I need to design an A5-size leaflet for a small side business that I'm trying to get up and running, and the printer I'm planning to use says that the 72 DPI stock images I would usually use will render badly when printed (presumably even if they're high resolution and the rest of the document uses 300 DPI in CMYK colour mode).

I've come to the conclusion that most royalty-free stock image sites almost exclusively host images that are 72 DPI. After checking my go-to sites - namely Unsplash, Pexels and free-images.com - and downloading a total of around 70 images (many of them larger than 5000px in resolution), only 5 of these images turned out to be larger than 300 DPI:

enter image description here

What's more, no free stock image resource that I've come across allows you to reliably filter images by DPI density.

Where can I obtain free stock images that are 300 DPI and therefore suitable to be used for print design?

Alternatively, what sites host royalty-free images of mixed DPI but also allow for reliably filtering search results to limit them only to those of 300 DPI or above?

I'm looking specifically for images of hard drive internals or circuit boards, in case that helps to narrow down sites that specialise in such stock images.

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of Where are some good places to find royalty free stock images?
    – Scott
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 0:20
  • 3
    Higher DPI does not necessarily mean better quality/higher resolution. You need to read this: The Myth of DPI.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 9:07
  • @BillyKerr That site's section on this is a great answer in and of itself and made for very enlightening reading. You should consider making it an answer. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 22:37
  • @Scott This is not a duplicate for obvious reasons - it's a different question to most people, and the fact there are sites like the above that highlight the pervasiveness of this myth all the way up to print shops indicates the obvious need for a distinct question to exist. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


99.99999% of Royalty free stock image sites will allow for the download of 72ppi images, but then you traditionally open the image in Photoshop and resize without resampling.

enter image description here

Note that the Resample option is NOT checked. And the pixel dimensions of the image (2738x1825x - seen at the top of the animation) do not change.

Same image, same quality, merely smaller print width and height to accommodate 300ppi. This is how almost all stock photos sites I know of operate.

PPI means nothing until an image is printed. PPI is mere a data flag in an image. It is not mandatory and not all images, especially those transmitted over the internet, will contain or maintain that data flag.

As noted in the animation above, the image remains 2738x1825px. What matters is how dense those pixels ay be. If the pixel density of the image (PPI) is only 72, the print size is roughly 38x25 Inches. But if the density of pixels is increased to 300, then the print size is roughy 9x6 inches.

Most stock sites, if they list PPI at all, will list something like (9x6" @300ppi) because without the physical width and height, the PPI is irrelevant. And they don't allow you to "filter images by PPI" because, again it's irrelevant until you look at print size.

  • So for clarification, you're saying that you can change the density of pixels in an image simply by changing the value of that data flag? Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 22:36
  • The downloaded images probably don't have a PPI flag in the file. It's not needed. For print design, you do as I've answered, Open the image, alter the density without resampling, same image at print resolution (and smaller WxH). I feel this is a duplicate. You're really asking where to get stock images. The fact that you don't grasp the whole PPI issue is another matter. There are questions here regarding that as well. In short, this question will be no more helpful to those searching than the duplicate I've marked.That's all. It's about future visitors, not you specifically.
    – Scott
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 23:11
  • No stock image site provides 300ppi downloads. They might provide files with the PPI flag though. So some applications might read the flag and open the image at the PPI setting. But either way, the PPi flag itself isn't really mandatory. A 3000x1800px image is that size and altering the pixel density (PPI) doesn't change the image.
    – Scott
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 23:13
  • If Windows Explorer shows 300 DPI next to the images as metadata then surely the downloaded images already do have that flag set? I understand the rest, so thanks. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 23:42
  • No, I was asking where to get stock images of quality 300 DPI or greater. The fact that that's not a logical request makes no difference because it's a very pervasive myth, and future visitors looking for the same as I was will see this answer and be enlightened as I was. I came across the "duplicate" initially - that's why I linked to it - but it didn't answer the specific question I had: where to get 300 DPI images from. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 23:42

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