I created a project in Photoshop that contains text, fully aware that Illustrator would have been the proper way, but I am a photographer and my skills lie within Photoshop so that is what I went with.

My issue is that I basically took a screenshot of a website, made changes to some of the elements, then want to scale this to print out on a standard 8.5x11 sheet. The screenshot that I took was 996px x 1584px at a resolution of 72.

How do I best export this to print without degradation of quality or artifacts around the text? I first tried to export it to print to PDF, and set it to scale image to fit page. This produced artifacts around much of the text.

Here is an example: enter image description here Here is an example of the output: enter image description here

  • 2
    Screen shots are inherently low res. As such, IMHO, there's no reason to pretend they aren't when printing them out. – DA01 Dec 7 '11 at 20:28
  • 1
    Yep, I'd just leave it as it is. I suppose you could have printed the screenshot to PDF and worked on that, though. – e100 Dec 8 '11 at 16:58
  • While I agree with the two comments above, this was kind of a special case, as the expectations of the "customer" were not aware of the screenshot quality, and I did not set those expectations as such:) – dpollitt Dec 8 '11 at 17:02

Unfortunately, at the size of your screenshot there could be a million "artifacts" and none would be discernible. Here's what I suspect you're seeing (because I can't): the text from the screenshot becomes pixelated doggy-doo when you print.

To get clean-looking text on a desktop inkjet printer, you need real text (vector data), or your document as a whole must be a minimum 300 ppi or higher at the printed size. Images are much more forgiving, but text is not. Our eyes expect text to be pin sharp, so anything less is visible and offensive.

In this case, you have three problems combining to produce visual sewage:

  • Your document is only 996 pixels wide. (Ignore the "72 ppi" bit; "per inch" is only there to tell software what size -- pixels divided by "pixels per inch" -- to print it. You can make the "per inch" anything you like; the image doesn't change.) Your print software has only those pixels to work with, so at 8 inches wide you have an effective resolution of about 125 ppi.

  • All text that is part of the original screenshot is already rasterized and has at least some anti-aliasing applied.

  • Photoshop applies its own anti-aliasing to text added with the text tool, depending on the setting you chose in the control panel and the absolute resolution of the document. The bad news is that Photoshop doesn't send any vector data to the printer, so that pixelated, anti-aliased image of the text is what actually prints. That would be okay if all those pixels weren't then being enlarged, but they are.

Whereas Illustrator and other vector programs "think" in Postscript or a close relative, Photoshop does not. Vectors, to Photoshop, are just a handy way of corralling pixels. So when you ask your printer driver (probably not the most sophisticated image processor out there) to scale up this image, it is scaling not just the text itself, but also the anti-aliasing pixels added by Photoshop.

The net result of that is an attack of the uglies.

So, to answer your question, there is no way to print this screenshot as-is without serious degradation of the text. What you could do, if you felt it worth the trouble, would be to scale it up in Photoshop to 8.5 inches wide at 300 ppi, then remove all the text in the screenshot and replace it with new text typed in Photoshop. You will still have some degradation in the image, but your text will look reasonably crisp.

Otherwise, convert the document resolution to 300 ppi and print without scaling. That will give you the best result, and plenty of extra space on the paper for notes. :-)

  • You pretty much hit on every piece I was wondering about. First of all, you explained how images are more forgiving, and that I why I am a bonehead about this to begin with, because I think in terms of photos not text. I will add an example of what the "uglies" look like, but I think you have hit the nail on the head already. – dpollitt Dec 7 '11 at 22:49
  • So to get "reasonable" results, I would have to make my image 2550x3300 to get effective resolution around 300ppi at letter size? I think you are suggesting increasing "Image Size" to scale up everything, because the images in my screenshot will scale fairly well. Then go back and replace all text with new. I don't have a problem replacing all text with new text, and a bit of degradation is acceptable, this is not for a professional piece. To be clear, in the future, if I just started with 350ppi equiv canvas's, I will get decent results? That is if I'm not planning on switching- Illustrator. – dpollitt Dec 7 '11 at 22:50
  • If you're at 2550x3300 you've got something that is fine for rough printing. You're going to find that when you do scale up you'll also be scaling up the anti-alias pixels. You could try using some Smart Sharpen after the fact, to see if that helps with the text, but it will get mushy when you resize, so you may have to NSO (Nuke and Start Over) for at least the small text sizes. – Alan Gilbertson Dec 8 '11 at 0:57
  • I scaled up to 2500x3000 or so to enlarge the images, then replaced all of the text with new text layers in PS. Worked great, looks great for my application. Thank you! – dpollitt Dec 8 '11 at 17:01
  • 1
    You're welcome. That's what this SE is all about. :) – Alan Gilbertson Dec 8 '11 at 19:58

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