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Canvas sizes - inches and dpi and pixels

Journal Entry: Sat Feb 2, 2013, 7:29 PM


This is a sort of guide on canvas sizes, inches, dpi and pixel x pixels.



when it came to canvas sizes, I always kind of assumed that inches belonged with dpi and pixels were just pixels and that everyone knew that; but i read a whole bunch of comments on a tumblr blog where someone asked about canvas sizes, and SO MANY people were replying with things such as, "4000x4000 px at 300 dpi" or "2000x2000 px at 200dpi".

and I guess not everyone quite understands what dpi's really used for xD.

DPI = Dots per Inch. It means how many dots will be printed per inch.

DPI is actually used for printing purposes. It shows the printer how much pixels to print per inch, literally. A common printer (at home or even at a lot of printing stores) at best prints at 150dpi most of the time actually; there are some super duper great printers that can print REALLY fine that can go up to ...apparently a lot more xD; #dpi, so that's why everyone usually suggests saving your project at 300dpi; most printers are fine with 300dpi, because anything above that is a little overkilling it. There are some super-fine printers though that can print up to maybe 600dpi, but those are not really that common. alright, so apparently it's pretty common =P~ but I've never found myself needing to go above 300dpi; stuff in 150dpi works well for me too, actually >_>;;~ Unless, of course, you're doing extremely high-quality fine-art prints that can sell up to $30-$60 a piece, because really high-quality prints (that requires 600+dpi) costs a lot to print in the first place, so I won't suggest this for anime/comic conventions ^^;~

so say I have a canvas at 5400 x 3600px, it literally means that I have a canvas that can be printed on a 18 x 12 inch paper at 300 dpi. If I have a 5400 x 3600px canvas at 200dpi, that pixels of the canvas don't change, but the inches on the physical paper can change to 27x18 inches when it comes to printing it. The canvas pixels aren't going to change just because you have it at 200dpi, so putting 200dpi, 300dpi or even 800dpi, it isn't going to make a difference digital canvas-wise. If you say something like "5400 x 3600px at 300 dpi", it's the same as saying "5400 x 3600px at 18 x 12 inches.". See how they don't mix? :)

Either put down how big it is in pixels (because you don't REALLY need the 300dpi if you're not printing it out), or if you have an intention of printing it out, do it in inches (or cm, if that's what you're used to) with a dpi attached.

Even photoshop makes it clear - The pixels are in the "Pixel-dimention" section, and the inches/cm/mm/etc and dpi is under the "Document-size" section.

TL;DR: Canvas inches and dpis are for physical prints only; Pixels are digital, so they don't mix with dpis or inches, etc. Digital and physical don't mix in a way that would make sense. Please don't say "2000 x 2000px at 300dpi"~ @_@;

I hope I made sense and cleared up some misconceptions about dpi and canvas sizes :). ….and i hope i didn't make a mistake here hahaha;;;.

sorry if i sounded like a know-it-all v_v;; i guess I found a new pet-peeve D;~…

damn, i wrote a lot; sorry, bad habit D:~!

edit: if you're a math-kindda person, you can also look at this mathamatically:

12 x 18inch at 300dpi =

12 x 300 dpi = 3600pixels
18 x 300 = 5400

therefore 12 x 18inch at 300dpi = 3600 x 5400pixels

and that's how you get the pixels vs inches + dpi.

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:iconxaifin:
Xaifin Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Student Filmographer
Personally most things I do are 300/600dpi but I always work at A4+ sizes when it comes to the important work. You never know when your lecture is going to spark up a shit storm and suddenly demand it be the size of your display board :S
Reply
:iconlalami02:
lalami02 Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
haha the TL;DR note made me laugh xD
I did read about this before, and I actually did my own research till the point it got so confusing and it gave me a headache. so I came up with this one conclusion out of all of it: if I wanna print my art better be 600dpi or 300dpi at least.. that's enough for me to know, for now =u=
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:icondapper-rabbit:
Dapper-Rabbit Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   General Artist
I pretty much understood this anyway but this still helped clear things up. thank you :)
Reply
:iconartoffredskov:
ArtOfFredskov Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Ok I admit I didn't read the lower half, but as with 3+ years of experience with graphic design and prints here's some </strong>rules of thumb</strong>:


  • Create a doc for the purpose it's gonna be used.

  • If printed media: Generally make it as big sizes as possible, and make sure you put resolution to 300dpi. Keep and eye on the physical size (where it says Inches/milimeters/centimeters).

  • If for web, save at 72 dpi, and only the size that you need in pixels.

  • If you're not sure, just go with the biggest size, at 300dpi. You can always scale down on a copy, but never up!

