will be printed. When viewing a pdf if you zoom into 300-400% this should give a good idea of the level of detail visible when printed. The reason for this is that screens display the image at 72dpi and we print at 100dpi for large format products and 300dpi for posters. By zooming in you will be able to if there is any pixelation on the design which will show up when it is printed.

How to Create High Resolution Designs (or Fix Low Res Designs)

Normally a document will fit into one of three categories. By using the 400% rule of thumb you should be able to identify which category your document fits into.

3.1) Certain Parts of the Document Are Low Resolution

Replace: The best solution is to replace low res logos or pictures with one that is a higher resolution or vectored. If you need better resolution logo files then you should ask your web designer, check any old proofs from printers or electronic versions of corporate documents that have been professionally produced. You can also use high quality photos purchased from stock photography websites such as iStockphoto or Shutterstock.

Re-size: By making a picture or logo smaller you can reduce pixelation. Use the 4 x rule of thumb to check.

Rebuild: This is by far the most complex & expensive option, pictures unfortunately cannot be resized without pixelation occurring. With logos it is often possible to rebuild, however it can be expensive due to the design time required to redesign your logo to the resolution required. If this is your only option we will be happy to provide a quote for the cost of a logo redesign.

3.2) Part of the Design Is Vectored and the Rest Is Low Resolution.

This problem occurs when settings in the software that you have used to create the design are incorrect and are reducing the quality of the document content. Common examples of this are having the export settings in an indesign document incorrectly configured or saving directly to a pdf from a word document.

Solution: Generally this problem is resolved by changing the options given when saving to a pdf or jpg image. Resolution options should always be set to a minimum of 100dpi and if you can access compression options these should be set to maximum. If you are unsure of where you can find these settings please refer to the pages further down this document where screen shots of commonly used software settings can be found. If when checking the images in your chosen design software using the 4 zoom rule of thumb the images appear to be low resolution refer to the previous section in this document “certain parts of the document are low resolution”

3.3) The Whole Design Is Low Resolution.
This problem can be caused by a variety of reasons which will normally depend on the software that you have used to create the file. Ensure that you follow instructions for your software on setting up the software to create high resolution documents. Due to the wide variety of systems in use we cannot provide direct links to these guides.

Frequent Issues.

Can you improve the resolution of my design?
No, once you have saved a design we are unable to alter the resolution of a file. You would need to re-design your artwork at a higher resolution to ensure that the resolution is adequate for printing.

I can’t improve the resolution of my design what can I do?
There are two main options. You could either pay to have a new design professionally made or or could print the design “as is”. We would not recommend printing a document below 100dpi as it is likely to come out highly pixelated.

Can I provide a design at a higher resolution?
Yes – it is possible for you to provide designs at a higher resolution which can then be scaled up to fit the physical size of a banner. For example you could supply a design which is 300mm x 600mm at 200dpi which then could be upscaled to a 600mm x 1200mm physical size at 100dpi.