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What Is a Pixel?

The term pixel has been used and abused for so long that it is practically meaningless. And that's a shame, because every image before you on a monitor is made up of pixels; you can't get more basic than a pixel. So here goes the studied explanation.

A Pixel Is a Placeholder

A pixel is the building block of raster graphics. And a raster graphic is the type you typically see on a monitor or TV set—also called a bitmap graphic. Photoshop enables you to subdivide a pixel; you can specify .7 pixels, for example, as a filter setting. But for all intents and purposes, a pixel—short for picture element—is as small a unit of image graphic as you can use.


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