3 Ways to Change the DPI of an Image
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Printing a photo or illustration seems like it should be as easy as printing anything else, but it isn’t. Set the DPI incorrectly, and you’ll end up with glossy photos that are blurry and low quality, or a poster that prints no larger than a postage stamp.

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If you’re a designer or photographer, or just want to make sure your vacation shots print without problems, you need to understand what DPI is, and how to change your print resolution. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about DPI and how to change the DPI of an image.

What Is DPI?

DPI stands for “dots-per-inch,” and is a specification for printing and for setting the print resolution of an image.

A print is made from millions of tiny dots of ink. The DPI setting determines how many dots the printer drops onto every square inch of the image. You need to understand how DPI works because it controls the two most important things in printing:

  1. The quality of your print. In simple terms, a higher DPI means a higher quality print. Most good home printers can output at 300 dpi, and professional printers much higher.
  2. The size of your print. A pixel in a digital image is the equivalent to a dot in a print. So, if you print an 1800 pixel wide image at 300 dots-per-inch, the printed image will be six inches wide. Print the same image at 180 dpi and it will be 10 inches wide.

How DPI Affects Your Prints

Here’s an image to illustrate. Below are two lines that consist of the same 40 squares—the same size and same color. The squares are less tightly packed on the top line, equating to a lower DPI; and more tightly packed on the bottom line for a higher DPI.

what is dpi

The effect is clear. On the Lower DPI line the gradient is a lot less smooth. You can see clear edges against each of the squares. The line is also a lot longer.

On the Higher DPI line the gradient is much smoother. It’s almost seamless. The line is also a lot shorter.

This demonstrates the balancing act you often need to make when setting the print resolution: size versus quality. If you’re working with low res images then you’ll have to make a trade-off between the two.

Where possible, you should always save your work in as a high a resolution as you can. Because Resizing your image How to Properly Resize Images in Photoshop How to Properly Resize Images in Photoshop Here's how to easily resize images in Photoshop. In no time, you'll have the perfect image for sharing, uploading, or printing. Read More to make it larger won’t improve the print quality.

What DPI Should You Use?

All this begs the question: What is the best DPI to print at?

The standard rule is that you should aim for 300 dpi. This is great quality for photographs, and it’s questionable how much extra detail the human eye can even discern beyond that level.

But if your image is too small to print at 300 dpi, don’t worry. The intended viewing distance of the print plays a large role in what resolution you need.

For images you’ll hold in your hands, like photos, leaflets, or magazines, 300 dpi or higher is the target, but 250 will do at a push.

With posters, or pictures you’re going to frame, you can get away with a lower resolution because you’ll mostly be looking at them from a few feet away. 200 dpi should be okay, or even a little lower. This also applies when you’re printing on different materials, like canvas.

And so on. The further away you intend to look at your image, the lower you can set the resolution. A billboard poster designed to be seen from across the street might be printed at as low as 20 dots per inch.

How to Check the DPI of an Image

how to check dpi

To find out an image’s DPI in Windows, right-click on the file name and select Properties > Details. You’ll see the DPI in the Image section, labeled Horizontal Resolution and Vertical Resolution. On a Mac, you need to open the image in Preview and select Tools > Adjust Size. It’s labelled Resolution.

How to Change the DPI of an Image: 3 Ways

You can change an image’s DPI in most graphics packages. You can even do it in Preview on a Mac, but we’ll take a look at three solutions that will have you covered on any platform.

Remember that DPI is only a measurement of print resolution. Changing the DPI does not change the size of your digital image, or the size of the file.

If working with an image you think you’ll need to print, it’s a good idea to set your target print resolution before you resize it. That will help to ensure you don’t make it too small to print safely at your preferred size.

How to Change the DPI in Photoshop

change dpi photoshop

To change an image’s DPI in Photoshop, go to Image > Image Size. Uncheck Resample Image, because this setting will upscale your image, which will make it lower quality.

Now, next to Resolution, type in your preferred resolution, set as Pixels/Inch. Notice how the Width and Height figures change, too. This shows you the size your image will print.

You can, of course, specify the width and height instead, in inches or centimeters. If you do this, just make sure your DPI doesn’t drop too low to degrade the quality.

