Today, we’re learning all about the lingo of image resizing, how to quickly determine image resolution, how to convert from inches to pixels, centimeters to pixels (and vice versa), and how to resize your image using Adobe Photoshop or Shutterstock Create, all while retaining quality.
Let’s start with some common questions and vocabulary pertaining to image resolution.
What Are Pixels?
Pixels are the standard unit of measurement for screens. “Pixel” is a portmanteau of “picture” and “element.” You can think of pixels as tiny building blocks of graphic information.
Everything you see on a screen is comprised of pixels. On older computer monitors, these pixels were more easily visible because they were less dense. However, newer computers and mobile devices have the ability to display more pixels in a smaller physical space, resulting in a crisp, smooth appearance.
What Is Resolution?
Simply put, resolution is the relationship between the dimensions of an image and the number of pixels contained within those dimensions. The more pixels, the higher the resolution. A 3000 x 3000 pixel image could be considered a high resolution image for digital use, appearing large on your screen.
If you were to print it at 10 x 10 inches, the density of the pixels would be sufficient for a high-quality print, but you’d encounter image quality issues at a significantly larger print size (like 20 x 20 inches) because the density of the pixels would be lower.
Speaking of pixel density. . . .
What Is DPI? Is It the Same as PPI?
DPI is a printing term that stands for “dots per inch” and refers to the number of dots of ink in one inch of a printed image. PPI is the digital equivalent, meaning “pixels per inch,” and refers to the number of pixels within one inch on a digital screen.
While these acronyms don’t mean exactly the same thing, they’re often used interchangeably. DPI/PPI are important determining factors for print quality. As a rule of thumb, you want a DPI/PPI of 300 for the best printing results, but know that you have some wiggle room. (The world probably won’t end if you go to press with a 275 DPI image.)
For on-screen use, you can get away with smaller pixel dimensions and still have a good-looking image. This is because printing generally requires a higher DPI for better results.
For example, 72 PPI has been the standard for digital use for years, but the actual pixel dimensions are what’s most important for digital use because display resolution changes across devices.
Websites and digital platforms will list dimension requirements in pixels because monitor and phone displays are measured in pixels. So, if you’re prepping images to use on the web, you want to set the units to pixels.
On the other hand, print requirements will be in inches or centimeters, depending on the system or country of origin. Use this chart for common inches to pixels conversions, and vice versa.
Need common centimeters to pixels? We got you covered there, too.
How Do I Find My DPI/PPI?
You can easily check the DPI/PPI of any image in Adobe Photoshop. Simply open your image and go to Image > Image Size. Toggle the unit of measurement to see the dimensions of your image in inches.
In this example, with 300 Pixels/Inch (PPI), I can print my image as-is at 16 x 9 inches without having to worry about image quality.
Since dimensions and resolution are relative, the best time to check the effective DPI of your image is when you place it in your design at the size you desire. The exact method depends on the program you’re using.
Check out tip #5 in this article for a quick guide on checking your effective PPI in Adobe InDesign.
Can You Change an Image Size to Whatever You Want?
When you resize an image, you change the dimensions and density of pixels that define its quality. The relationship between resolution and dimension is directly connected. If you reduce the number of pixels per square inch (PPI) in an image, you’ll effectively increase the dimensions. The dimensions will determine how big the image appears on screen.
You can always make an image smaller without losing quality, but you can’t make an image much bigger before noticing a drastic reduction in quality.
In a digital image, the number of pixels are represented by the DPI (or PPI) and the width x height dimensions. For instance, a 2000 x 2000 pixels image at 72 DPI has 4,000,000 total pixels. To make the image smaller, say 1000 x 1000 pixels, I can simply reduce it in size and it’ll retain the same level of detail, just in a smaller image.
If I want to make that same image bigger than the original size, pixels would have to be created. That means the computer multiplies the pixel count to fit the new dimensions, creating distortion and other effects by using the information in the image to guess at what should be used for the enlargement.
This is due to artificially creating pixels from other pixels, instead of capturing them from the original information.
What About Vector Images?
All of the information above applies to “raster” images, which are made out of pixels. These rules don’t apply to “vector” images, which are based on mathematical equations and can be scaled indefinitely!
File types for vector graphics include Adobe Illustrator (.ai), .eps, or .svg.
Preserve Details in Adobe Photoshop Using Resampling
Resampling lets you change resolution and dimensions separately, and allows Adobe Photoshop to blend pixels together in your enlarged image in order to keep the image smooth.
You’ll find the Resample option back in your Image Size popup. Check the box to enable Resample, and explore the enlargement options in the top-half of the drop-down menu next to it.
Adobe Photoshop is set to Automatic, but for our purpose, you’ll want to select Preserve Details 2.0.
After you select Preserve Details 2.0, you’ll see the Noise Reduction slider. Once you’ve changed the dimensions to your new desired size, use the preview on the left side of the window to view how moving the Noise Reduction slider changes the image.
Moving it too low may leave the image looking grainy and pixelated, but moving it too high may be too blurry. Adjust the slider until you find a value that reduces noise without smearing away detail.
Once you’ve struck a balance, click OK and Save a copy of your resized image.