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:iconartoffredskov:
ArtOfFredskov Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Want to buy Edit comment button. *facepalm*
Reply
:iconpopo-licious:
Popo-Licious Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great article! I have a question though. :D I find that when I increase the dpi in Photoshop, it drastically resizes my canvas. (For example, a 4x6 inche canvas at 72 dpi fits my screen pretty well. 4x6 inches at 300 dpi makes my canvas enormous on my screen.) If dpi is only for printing and it isn't supposed to have an effect on viewing the image digitally, why does the canvas resize so much?
Reply
:iconmhummelt:
mhummelt Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Student General Artist
your screen can only show 72 or sometimes 94ppi (pixel per inch; ppi = dpi but ppi is the correct term to use when talking about digital useage) but it's going to show you all pixels, therefore the document will be larger on screen at 100% zoom since you still need to be able to edit all 300ppi not just part of them.
Reply
:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
because you're also miming the physical canvas by putting in 4 x 6 inches. When I say "physical", i meant....well, you don't really print out something by calling it 3000 x 5000 pixels, right? but you do say it in inches. When you put down inches on the computer, then it applies to a possible physical print.

sorry, when i say digital, i simply meant pixels, and when i say physical, i meant to say inches/centimeters/real-life-tangible numbers.

12inches x 18inch at 300dpi =

12inches x 300 dpi = 3600pixels
18inches x 300 = 5400

therefore 12 x 18inch at 300dpi = 3600 x 5400pixels
Reply
:iconink-wing-art:
ink-wing-art Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   Digital Artist
because there are so many more pixels. see, the printed image would be the same size, but the 300 dpi is much, much more detailed. it really isn't different sizes and you should be able to zoom out anyway.
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:iconpopo-licious:
Popo-Licious Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay! I just wanted to understand the reason behind it. Thank you! :aww:
Reply
:iconsasako:
Sasako Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013
So since DPI doesn't really matter from a digital only stand point, could I set my resolution to 72 and save space and reduce lag from the file being so big? I used to think that dpi improved the quality of the picture for years. I guess that's wrong ^^; Thanks for the new info.
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:iconmcjaews:
McJaews Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2013  Student Digital Artist
If you have 300 pixels per inch in a digital file, then you'll be able to detail each of those 300 pixels allowing for great detail in your work. If you show it on a screen (as a desktop background or something) the physical amount of pixels per inch on the screen decide how much detail is shown. My laptop screen has roughly 100 pixels per inch, so it wouldn't be able to show the remaining 200 pixels of such a file unless I zoomed in on it by 300%. Usually, images are zoomed out for convenience's sake, like the images on dA, so they are further compressed. If you use 200 pixels per inch, then everyone should be fine with your work, and not be able to see any pixels. I at least find 72 to be much too low for anything since pixels bug me.
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:iconink-wing-art:
ink-wing-art Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   Digital Artist
dpi does effect image quality, it allows for more details.
Reply
:iconmhummelt:
mhummelt Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Student General Artist
not digitaly since the screen cant show more then 72 or in some cases 94ppi/dpi therefore it can't show more detail within the same space no matter how many ppi/dpi
Reply
:iconkarolusdiversion:
Karolusdiversion Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013
Here is a PDF to understanding PPI, DPI and Digital Display. :)
Reply
:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
No, actually, dpi has nothing to do with your digital-canvas size. You can have a file at 5000 x 4000 at 200 dpi, but the megabite size would still be the same, because the pixel-size of the canvas wouldn't change data-wise; it's just when you print it out physically, the dpi will effect phyical size, as in, how many dots will be printed per inch. did that make sense? This won't effect space data-wise at all :).
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:iconnanafay:
NanaFay Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
I saved this just in case c: I use Photoshop a lot, so I normally leave it at 300 dpi or the default when opening a new document. Luckily I never had to print anything out because I also tend to forget to change RGB to CMYK xD Thanks for sharing the info! It's very much appreciated (n_n)
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:iconbunnywafer:
bunnywafer Featured By Owner May 22, 2013
You can't print in RGB color?
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:iconnanafay:
NanaFay Featured By Owner May 28, 2013
You can, but the color will be off (n_n')
Reply
:iconaiub:
aiub Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Student General Artist
about this I knew, from design classes, but it's a nice journal anyway...
could you tell me what is used to cross out a line on dA? o-o
this is something I always wondered!
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:iconsmendhey:
smendhey Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
HTML tags!</i>
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
you put in < strike > and end with < /strike >, but get rid of the spaces between the < >
Reply
:iconcattfeesh:
CattFeesh Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
< s > crossed out text here </s> minus the spaces. Substitute i/b/u in place of s for italic/bold/underlined text. c:
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:iconaiub:
aiub Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Thank you, I knew it had to be one letter on < > </>, but while bold, italic and underline were easy to find out, I didn't find out what was the crossed out letter. For me it'd make more sense if it was c. :P
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:iconcattfeesh:
CattFeesh Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ohhhh, think of it as slashed text. That's how I remember it. :P
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:iconinyuji:
InYuJi Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional General Artist
this was really helpful. I'll definitely keep this in mind the next time I get a table for a con
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:icondesutinee:
desutinee Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
My only question then, is how clean do you have to be at each zoomed in level?