How to Change the DPI In GIMP

change dpi gimp

To change the DPI of an image in GIMP, go to Image > Print Size. Enter your preferred DPI next to X Resolution, set in pixels/in. The Y Resolution should update automatically, too.

Like in Photoshop, you can set the physical width and height instead. Again, make sure the DPI doesn’t drop too low when you do this.

How to Change the DPI Online for Free

convert town change dpi

If you’re in a pinch and you don’t have your graphics program of choice to hand, you can always change the DPI of an image with Convert Town’s DPI-changing web-app for free online.

All you have to do is input the DPI you need the image changed to, drag-and-drop the file to upload it, and wait. When it’s done converting, it should automatically download your updated image to your default download folder.

Get Better Photo Prints

Understanding the meaning of DPI is so important when you’re printing. It’s so easy to ruin entire projects because you’re working at too low a resolution, or to get bad prints because you’re printing them larger than they can handle.

But this is only the first step in printing. Check out our guide to achieving better prints to ensure your pictures come out perfect every time. And if you use a Mac, take a look at these color picker apps that help you select the perfect colors for projects.

If you work as a web designer in addition to taking care of graphics, check out these must-have Chrome extensions for web designers 7 Must-Have Chrome Extensions for Web Designers 7 Must-Have Chrome Extensions for Web Designers There are some fantastic tools for web designers out there, and with that in mind, here are the best web design Chrome extensions. Read More .

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  1. Avi
    April 29, 2017 at 5:38 am

    When I view my pictures from my camera they look clear but when I down load them on my mac they are not as clear, sometimes blurry. Is there a setting I can put on my camera to fix this? Any advice ?

  2. mp
    January 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Probably the most well written informative easy visual articles I have ever read

    • Julz
      September 14, 2017 at 12:41 am

      I was thinking the EXACT SAME thing!! ????

  3. Stella
    January 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I have tried GIMP and Convert Town's. Neither work, and my photo is still not 300 DPI.

    • Randall Scott Clemons
      May 30, 2018 at 10:36 pm

      Are you inserting your image using the insert option? Because if you use copy and paste you will lose the 300 dpi. Also have you went to the option in word and set the image option to not compress your image ?

  4. Vic
    November 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I don't often comment, but your post on changing the dpi was very helpful to me. I am doing some senior class photos for my daughter and it mentioned needed 300 dpi, but was set for 72. I almost came to the conclusion that photos I had taken were worthless, til I read your post.

  5. Tristan
    September 21, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Hello,
    I'm having a problem that kinda concerns this and something else simultaneously. I have an image that I may want to make prints of. I have both PNG and PDF copies of it, it's been converted into CMYK, and it's currently at 500 dpi, which if I understand properly is well above the standard dpi of 300 that people tend to use for printing. That's fine, but my real issue is that the image itself is rather small (a little less than 8in x 10in), and I wanted to make it at least a little bit bigger before printing it. Is this doable while still keeping the DPI at or above 300?

  6. max
    September 10, 2016 at 1:48 am

    wow someone who knows the difference between ink drops, LPI, pixels, the one thing that is not mentioned in this article that needs to go in is
    For printing, retain the ORIGINAL pixel dimensions changing the resolution from say 4000 x 2000ppi to 36000 x 18000ppi makes the image softer, reduces the corrections you can make in photoshop or their effectiveness and increases processing time. IT DOES NOT HELP TO INCREASE THE FILE SIZE, IT ACTUALLY DEGRADES THE IMAGE.
    If you work in large format, use a higher quality camera, a canon 5dsr (50megapixel) or phase one medium format

    • Krzysiu
      October 29, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Changing density doesn't change image itself, but image metadata. So if changing ppi degrades your image, changes anything in image, you should consider using better tools. I think you have mistaken print size with image size. Still, upscaling image doesn't mean it always would degrade image. What degrading could be in x2 method?

