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Q. What is resolution?

For us crafters, the resolution of a digital image indicates the level of visible detail in the printed picture.

There are actually two types of resolution. The first is how many pixels there are in the original image, as captured by the digital camera or scanner. This is measured by counting the number of pixels in an image, which might amount to 2 million (hence, the 2 megapixel camera) or more. A pixel (short for “picture element”) is a small square of colored light, and is the smallest unit in a computer monitor display. We’ll just call this type “pixel count.”

The second type concerns us more. Commonly called “embedded resolution”, this number measures the density of the pixels in a printed image, and therefore the clarity or detail. Someone described it as a “sticky note attached to the picture that tells a printer how far apart it should print each pixel.” If an image has a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch), the sticky note reads, “print 300 pixels in the space of one linear inch.”

If the image has a high pixel count, then it will need lots of inches to fit all the pixels – and the image will naturally print (or display on a monitor) large. When you resize an image in a photo editing program, it is either eliminating pixels when you shrink, or adding pixels when you enlarge.

So, the ideal embedded resolution of an image depends on how big the image is going to be printed. For most printing and crafting purposes, a 300dpi gives the needed detail. For website display on a monitor, 72dpi is acceptable. If your craft is a billboard or a life-size whale decoupage that will be viewed from a distance, then you can work with a much lower dpi.

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