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With today’s camera’s packing more megapixels What Is A Megapixel? What Is A Megapixel? Megapixels are one of the most common ways of advertising the quality of cameras, especially relatively low-end cameras aimed at the mass market likes the ones in typical smartphones. Read More and bigger sensors, you’ll more often find yourself scaling a photo down than you will scaling one up. But there are times when enlarging a photo can really come in handy. Unfortunately, increasing the size of a picture usually means a significant loss of quality. There are a few ways you can try to tackle this problem, and we’ll go over two of the best here.

Something to Keep in Mind

When you increase the size of an image, you’re asking your computer to add information. Put succinctly, you’re telling it to guess at what a larger image would look like. That means you’re never going to get a perfect recreation of your photo at a larger size. Because it’s a matter of software, some apps will be better at it than others. But they all have to make guesses.

The amount of guessing your computer has to do varies with how much you want to increase the size of your image. The more you increase it, the more likely you are to see a degradation of image quality. Understanding that up front is important. (If you’ve used upscaling with home entertainment equipment Upscaling: How Does It Work and Is It Worth It? Upscaling: How Does It Work and Is It Worth It? What is upscaling? How does it work? And is it all it's cracked up to be? Read More , you’ll have a good idea of what I mean.)

Resampling with a 10% Increase

This is a commonly recommended method for seeing just how much up-scaling you can get away with. It works best if you’re not trying to scale your image to a specific size, but instead want to make it as large as possible without making it look too bad. I’ll use this image as an example:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state small

It’s currently 250 pixels wide, and if you lean toward your monitor and squint, you can probably make out the text. But everything is pretty smooth; the image looks nice. To make it larger, we’re going to take advantage of resampling, which is the “guessing” I was telling you about earlier. Here’s what happens when we scale it up to 650 pixels:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state large

As you can see, the text is just barely still readable, but the entire image is of a noticeably lower quality. It’s easy to imagine some details in a different image becoming indistinguishable. Instead of making the jump all the way to 650, we’ll just add 10% to the original image size. Here’s the original image scaled to 275 pixels wide:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state 275

It still looks pretty clear. Let’s bump it up to 325.

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state 325

Still not too bad. Why not try a bigger jump and go up to 450?

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state 450

Now we’re starting to see some graininess. You’re probably starting to get it by now: making small steps up helps you keep the quality of the image as high as possible while making it big enough to emphasize whatever it is that you’re trying to point out in the image.

If you’re going to use this method, it’s important to make sure that resampling is enabled in your photo-editing app. I use Pixelmator Photoshop VS Pixelmator: Which is Better for Mac Users Photoshop VS Pixelmator: Which is Better for Mac Users Photoshop is the most famous image editing application in the world. For Mac users, however, there's another option. Here's a look at how Pixelmator stacks up. Read More , and here’s what it looks like in the Image Size menu:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality pixelmator image size

Other apps, like GIMP and Photoshop, will offer a similar option. You might even be able to choose the interpolation algorithm (the computer’s guessing method) for the scaling. When you’re scaling up, the bicubic smoother option is a good one.

Using a Dedicated App or Service

Because so many people find themselves in need of larger photos, there are actually a number of apps designed specifically to do this for you. A Sharper Scaling, for example, is a free Windows app that promises better upscaling than Photoshop. The results posted on their website are quite impressive. It does one thing and one thing only, but it’s free, so definitely worth downloading.

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality sharper scaling

There doesn’t seem to be a good free equivalent available for the Mac, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Waifu2x, however, provides a solid online option. Waifu has shown very impressive results with anime images, but results can be slightly unpredictable with photos. Still, when it works, it really works well. There are plenty of others out there, and you may see different results with the same photo.

Unfortunately, you may just have to try a few of them to see which works best for your specific image. Here’s an example of what Waifu can do for our image. I uploaded a 250-pixel-wide version and asked it to scale it to 500 pixels wide:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state 500 waifu

And here’s the Pixelmatored version:

How to Digitally Increase the Size of a Picture Without Ruining Picture Quality 51st state 500

Even without zooming in, you can probably see that the image from Waifu is significantly clearer. The site’s use of deep convolutional neural networks What Are Neural Networks and How Do They Work? What Are Neural Networks and How Do They Work? Neural networks are the next big thing when it comes to heavy computations and smart algorithms. Here's how they work and why they're so amazing. Read More makes it very adept in the “guessing” that I mentioned earlier, and the result is significantly clearer upscaled photos. If Waifu isn’t working well for you, though, you can try the Online Image Enlarger, Simple Image Resizer, or Rsizr.

