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Part: II Production Essentials > Resolution Solutions

Chapter 4. Resolution Solutions

© Bob Elsdale, www.bobelsdale.com

The difference between failure and success is doing a thing nearly right, and doing it exactly right.

—Edward C. Simmons

When it comes to resolution, we all want the same thing: we want to know what it takes to achieve the best possible image. But most people seem to be confused about resolution. What is it? What setting should I use? Why does it matter? These are some of the most common questions I get, and since resolution has such a dramatic effect on your final result, I think it's worth your while to take a bit of time to understand what it's actually all about. We'll start by demystifying all the stuffy techno-jargon (spi, ppi, dpi, etc.) and get down to what's really important about resolution. Then, once we know what we're talking about, we'll get to specific recommendations for optimal resolution settings.

What's New For 6.0

The best resolution for any particular image will differ depending on where that image is going to end up. This chapter has been revised to include more in-depth explanations of all of the terms involved with image resolution.

For those of you who have no desire to pop the hood and learn the finer points, you have my permission to cheat and skip ahead to the section called “Optimal Settings.” There you will find tables with my recommended settings. I won't think any less of you for taking a shortcut. The rest of you curious ones stick with me—we're going to shed some much-needed light on this subject.

The idea behind resolution is actually pretty straightforward. Resolution tells your scanner how many pixels to capture as it scans your image, and therefore how much space it will take up on your screen. Then, when you print the image, the resolution setting determines how large those pixels should be when you print them. It really is that simple.

If it's that simple, then why is everyone confused about it? Well, you have a lot of variables to deal with. For starters, there are several different methods by which to use your image (such as the Internet, inkjet printer, laser printer, dye-sub printer, and printing press), and each has different resolution requirements. There are also a bunch of terms that people like to throw around: ppi, dpi, lpi, spi, and so on. And to confuse matters more, people misuse those terms on a regular basis. So let's clear those muddy waters so that you can make the right decision the next time you're faced with that perennial question, “What resolution should I use?”

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