For example: Say I have an image that is going to be displayed at 1000px wide.

I want to optimize my site for retina displays, but the largest resolution image I have to put here is only 1900pixel wide.

Is there any unwanted visual effect to scaling down the image by unusual percentages? eg. A 1900pixel wide image being displayed at 1000px wide on a retina device, instead of a 2000pixel wide image.

1 Answer 1


Usually there will be no adverse visual effect when scaling proportionally downwards; however, I have seen cases where something funky happens and the rendering engine in certain browsers makes an image appear too sharp when downsizing. I have seen it happen more than once so it isn't an anomaly, but it is rare and doesn't happen with all images. You should know that browsers are increasingly becoming proficient with their rendering engines, so this might even be a problem of 2012 and you won't see it anymore.

I would do some testing though and see if you can't break something yourself. I will say that this doesn't happen enough to be a concern, if anything I would be more concerned with the loading times of retina images.

  • Thanks, loading times are definitely a concern. The solution/compensation I have in mind is to use lazy loading and position my media queries so that retina images are only loaded on retina devices. If someone has the latest macbook with retina display, I'm going to roll the dice assuming they pay for decent internet.
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 13:57
  • In that case you might be surprised about the market for under $10 plastic macbook pro laptop covers. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 14:01
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    Images will always look better if you are downsizing by half, quarter etc. If you downsize by a weird ratio, that is when you can sometimes run into trouble as the browser has a less obvious decision to make about which pixel goes where. Something like 1900 -> 1000 shouldn't cause a problem though.
    – John
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 14:25
  • John's comment is especially true for images that contain "line art" (rules, text, etc.). Photos not so much.
    – horatio
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 15:03

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