I have designed a web header 1000x98 at 72 ppi using Macromedia Fireworks for our website and we are planning to print a billboard using that header? The printer has told us that he needs the image at 600dpi? What are my options? Will I be able to do it?

Thank You

  • 5
    Does photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4779/… answer your question?
    – mattdm
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 11:29
  • I think this is a better question for Graphic Design than photography. The question is more about output production than DPI vs PPI literally. Something to which a designer should NOT be inept.
    – Dawson
    Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 5:41
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    Check with the printer again...I would hope he's not planning on printing a 30' billboard @ 600dpi
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 0:10
  • 1
    +1 @DA01 made me laugh out loud. ...pictured someone at the billboard company watching 1 bb slowly being printed their entire work day.
    – Dawson
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 8:36

3 Answers 3


DPI (digital dots or pixels)/PPI defined:

300 dpi/ppi = 300 pixels used for every 1 inch line of ink coverage.

1000 pixels will yield a 3.3333 inch line @ 300 dpi of resolution

DPI and PPI have been used interchangeably (though not always accurately) since pixels entered the printing industry. DPI comes from halftone/screen dots in offset printing. If a greater number of dots can be reliably applied to a given media (paper) the finished print will appear more like a photograph (continuous tone) rather than a halftone (a series of fine dots).

Scale your web banner into a billboard (BB):

Your web graphic is 72 pixels per inch, and that would actually work - provided it was sized at 100%*. But a 1000px web banner is only going to print at about 3.5in wide @ 300 dpi - so you have to scale it up to a BB height/width. Scaling up the physical size will proportionately scale down the resolution. So a 3.5in graphic scaled to a 7in height would cause the DPI to drop to 150. Scale that to 14in...75dpi, 28in...32.5dpi, and so on. Note: a 32.5 dpi file can actually work for some BB production, but in your case the physical height will only be 28", which is hardly a BB. Time to build a new file.

Do some math and convert your web banner into a BB. Your current banner = 1000px by 98px. Simplify that to 1000px by 100px. To make the math easy, lets say you need a BB that's 100ft x 10ft.

- 10ft height = 120 inches, or 36000px - we need DPI not dots per feet (300/in)

- 100ft width = 1200 inches, or 360000px

Ideally, you'd use a 120" x 1200" file @ your DPI requirement, and be done with it. But most software won't allow you to build a 1200in wide file, so you have to scale your artboards down to accommodate. The trick to that is to think in proportions that keep your math simple (1/4, 1/8, 1/10 scale). So if I were trying to build this example, I would create a document that was 120in x 12in @ 3000dpi (1/10th scale). Build your BB according to the design of your web banner. Then pass the file to the printer with instructions to print @ 10X, which would produce a 1200in (100ft) x 120in (10ft) piece of art @ 300 dpi (for a BB, 300 dpi is overkill). Note: Placed photography is not exempt here. If you need a photograph that's 10' tall, you're going to need to pay close attention to its DPI as you start to enlarge it.

Honestly, your BB guy could be asking for 600dpi so he has plenty of pixel information to work with. If you ask what his final printed DPI actually is, he may be able to help you create a smaller (KB) sized file. Definitely, open a dialogue with your provider - helping you helps them as well. They would love to get a file that needed 0 rework on their end.

Billboards are in a league of their own. You can't compare them to a poster, or the bitchin' $25000 dry ink printer at the shop. It's not the same. Generally speaking, viewers are 10s (or 100s) of feet away from the finished piece. Lower resolutions aren't detected by our eyes at those distances, let alone when we're zipping by on the freeway.

Check out LAMAR's FAQ page on DPI, scanning for billboards, etc. it's an interesting read. http://www.lamargraphics.com/lgweb/CustomerService/Contact_us/FAQ/Faq.htm

*LAMAR requires 100 dpi for HIGH RES (at 100% size).