      And as for rather powerusers - you can script some command line tool. Like batch file. Let me present example for Windows for JPEG (!). You need exiftool (open source). Rename the original file to exiftool.exe and put it in the Windows directory (or to other directory in your %PATH%). Create new file with extension ".bat". Let me explain how it works. You need to drag file and drop it on the newly crated file. At first it gives you name of the file (I like such feedback to be sure I modify correct file), then it asks you about new dimensions. Warning: this code assumes that units are inches (the are rarely different), that you wrote proper number, not gibberish and that file if JPEG (in last case it will just fail, in second it could fail). Now, if author's willing to add my code, I'll be glad to make it better (including choosing from menu standard values, using last given value and processing many files/directories). So if the author wants it, please write to my mail and I'll send you code. So the simple version of code is:
      @echo off
      setlocal
      echo You are about to process image "%~nx1".
      for /f %%i in ('exiftool -s -s -s -jfif:Xresolution "%~1"') do set currDPI=%%i
      set /p newDPI="Enter new resolution (current: %currDPI% dpi): "
      exiftool -P -overwrite_original -jfif:Xresolution=%newDPI% -jfif:Yresolution=%newDPI% %1
      endlocal
      pause

  7. CharleneMcD
    September 1, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for the easy to follow directions! You saved me a lot of time!

  8. Nicolas
    August 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Hello,

    I am using Window 10 but i cannot vizualise the number of DPI in the case of the files in BITMAP format. I followed the procedure described on this web page ("Checking an image's DPI") but the number of DPI is not displayed. Please could you help ?

  9. John
    August 23, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Fantastic article and amazingly interactive. You laser-targeted my issue and had a direct solution on the same page. BRAVISSIMO!!!

  10. andrew hamilton
    July 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Is there any difference in the result if you use GIMP over the convert.town web site?

  11. Ed
    July 28, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you! Exactly what I needed and perfectly presented. Saved me a ton of time!!

  12. Anonymous
    July 1, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you so much! It saved me a ton of time!

  13. Joseph Liu
    June 28, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Very useful. I used the online app to change my 72 dpi pic to a 200 dpi one.
    thanks!

  14. Pam Terry
    May 9, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Fantastic info!! Thank you.

  15. Brendon (Convert.Town)
    April 20, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Jessica - thank you for mentioning my DPI conversion tool. Much appreciated!

    • Angela Mikronis
      May 11, 2016 at 6:05 am

      is there a size limit for the files i can upload as i have a 43 meg artwork i need to be 180dpi and keeps telling me there is an error

  16. Jill
    March 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    awesome article! easy to understand! I am subscribing!

  17. alissa
    March 22, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Thank you! I didn't even know that dpi stood for dots per inch! I wrote down the details on how to convert everything and really appreciate it

  18. Barrett Hurd
    March 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Jessica, are there occurred in which you cannot increase the DPI?

  19. Anonymous
    October 25, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Jessica, thank you! I'm an iPhone Photographer but my images (72dpi) are often requested for print publications. I've known the images can be 'inter-something' so they're print ready but never known how! You're article has nailed it - and delightfully, easy to follow. Thank you again! xxXxx

  20. Anonymous
    October 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Awesome informative well written article! Thank you so much for sharing this information! I play around with graphics and saw problems due to DPI even on personal photos Example you have an old Polaroid photo you want to copy and print because they have a tendency to deteriorate Problem go to try to print and it looks horrible due to the DPI being too low So to whoever wrote this thanks "You Rock"

    • Jessica Coccimiglio
      October 23, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Hello Mary,
      So glad you found the article useful!
      Happy photo printing.
      - Jessica Coccimiglio

      • Randall Scott Clemons
        May 30, 2018 at 10:31 pm

        I was trying to comment on this post but the comment window will not open so I leaving a reply on your comment. While windows paint does not have the option to convert an image to 300 DPI, after reading this helpful article I discovered a way to trick paint into converting an image to 300 DPI. I had already written my material and was looking for a quick way to convert all of my 400 images. If you open an image with 300 dpi in paint...then use your mouse on the side and bottom edge of the image to click, drag, and shrink the image (just in case the image you are trying to convert is smaller in physical size than the image you opened) then copy your image from the material you have written and paste it over the 300 dpi image you opened in paint. Then save the image it will be converted to 300 dpi through paint (in case you don't have any of these programs and need a quick way to convert your image. Then insert the image with word using the insert option. If you do not insert the image that way, then you will lose the 300 dpi conversion. You can use paint to convert your image if you use that process. It is a lot quicker than using the website you posted (which is still very helpful).