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I have a 6000 x 6000 pixel scan of artwork that I need to scale down to about 1180 x 1180 pixels to be printed. However, no matter how I scale down this piece of art, the quality is substantially degraded.

The original scan, when zoomed in up-close on one area, looks like this:

enter image description here

However, when I scale the image down to size, and then zoom in on that image, it looks like this:

enter image description here

The scaled down size of the image is 1180 x 1180 pixels. This is still a really high resolution and I feel like I should be able to get the art scan to this size without so much distortion.

I have tried all interpolation methods (linear, cubic, noHalo, loHalo, and even none) and still get poor results.

Is there some technique or setting I'm missing? Thanks!

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  • I know that this should be physically possible. I had the original 6000x6000 piece printed on a 12" x 12" piece of paper at staples and the quality looks great. At some point, inside the computer at Staples, they must have scaled the image down to size.
    – Keegan
    Jun 8 '21 at 17:11
  • Print quality is not the same as a reduction. A 6000px x 6000px image will look great printed at any physical size from 20" or smaller. There is no scaling taking place for printing. It's a matter of pixel density and dots per inch.. In short you are comparing a 300dpi+ print to a 72ppi digital image.. not the same thing.
    – Scott
    Jun 8 '21 at 17:25
  • @Scott , I actually just figured out my issue. My project had a very low PPI. Raising it allowed me to use the image at near full resolution. Thank you!
    – Keegan
    Jun 8 '21 at 17:29
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There's no 'technique' that can be employed when you are discarding 96% of your image data.

You are literally throwing away detail that cannot be preserved in such a small space. Your image is going from 36 million pixels down to just 1.4 million, the rest went in the bin.

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  • I had this piece physically printed by a shop at 12" x 12", which is approximately 1200x1200. The print quality looks great! How did they manage to do it? I assume, at some point, they had to have downscaled the image to fit the paper size.
    – Keegan
    Jun 8 '21 at 17:17
  • @keegan there's no need to resample images to print them smaller.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 8 '21 at 18:58
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I solved my issue:

It turns out that my project's PPI (Pixels Per Inch) was very low. This was an artefact of the design template I had imported (this is for a record sleeve). Raising the PPI allowed me to use my images at near full resolution. So, if any noobs like me are running into similar issues, check on your pixels per inch!

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  • PPI doesn't actually affect the quality of an image. It does in print, but it's not the true resolution of a digital image. When you raise the PPI without resampling the image (i.e. without changing its pixel dimensions), you are basically printing the image at a smaller size. The problem you've noticed is with resampling (physically resizing the image) which always degrades image quality. This can be confusing for those new to image editing. Perhaps read The Myth of DPI (an old article but still very relevant).
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 8 '21 at 18:56

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