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Submitted on
February 2, 2013


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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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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!

ArtOfFredskov Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Want to buy Edit comment button. *facepalm*
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?
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.
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
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.
Popo-Licious Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay! I just wanted to understand the reason behind it. Thank you! :aww:
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.
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.
ink-wing-art Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   Digital Artist
dpi does effect image quality, it allows for more details.
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