I am creating a A4 Print PDF file from InDesign. From the InDesign file I am doing the following:

File > Adobe PDF presets > High Quality Print

Following this process exports a PDF file from InDesign which is pretty good for printing. However, the problem is that I have images in my InDesign file which are only 72 DPI, and with the High Quality Print PDF preset all the images are converted to 300 PPI. This makes them look pixelated.

First Question: What is the diffrence between PPI and DPI?

Second Question: If I save/export as a custom PDF profile with the image settings set to 72 PPI is there any chance I'll get a high quality A4 print?

Third Question: How can I get a high quality A4 print with only 72 DPI images?

2 Answers 2


In general, Pixels per Inch is for screen resolutions and Dots per Inch is for print resolutions, as lawndartcatcher says, but when you're dealing with an image that will be printed at a specific size, it is correct to use Pixels per Inch (because the image is in pixels) regardless of the number of dots per inch that the printer will lay down on the paper. (A 72 ppi image will print at 72 pixels per inch, whether the printer resolution is 300, 600 or 2800 dots per inch.)

To understand how this works in relation to a layout program like InDesign, you have to really grasp the difference between an image resolution in pixels, and an image size on paper in centimeters or inches. It is output size in inches that determines the pixels-per-inch. Image metadata contains a ppi number so you can work out how big it will be when printed at that resolution. It has almost no other use.

F8 in InDesign toggles the Info panel, and you should work with it extensively when you have images in a document.

The Info panel shows two resolution numbers for an image, both in ppi for the reason I gave in the first paragraph. The first number, called "Actual ppi," is the ppi recorded in the metadata for that image. This is commonly 72 ppi for images you'll find on the web and from small digicams, 240 ppi for images from DSLR cameras, etc.. This is an "information only" number, and of no practical importance in a layout. I really wish they had left it out, because it serves no useful purpose and (as in this case) simply confuses the issue.

The number you have to pay attention to is the "Effective ppi," because that directly affects print quality. An image that is 600x600 pixels, placed as a 2 inch square image, has an effective resolution of 300 ppi, regardless of what the metadata says. That same image placed as a 6-inch square has an effective resolution of 100 ppi. A 300 ppi (in metadata) image may be only 50 ppi when placed in the document at the print size specified. Similarly, a 72 ppi image may be 450 ppi at the size it has been given in the document. You get the idea.

If the effective resolution of an image on export is less than the target ppi (usually 300, but not always), InDesign will not upsample the image. If it's 72 ppi effective in the InDesign document, it will be 72 ppi effective in the PDF. And yes, that will look pretty bad when it's printed.

If you have an 4 inch x 4 inch (10cm x 10cm) image that says it is 72 ppi (i.e., it's 288 pixels wide and tall), you can place that in InDesign at 1 inch (2.5 cm) square and you'll be fine. But you can't make it 10 cm square and expect it to look good in print.

  • "InDesign will not upsample the image" hmz...good to know. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 8:07
  • OK... solution? what would you do if you had no other choice but 72 ppi images for an A4 Print ? I'm thinking resample and to get rid of small bad looking stuff on the image I'll add some sort of transparent texture...something like this Photoshop filter : featurepics.com/FI/Thumb300/20080425/… that is applied to this image...but maybe I'll find something better. I know this is like "bad practice" ... like Don't do it! But when you have no other choice you have to work with what you've got... Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 8:25
  • Another issue I have is with this one single image, its 1300 x 1000 px at 300 ppi, yupee!! but when I Place it in InDesign and then use right click then > Transform > Clear Transformations. Ends up being 312 x 240 px at Actual & Effective 300 ppi....and of course if I Transform it to make it bigger the effective ppi drops :(, which I now kind of undersant....but why is only 312 x 240 px in the InDesign file when the actual image file is 1300 x 1000 px ? why is InDesign so darn confusing... Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 8:49
  • There is no reason to Clear Transformations. Just drag the image into InDesign and drag out the box to the size you want. You can use the Fit options in the Control Panel or the Object menu. But if an image is 1300x1000, it will not change when Placed in ID. You may have a corrupted image, or you may need to reset your ID preferences (Ctl-Alt-Shift while ID is loading). Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 9:01
  • 1
    @FlaviusFrantz If you are going to print the piece on a digital press, you can usually get away with 150 ppi. 100-120 might be acceptable, if the images don't have a lot of fine detail, but it's risky. Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 0:37

1) This article explains the difference between DPI and PPI the best I've seen thus far. In short, DPI (Dots per inch) has to do with the specific printer / print method you're using, whereas PPI (pixels per inch) refers to the exact number of pixels in your image.

2) No. 72 PPI won't magically become higher res. The old programming term is GIGO. You might avoid some issues with weird scaling and pixelation (although InDesign is pretty good about this) but you can't create image information that's not there.

3) Get higher resolution images. It sounds as if you may be using images you found on the web (where 72 ppi is the standard); can you get 300 ppi versions from the original source? or, alternately, can you get vector versions (.ai, .eps, .svg)? Those would eliminate all of these issues since vector images don't have the same scaling issues as raster images do.

  • 2
    I would say you are wrong in point 1: "PPI [...] refers to the exact number of pixels in your image". This is not true. PPI is, for almost all purposes, identical to DPI. In a computer image, INCHES DO NOT EXIST. The "per inch" is only relevant when output is produced. A 1000 pixel wide image is exactly 1000 pixels at 300dpi/ppi or 72 dpi/ppi. However, that exact same 1000px image will be about 3 inches @ 300dpi and 13 inches @ 72dpi
    – horatio
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 14:11
  • Also JPG can be provided with 300pi+ as well
    – kaiser
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 16:34
  • 1
    @horatio - you're correct; thanks. I should have clarified this. But PPI is still the measurement he should be looking at as far as document resolution/ Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 17:49
  • 1
    n.p. I was trying to clarify. Your link actually states things pretty well. For the record I used caps for emphasis, not for yelling! :)
    – horatio
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 17:53
  • @horatio FYI, comments and answers use Markdown so if you don't want to YELL you can simply emphasize things like this.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 14:50

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