You may have wondered why your picture looks a little bit low quality when you compared the digital and hard copy after you have printed it. The answer to this is simple and often overlooked: the printer resolution.
The print resolution is responsible for the details in the image printed such as how legible the text is or how clear the image is after printing. The concept about it is pretty simple — the higher the resolution, the higher the printed details.
However, how is printer resolution measured? The printer resolution and the resolution itself are different. You measure resolution by the display’s number of pixels but, when it comes to printing resolution, it is measured by dots per inch (DPI).
Dots Per Inch (DPI)
It is the number of dots or the density of the dots per inch printed. This means that the higher number of dots per inch, the higher the print resolution hence, the more detailed and sharper quality.
However, higher DPI does not always guarantee a high-resolution image. The reason is that you still need to consider PPI or Pixels per inch of the digital image. The same concept for DPI applies with PPI wherein, the higher the PPI, the better the image quality.
Make sure also to have bigger source images since it is better to scale down rather than to scale up which will surely lose the image quality. Nowadays, most people just usually look at the PPI without considering DPI which opposes the common printers which are inkjet and laser printers.
How to Choose Resolution
As we have said previously, even the highest DPI does not guarantee high-quality printing if the image has a low-quality resolution. However, the golden rule is 300 DPI and 300 PPI and this is only just the MINIMUM for an offset printer since its maximum is only 354 DPI. Increasing the dpi beyond the maximum will not increase its quality but only increase the file size.
This is only for offset printers since for some photo printers, the DPI can reach up to 5760 x 1440 DPI such as printers in these best photo printers list. While for color laser printers, it is best to choose a printer machine that has at least 600 x 600 DPI. Lastly, if you are going for monochrome printers, the DPI should be at a minimum of 300 DPI similar to offset printers.
Viewing Distance is Important
This is also one important factor in choosing a resolution. Viewing distance determines the required resolution of your image such that, if your sight is far from the image itself, the pixels would look much smaller compared to when you are looking at it nearly.
If you are creating something that can be held by a hand, like brochures, flyers, documents, then the minimum is 300 DPI for each detail to be printed. Going lower beyond that will surely compromise the outcome.
However, if the viewer will be looking at it from a distance, then you can go as low as 150 DPI since viewers will not be able to look for every detail closely. This is applicable for images viewed from 6 feet away such as posters or billboards.
The greater the distance of the image to the viewer, the lesser DPI it requires. However, also keep in mind that a higher DPI is better than having it too low which surely has a backlash to the quality.
How is Printer Resolution is Measured?
The most common printers used these days are laser and inkjet printers and their technique are different from each other when it comes to printing.
For inkjet printers, the ink populates the page with tiny droplets which are sprayed by the nozzles inside the machine. While on the other hand, laser printers use a drum unit which makes the paper continuously run while ink dots are heated and melted on the paper.
Both of these ink dots and droplets are packed per inch and it determines how deep and clears the colors, how refined and detailed the image is and how different objects will look like beside each other. There are only two possible outcomes for this, it may look professional and beautiful or it may be indistinct from each other because of the printing’s fuzziness.
So, for example, say a 1200 DPI printer will surely print every inch of the paper with 1200 DPI. However, the downside for this is that it will surely use up more toner and ink so you may consider ways on making your cartridges last longer without compromising the printing quality.
Common Mistake: Resolution means size
This is one common mistake that people thought of: that resolution equates to size. This happens maybe because some resolutions have the structure of, for example, 1280×720 pixels, which may imitate width and length for size. However, resolution measure the density of pixels or ink and not the size of the image.
This could mean that a business card and an A4-sized image can have the same DPI despite them having different sizes. Just keep in mind that DPI means dots PER INCH, so it has zero relationships with the size or even at the size of the dots. The concept here is that the bigger the size, the higher amount of ink will be used but the number of dots per inch will be the same.
Printer resolution may seem confusing at first but it’s pretty simple now that you have reached this part. To sum it up, different resolutions may be needed depending on the type that you want to print, the distance as well as its size.
Always keep in mind that it is better to go higher than lower of your desired resolution.
Furthermore, check the type of paper that you will be using since it can affect the printing result especially if you are using inkjets that require special paper made specifically for this printer. On the other hand, any plain paper can be used in laser printers.