Your Best Upscaling Tips

These two methods of increasing image size are probably your best bets when you don’t want to lose quality. Neither is perfect, but because of the constraints of technology, they’re about the best we can do. Fortunately, most phones and cameras now take very high-resolution photos Graphic Display Resolutions - What Do The Numbers Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] Graphic Display Resolutions - What Do The Numbers Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] Display resolutions can be a rather cryptic business, with multiple standards used to describe the same display resolution in 10 different ways. All of those technical terms tend to change based on the display's purpose... Read More , so you shouldn’t have to deal with this too often. Just remember to always work from the largest original image you can.

How do you upscale images? Do you use these methods or something else entirely? Share your best tips in the comments below!

Image Credit: fractal-an via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Michael Steppenwolf
    August 27, 2017 at 5:52 am

    I've tried a lot of plugins (Pshp) and standalone. IMHO the best are Blow-Up or OnOne Resize.
    Blow Up has a simpler interface and works fine. Miracles you can find in a Bible, but if you want to print a 72-96 ppi photo to a 50-70 E.R. plus, you can obtain a decent result. These problems are due to the proliferation of phone cameras set to 72 dpi, instead of better resolution. More resolution like 5MP (240 dpi) brings more pixels to spare (correction means loose of pixel).

  2. Meg Anderson desperate need
    August 26, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Is there someone who can help me?.. K basically I found this picture on FB and need part of it to be zoomed in and clearer. I've tried everything but I'm not the best at this kind of stuff... The details I'm looking to see are very small but I'm hoping there's someone out there who can Atleast try help me?? Please.

  3. Sedrik
    October 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Nice way, but i used the prog ronyasoft poster designer, as for me also good way!
    My regards!

    • Saikat Basu
      October 27, 2016 at 4:28 am

      Thanks for the mention. Checking it out.

  4. Caglar Candan
    December 7, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I have one image is 300 dpi and 115 cm X 35 cm. But I need this image for print on a wall 2,5 meters high. So I need to make this 35 cm to 250 cm. What I need to do. We will print on a booth for fair. Can you hlep me about it. If I make it with Bicubic smoother (best for enlargement) on Photoshop and I f I make some Surface blur it's okay. But I wonder there is another way or what I need to do!

  5. mansoor
    August 23, 2009 at 4:38 am

    hello dears!
    i am mansoor
    how can i make my pctures eaisaly
    what is the easy way
    hope u replay me in my email

  6. Saikat
    August 10, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Although, I could be wrong...I think the small increment and checking it after each, helps more because you can stop it at the point visual quality starts to degrade. That's a thought,and yes the sensible multiple advice is well made and taken.

  7. Dave
    August 10, 2009 at 3:55 am

    I have to disagree with the 'small increments' bit - a little quality is lost with every resize, so several best to do it in one go.

    My other tip would be to get a calculator, and try to make sure that your new size is a sensible multiple of the old one, ie if your new image is 1.5x as big as the old one, the quality will be better than one that is 1.27639x as big, as this makes the maths much more straightforward.

  8. venkat
    August 8, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I use Windowslivewriter(WLW) as blog editor and I am disappointed as no reply from this article's author yet.

    • Saikat
      August 8, 2009 at 2:53 am

      Hi Venkat,
      A picture uploaded directly from the Blogger Post Editor is most probably compressed. That's done to prevent people from uploading inordinately large sized photos which slows down the rendering of the photos and the page. Plus takes up server space. So upload the picture from an external photo hosting account like Picassa or Photobucket.

      P.S: Angelina hinted at the right approach. Thanks Angelina.

  9. Aaron
    August 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Genuine Fractals 5.0 is the best thing I've used. It's not free, but it does an amazing job.

    • Saikat
      August 8, 2009 at 2:55 am

      Yes, paid solutions are there (3 or 4 I think). Probably, Genuine Fractals is the best. The two mentioned are the 'quick and dirty' techniques.

  10. honey
    August 7, 2009 at 11:21 am

    that's good.H really love it!!!

  11. Angelina
    August 7, 2009 at 10:40 am

    hm... It might also help to run the resized image through a sharpen filter, but once again, at small increments (to make sure you don't overdo it).

  12. venkat
    August 7, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I am not getting quality pic by increasing picture size nor resizing picture ,I use sngait to edit images though images not appear that much clearly in blogger blog the same image looks clearly in wordpress blog,in my blogger blog the reader has to open the image in seperate window to see what's the difference, what I had to do make mages look clear in blogger blog .

    • Angelina
      August 7, 2009 at 10:41 am

      Do you use Bogger's image uploader, or do you host it externally and then use html to embed the image into your blog post?