I am working on a low res image (artwork for a retro-style video game). In the "Image Size" dialog I have set the resolution to 21 pixels per inch, and the document size says its about 6"x6". However when I run cmd+0 (set zoom to 100%), it still looks like its at 144 res: enter image description here

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • 1
    PPI and Inches have literally no meaning until you print it. You can change the resolution to 1PPI then to 1000PPI and it would still look exactly the same on screen.
    – Cai
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 0:34
  • Makes sense. No thoughts on how to set a different viewing resolution though huh? Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 0:44
  • 1
    Just set a higher zoom level i guess.
    – Cai
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


PPI and physical dimensions such as Inches have literally no meaning until you print the image. Resolution and physical dimensions are essentially metadata attached to the image that are only used to determine how the image is printed. You could change the resolution of an image to 1PPI then to 1000PPI and it would still look exactly the same on a screen.

The only dimensions that matter on a screen are pixels. On screen an images size is determined by the number of pixels in the image and thats it. A pixel is a pixel is a pixel (with high density screens, sometimes not anymore but thats another subject).

The only real solution to making your images look bigger on screen is either work at a larger scale or zoom further in :)


When working on images for the screen, set the resolution at 72 dpi because that is like zeroing your resolution ruler. It is one pixel per point, it is universally understood to mean 1:1 pixel ratio (show each pixel of the artwork in one pixel of the display) and it is the lowest sensible number because it corresponds to the actual resolution of the first graphical computer. There are no computer screens (or printers) with less than 72 dpi and never were.

One thing to consider when making this kind of low-res style artwork is to work in vectors. It is counterintuitive but has many advantages. You set up a grid in a vector drawing tool to represent virtual pixels, and you draw each pixel as a vector block that fills one square of grid. Then you can easily render your artwork at any size, for any purpose (Web renders at 1x, 2x, 3x, or a marketing poster image for example) and you can color with Styles, make a brush that draws the right sized block, and even color each virtual pixel with a gradient if you like. You can achieve the low-res style without actually suffering the disadvantages of low-res. That is a common technique for this kind of artwork.

  • 72PPI has nothing to do with pixel ratio and in no way means show pixels 1:1 (If that was the case, this question wouldn't exist!). That will happen regardless. It is a hangover from Apples attempt to get text to display the same size in print and on screen (since there are 72 points per inch)
    – Cai
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 11:21
  • @SimonWhite thank you for answering the question I SHOULD have been asking. A follow-up question: how do you set up a brush that draws the right sized block? I'm intimately familiar working with vector graphics by way of the pen tool and direct edit tool etc, but have never used a brush like this. Thanks! Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 17:32

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