PPI vs DPI: Understanding the concept of resolution and image size

PPI vs DPI: Understanding the concept behind resolution and image size


What Is the Difference Between PPI and DPI?

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Are you a designer? Or perhaps you are a photographer who wants to understand the concepts of PPI and DPI as they relate to resolution and image size. Unfortunately, many people still confuse these two terms. Sometimes, even experienced designers use these terms interchangeably. This is a mistake; let us show you why.

Below, you will find all the information you need about PPI and DPI values. While the PPI vs DPI debate rages on, you will know the key differences between the two and will be able to use your newly acquired knowledge to your advantage. For instance, you could easily resize or resample any type of design elements, such as the ones you can find in Pixelo’s The Tropical Fonts And Design Bundle.

PPI Vs DPI: What Is PPI?

PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch and is usually reserved for digital image formats. PPI tells you how many pixels are in one inch of the image. As you can imagine, images with a higher PPI value contain many more pixels than images with lower PPI values. In other words, the pixel density is greater. This, in turn, means that the image will have a smoother shape and the colors will blend much better. Here is an example to see exactly what we mean:


When it comes to PPI vs DPI, it wouldn’t make sense to mention DPI when talking about a digital image, unless you want to print it. But we’ll get to that in just a bit.


PPI Vs DPI: What Is DPI?

The second subject of the PPI vs DPI debate is, as you’ve probably already guessed, DPI. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch. It refers to the resolution of the printer, so we are talking about printed materials – not digital. In other words, this value represents the number of dots a printer places on an inch of paper.

A dot is not a pixel. Each pixel in a digital image will be made up of several dots (you can think of these as sub-pixels) in the printed image. This is because the printer is forced to use its limited set of standard colors (4 to 10 in most cases) to create the color of the digital pixel in the printout. Here is an image that shows you how a printer reproduces colors:



The Differences Between PPI and DPI

The first difference between PPI and DPI is the fact that PPI only refers to digital formats and DPI only refers to printed materials. You often see things like “PPI vs DPI: Which Is Better?” on the Internet. The truth is that there is no competition between the two. The former refers to the resolution of a digital image, while the latter refers to the resolution of a printout. 

For instance, all the design elements you get from Pixelo are in digital format. This is why you will only see the PPI value listed in the bundle description. When you buy a printer, you will most probably be looking for a higher resolution (because of the higher quality printouts, of course). The resolution will be in DPI.

The second main difference is something most people don’t realize. When you talk about PPI vs DPI, you probably consider the two equal. As we explained above, a pixel in a digital image does not equal a dot in a printed image. Dots are smaller than pixels. This is another reason why using the DPI and PPI terms interchangeably is a major mistake.


PPI Vs DPI: Print Standards

Most graphics packages allow you to change the DPI of a digital image. Again, keep in mind that this refers to the quality of the printout. Changing the DPI will also change the image’s size because the pixels will be more tightly packed. Here is an example that uses 40 colored squares to illustrate the change in quality and size:


But what DPI value should you use? As many people and companies in the design industry point out, 300 DPI is the sweet spot. You should aim for a printed resolution of around 300 dpi. However, this doesn’t mean that everything needs to be printed at this high resolution. The farther away you are from the image, the lower the DPI can be.

For anything you hold in your hands, like photos and magazines, you need 250-300 dpi. Large posters and framed pictures can be printed at 200 dpi. Banners and billboard posters that you look at from across the street can be printed at just 20 dpi. If you get close enough to these large prints, you can easily see the individual dots that make up the picture.


PPI vs DPI: The Conclusion

There is nothing complicated about PPI and DPI. As you can see, the PPI vs DPI debate is pretty much pointless. Even though the two values are similar, each one applies to a different thing. For example, all the fonts in The Tropical Fonts And Design Bundle are measured in PPI. The design elements’ resolution, on the other hand, can be measured in PPI for the digital elements or in DPI if you wish to print them.


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