Say you had the 5400 x 3600 canvas. I would assume that at 100%, it would not look perfectly clean and smooth and rendered. So at what percentage would you say needs to look good?
Reply
:iconashgutz:
AshGUTZ Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   Digital Artist
I am not the original poster but when I saw this question it reminded me when I used to wonder the same thing. I've learned doubling my desired final size and working that way then later saving is at 50% size helps get things super crisp. Hope this helps, the only issue for me is how slow my laptop moves with larger images.
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
that's up to you. The only reason why you would want 12 x 18inches at 300 dpi instead of 72dpi (which means you would want a bigger canvas) is that when it's printed out, the lines are not blurry/pixelated, even if it's rough. My 100% never looks super clean and smooth and rendered, maybe except around the eyes of the character. It also depends on how big your characters are though; if I'm only doing one character, which means they'll fill-up most of the screen, I'm usually working at 50% or less. if there are more characters, I'd zoom in more, because they're smaller. The point is though, not how rough you're going to make it, but rather how rough the printer might make it without your intention when you put it at a lower dpi. How clean and rendered it is depends on the artist.
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:iconchronophontes:
Chronophontes Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
72 dpi works reasonably well for pictures, and for large text in grayscale. For fine print, you need up to 300 dpi in grayscale, and at least 600 dpi for black and white (without gray). Inkjet printers can do at least 600 when needed, and laser printers up to (I think) 1500, which is usual in commercial printing.

Dpi is also useful for scanning: when you know the size of an image in inches/cm, and you want to know how big it will be in pixels. I once wanted to scan a halftone image at high enough resolution to show the individual dots, and was pleased to see that my scanner could handle up to 3200 dpi - plenty big enough. (The image was also greatly enlarged, which was ideal for this purpose.)

Other than printing or scanning, I never use dpi, and I'm always at a loss when someone asks me how many dpi a picture is, meaning, how big is it?
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:icongreyfox123:
GreyFox123 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
Everyone keeps fussing over dpi, but Feng Zhu stated that it doesnt really matter you can set it to 1 and still have a decent printed image. PPI is what matters so if you have something say 10k pixels wide and print it A4 then surely it will be pretty decent? ....Although i understand what Qing is saying about pixels and dpi, for the point of printing this confuses me if you combine it with what Feng said lol =/
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:icondestroyerase:
DestroyErase Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Businesses aren't even going to spit in your direction if you start throwing around shit that isn't at least 300dpi. It's just industry standard.

Ppi literally measures in pixels and the printable size of the image is equivalent to the full size. It isn't the same as dpi. What Feng was talking about is essentially a parlor trick to always have in the back of your head. Dpi is just easier for everyone.
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:icongreyfox123:
GreyFox123 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
Ahhh okay thanks for the clarification :)
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:iconpurplemoonfang:
PurpleMoonFang Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
is this sai or cs5?
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
this applies to all digital canvases, regardless of SAI or photoshop or even corel painter :)
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:iconpurplemoonfang:
PurpleMoonFang Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
oh ok. sweet! thx
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:iconthe-lost-hope:
The-Lost-Hope Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Thanks for the tips, I have read about dpi a little in a class I took but they didn't explain it as well as you have.
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:iconsirenabonita:
sirenabonita Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
pix·i·lat·ed or pix·il·lat·ed (pks-ltd)
adj.
1. Behaving as if mentally unbalanced; very eccentric.
2. Whimsical; prankish.
3. Slang Intoxicated; drunk.
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:iconenigmaticworld:
enigmaticworld Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Actually, 600dpi printers are very common in printing companies. Depends where you go to :] Our local printing company has these two machines (they call one of them "solvent") that print on some special paper that comes in rolls. Size of single work can be up to 1.6 x 4meters and up to 1400dpi. 700dpi is recommended as absolute minimum. And it prints at speed of 12meters per hour. Ain't that a beast x)
The digital printer (at least they call it so) they commonly use for smaller projects accepts up to 800dpi, and absolute minimum required is 300dpi. Size up to A3 equivalent (roughly 32x46cm).
So... it all depends x) I'd advise that if your PC can handle it, keep works at 600dpi or bigger. If not... well absolute minimum for most printing companies is 300dpi. Anything less will just look plain bad :D
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Actually, i've even printed at 150dpi, and it's not too bad; the resolution's not that compromised, and it still looks fine. but the printing places around my area don't go above 300dpi. I guess the printing companies in my area just sucks then >.>;;
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:iconenigmaticworld:
enigmaticworld Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Our local printing company has some machines (they call it "solvent" and I forgot how they called the other one) that can take up to 1400dpi. Recommended is 700dpi minimum. It prints roughly 12meters of print per hour, sized 1.6m x 4m maximum. Ain't that a beast x)
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
how much does it cost to print something? those bigger machinese I found tend to cost a lot more, so I never print there xD.
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:iconenigmaticworld:
enigmaticworld Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Print of roughly 60 square centimeters costs me around 30PLN (almost 10$). Paper is half-matte half-glossy, 300g/m2 professional paper - better quality than most gicless I came across, though it could be thicker a bit.
Printing 8 works on maximum dimensions (32x46cm) would cost me 22PLN (7.20$).