If you want a more detailed look at changing image dimensions and resolution, follow this in-depth guide for how to resize an image in Photoshop.
How to Resize an Image in Shutterstock Create
For those who desire more control and don’t have access to Adobe Photoshop, here’s our tried and true Shutterstock Create. Create is a free online image resizer, and you don’t have to download anything in order to use it.
Change the Specs of Your Canvas
Inside the tool, find the left toolbar. Simply click Canvas > Resize canvas to type in your new dimensions.
Know that this asset will take your width and adjust your height to maintain quality. Make sure the Keep proportions box (the chain icon) is clicked. The chain should appear closed. What this does is automatically update the height of your photo when you modify its width (or vice versa). This helps prevent your image from becoming distorted.
Click Apply to set!
When it comes to resolution, Create takes care of this for you. If you click Download from the top-right corner and select your file type, the Quality tab ensures top-notch quality. Simply click High and you’re set!
If you use images within Create, you can expect the outcome to naturally be high-quality. If you upload a lower res image (Images > Upload), this is a good time to use that high-quality option.
In other words, if you have high-quality images to work with, stay consistent with high-quality res. If using lower res images, transmute them with Create’s high-quality download options. Win-win!
While you don’t need to know DPI or resolution specifics to make designs in Create, it’s helpful knowledge to keep in your back pocket. As a rule of thumb, all canvas options you choose will be in pixels. If you start with a blank canvas, you’ll notice the pixels mapped out for you. And if you begin with a template, your specs will also be pre-calculated (you’re welcome!).
You can begin two ways: On the Create webpage or inside the tool. If you’re a first-timer, start with the former. Simply click the right arrow to scroll for pre-made canvas sizes, or type your specs into the Custom size option. Click to open.
If you’re already in the tool, click File > Create new > Blank Canvas. Scroll or search (CTRL or Command + F) “Instagram” (for example), to find your canvas. You’ll see these specs already converted for you.
If you scroll to the Print Sizes category, you’ll notice the inches to pixels conversion. You can also create custom canvas sizes by inputting measurements to the width and height box. Simply type your specs into the Create custom box, then hit Make it!
That will look like this:
If you know exactly what you’re creating, you can scroll to Formats and choose your blank canvas from there. Click to open.
As a general rule of thumb, consider beforehand whether you’ll be using your designs for the web or to print. If you do print, find the Settings (gear) icon and click Show bleed marks before you download. Ultimately, it’s good to have a plan in mind before you get started.
Another quick tip?
- For web-based images, choose 72 DPI.
- On lower resolution print images, choose 150 DPI.
- For high resolution print images, choose 300 DPI.
Remember, uploading an image with the correct dimensions ensures no loss of quality, so it’s important that you choose the right dimensions for the image’s end use.
In Create, you can easily resize images to popular web dimensions, including:
When you’re ready to download your design, consider whether you wish to save it to the desktop or upload straight to social. For the former, simply click Download, then Download again (after selecting your file type). Click Publish to upload to your digital platform of choice.
Your work is always auto-saved in our cloud storage anytime you wish to return.
Smart Resize Is Available!
One of the best things about Create is its Smart Resize option. Smart Resize, available to Pros, lets you customize your canvas size to multiple platforms at once. Say you want to make your Twitter profile design the same as your YouTube banner and Instagram post. Obviously, all of these options have different size requirements.
To customize your design to all of these platforms at once, simply click Smart Resize, select which outputs you need, then click Copy & resize to set.
This asset is crucial for the marketing wizards of the world. Save time and energy with one design in multiple places.
Note that resizing images is different than cropping. Resizing keeps the entire image quality intact, while cropping nixes parts of an image. You know that dreaded photobomber that ruined that wedding photo? Don’t sweat! Cropping lets you delete aspects of an image while salvaging or enhancing other aspects.
Still, cropping can compromise design quality if not done strategically, so we’ll walk you through how to crop well in Create, next.
How to Crop Images in Create
So, how are resizing and cropping different, again? When you crop, you change the aspect ratio of an image. When you resize, you totally change the file size of an image. Here’s how to crop in Create.
Using Create’s Crop Tool
Say you download an image from the Shutterstock library to edit in Create. Once you do, your screen will show you the file type, DPI, resolution, and the like. Of course, once you’re in Create, you can download your design as a PNG or PDF if you prefer.
Once you Download the image from the library, you have the option to Edit in Create. Click that for the image to open directly onto the canvas.
Once you’re inside the tool, follow these instructions for cropping mastery.
After you’ve opened an image in Create:
- Click Canvas > Crop canvas from the left Edits menu. This opens the Crop tool.
- Use the Aspect Ratio drop-down menu to choose a pre-set size (say, if you wanted to crop your image to be correctly sized as an Instagram post).
- If you know the width and height you want, enter it in the dimension boxes.
- Click Apply to save your changes.
Note, if you check the Scale photo box, it will keep your bounding box the same relative size (so that when cropping one side or corner, the rest of the box scales accordingly).
That’s it, Creators! You have everything you need to both crop and resize your images to perfection. Reference this comprehensive rundown on all things DPI and sizing any time you need. Now go size those images of yours correctly.