  • 1
    I have to say I find this answer difficult to follow...
    – e100
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 13:02
  • Perhaps to summarize, if 100dpi is the standard for a billboard, then you need to find out the size of the billboard in inches, multiply that by 100 and that will be the pixel dimension you would ideally have to print with. So...10' wide billboard = 120 inches * 100dpi = 12000 pixels wide. A 1000 pixel wide image likely won't cut it.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 18:16
  • 1
    Edited my post to (hopefully) make it easier to understand. There are a lot of scaling issues with artboard size vs photo size vs dpi to consider when building these things. It's a piece of cake after the first 2 or 3, but that first one can be a challenge to someone new to the industry.
    – Dawson
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 21:16
  • I'd vote this answer up twice if I could. Great info and I found it easy enough to follow.
    – Farray
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 2:54
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    Absolutely true that Pixels have nothing to do with Dots Per Inch; however, if you research the transition of our industry-speak (or lived through it), one can see that DPI has come to mean the same as PPI. Ref. first sentence of my answer. I didn't want to muddy the water by getting off on that tangent.
    – Dawson
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 3:09

If the printer is asking for 600dpi, it means [he] either didn't understand the question or there has been a failure to communicate.

600dpi (dots per inch) is the resolution at which your billboard will be printed. There was a time, in the Long Long Ago, when that would have been considered pretty high-resolution stuff -- I remember having posters printed at 300dpi that looked perfectly fine at their intended distance. These days, that's pretty low-res -- something you couldn't stand to look at up close unless it was done on a true giclée printer, but more than serviceable for a billboard, and it can be printed in hours, not days.

When a printer tells you he needs an image at 600dpi, it means he's expecting you to do the RIP (Raster Image Processing). It also means he's expecting that your original image is a vector image (from a program like Illustrator), not a raster image, and needs to be translated/RIPped. You do not need to RIP an image that's already a raster image. Talk to your printer again, emphasizing that you are talking about a raster image, not a vector image, and ask him what the pixel (not dot) resolution should be. Don't be surprised if it's around 8-12 pixels per inch; that's really more than enough for a billboard-sized image viewed at billboard-type distances.

You probably do want to create (or recreate) a much higher-resolution version of your graphic, though, unless it consists entirely of horizontal and vertical straight lines. At 1000 pixels wide, you'll be able to get a pretty clean image around 10 feet wide, but at anything significantly beyond that the jaggies will start to become apparent to people with very good eyesight, even at a moderate distance. You probably wouldn't notice it in a photograph, but in a synthetic image the eye expects cleaner lines. You should be okay at around double the current size at any viewing distance.

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    "600dpi (dots per inch) is the resolution at which your billboard will be printed." -> I would hope not! That's crazy high resolution for a billboard.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 0:13
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    @DA01: That's 600 ink dots per inch, not 600 pixels per inch. DPI and PPI, despite what the accepted answer says, are not, and never have been, interchangeable in the printing industry. If the printer is asking for 600 DPI for a billboard, he's asking for a RIP, not an image file, and that RIP is based on a printer output resolution of 600 DPI. And when I said it used to be considered hi-res, 300 DPI was "standard" droplet density -- and giclée printers would make that density look smooth enough for final output for art prints (giclée wasn't always synonymous with inkjet). Commented May 27, 2011 at 0:16
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    Oh, and the screen frequency is (and always has been) stated as LPI (or simple "xxx-line" in North America, with the "per inch" being assumed) when discussing halftone -- a 200-line screen is extremely fine printing (think coffee table book). Commented May 27, 2011 at 0:21
  • ah, yes, good point on the PPI. That said, 600 dpi is still way too high of a resolution for a billboard. You can use it, but it's way overkill. I doubt anything more than 150dpi (and likely 72ppi images) would be noticeable from the highway.
    – DA01
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 2:54
  • One would hope that the printer isn't confusing PPI and DPI.
    – e100
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 16:52

Your printer probably meant that at this dimension (1000x98 pixels = 5.5" x 0.5" @72ppi), your artwork needs to be at least "600dpi". He wanted a 5.5" x 0.5" at 600dpi.

Printers rarely use "pixels" for dimensions, they use the standard metric or imperial system as units (inch, centimeter, etc.). They often use dpi and ppi to mean the printed resolution; in the end, that's the number he wants you to use in Photoshop or your graphic software.

At 600dpi, your 5.5" x 0.5" banner will in fact be over 5.5 feet wide @ 50dpi once printed. It can even be printed at 35dpi which means almost 8 feet of length. The request of the printer makes sense unless you asked for a bigger billboard!

The printer asked for this resolution since you can't always provide your files at the real life size the billboard will be; it's common practice to "concentrate" the resolution to a higher number and have a smaller dimension for the file instead.

Since you're working with a low resolution web banner, you will need to re-do your layout again, at the proper resolution and size!

As a tip... it's good to ask the printer what size in inches or centimeters should be the artwork and also what resolution he prefers. This way there's less confusion.

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