And... yeah, you really have to look for a company. At first I went to a photo printing company, but they kept messing with balance/contrast/lightness and all prints they made went out horrible. They told me they print out only jpgs. No tiff, no psd x) He didn't inform me of any margins I should keep, and truncated them as he pleased... etc.

So I changed the company. The other guy in new one not only showed me the machines he prints on and papers they accept, but explained what format should I use (tiff with lzw non-lossy compression), which color profile and color settings (turns out the best is RGB with no color management profile), what margins should I keep... he even printed out test prints for free (these 8 works I wrote earlier in this comment about - I asked about estimate cost). And now he's printing out reference color swatches for me and few other clients, so we can calibrate our monitors properly (so what we print matches what we see on monitors). They even have machine that cuts out any format you want, so no more squeezing several bookmarks to fit one sheet.

So... maybe you should look for another company x)
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I dunno, I kindda like mine though, cause i think it's good enough for convention prints and a 12 x 18inch print costs about 80cents on cardstock paper, matted finish; the quality's actually pretty good too; i don't think having a higher resolution's going to make a difference since I don't draw that detailed anyways, and everyone likes my prints :3~ (i paid off all my college debt with my convention income, so I think they like my prints...?)
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:iconenigmaticworld:
enigmaticworld Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
If it works for you, then it's good too :]
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
:3. if I ever do high-quality fine-art prints or a more professional book, I'll probably look into a better printing company though :)
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:iconwhite-nuts:
White-Nuts Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Great info. :D But I think one needs to be mindful of the resolution (dpi) they are working with even for web. Not for the finished result, but rather for the creative process as the larger/smaller amount of pixels affects slightly the behavior of the canvas and the tools in most software.
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Even if they're work with pixeled canvases? I don't think it matters that way though. If i have a 2000 x 2000 pixeled artwork, it doesn't really matter if I have it at 200 dpi or even 5000 dpi. It only matters if you're printing it. the canvas size is already decided for you when you set it to 2000px x 2000px; the amount of pixels that form the canvas will not change even if you change the dots-per-inch. It's not going to change the creative process or have any pixels affected...i'm not sure what you mean by the canvas and tools being effected by pixel-changing though; i've personally have never heard of that happening before. Maybe it's a software issue?
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:iconwhite-nuts:
White-Nuts Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, even with pixeled canvases. Perhaps it's softwares working haphazardly and perhaps I didn't express myself too well. I don't mean changing the dpi will cause absolute changes in the canvas or the tool, but it will cause some relative changes that may or may not have an impact on your work. Just to give an example, when working with SAI on a pixeled canvas, the relative apparent size of a brush in relation to the canvas changes when you change the resolution (and maintain the pixel dimensions unaltered), i.e. a 1px brush will "appear" to be smaller in relation to its canvas when you increase the resolution. Somthing similar happens with the text tool in photoshop: the apparent size of (for example) 10px sized text in relation to its canvas will vary according to the resolution.

As you said, perhaps it's software working in non-optimal ways, but it does happen even if unintended. It may or may not influence the way a particular person works, but I like to mindful of those practical effects even if they shouldn't be there in theory.
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:iconqinni:
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I personally don't ever pay attention to how big the brushes are pixel-wise, as long as I can get it working for me pressure-wise at a decent size, and I don't really see how those are issues though ^^;. If the brush appears smaller, make it bigger...? @_@;;
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