I'm currently trying to export my project as a PNG. I had it set to export based on the artboard, which is currently sized to my desired dimensions.

However, after I set it to export as a 300ppi PNG, I'm finding that the resulting dimensions are now way too large. After doing some math it seems to be increased to make it 4x larger, or basically the difference between a resolution of 72 and 300.

In order to get this to work, I had to resize my artboard to 24% of its original size, manually resize my art and re-position it in the artboard. Even with all that, it finally exports out close to where it should be, but it's still a pixel off due to some rounding issue when the size is getting increased. I double-checked and my "Document Raster Effects Settings" is currently set to 300ppi.

It appears like Illustrator is working in a default resolution of 72. I just don't understand- I thought that Illustrator being a vector program meant it had no working resolution per se, and that any project could be exported as you wished. I have several projects that I'm trying to export to a set size and a set resolution for print, and this workaround is very annoying, but more than that just feels wrong. Any help would be appreciated!


1 Answer 1


Document raster setting has nothing to do with document size or export. Many people assume it does but it does not. Only affects filter effects and then probably only the way you intended to a vector format. For most users this setting does nothing.

Very long story short, adobe and perhaps the desktop publishing industry in general made a huge mistake someties in the period of 1960-1980's. The introduces the concept of resolution as a point pitch value. The problem is not so much about this value, but rather they forgot that not set is a perfectly valid value for this thing. So adobe is unable to set a raster document as having no conversion to physical units. Now because of this for all intents and purposes 72 PPI means not set, ill return to this in a moment.

Now illustrator offcourse has no resolution, or well it does not untill sometime after 1995 when people start to design for the web. Ok so now somebody decides that it would be great if one could design in pixels. Now its a bit too late to introduce the not set value, which would have solved this issue. But that would have ment we would needed to re-educate 2 generations of graphic designers*. So adobe was left with 2 options:

  1. define a pixel as a unit. This is what they did because its ultimately easier. So Then they made a pixel preview that respects this and save routines meant for publishing to the web. As well as save routines for publishing for print (that do not assume there is a set resolution)

  2. The other option would have been to introduce a setting for the user, but this would make pasting difficult. And who is to say you wouldnt want many settings for different areas of the docunent.

Now, you can not do any of this offcourse without shaking the world view of many users. But it works remarkably well for a ureconcilable problem. So at the end of the day if you think

  1. Document has no pixels, but converted to pixels on render. Use the save options in file -> save and file -> export.

  2. Documentbhas pixels then use save for web options which do underrtand pixels but not print settings so they aalways think the document is set to 72 PPI, which in this case means not set. Not that the document hjas a 72 PPI setting.

And in the off chance that you want to do both, then there is no solution but to rethink how the world really works.


Why 72 PPI, well it turns out adobe calculates things in postscript points. Which is a unit they have defined. They are just using a age old math/physics guide that says if you dont have a unit scale your computation so that number 1 is easy to deal with. They did that.

* in hindsight this would have been easy because now we would need to teach nearly four generations.

  • Thank you so much for such a thorough explanation, this helps a ton! Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 3:57

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