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I'm thinking of purchasing a photo on iStock to make a poster size print. I'm pretty familiar with resolution and how it works, but before forking out the money and ending up with a print that might not be how I want, I just want to see how much I can scale the image, which is now 5474 x 3649 px (18.25 x 12.16 in.) @ 300 dpi, before the quality shifts. I'd like to keep it as sharp as possible, but I did want to have either the height or width at least 30in. If I try to do that with this particular image will it noticeably ruin/distort the quality?

marked as duplicate by Cai, joojaa, Westside, Manly, Emilie Jun 22 '17 at 1:47

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The image size (5474 x 3649) you have is good enough to print at any size you want - even billboard size - you don't need to do anything to it. It doesn't need to be rescaled or resampled. In fact I strongly advise against doing that or you will degrade the image quality.

The reason this works is because of the viewing distance. A large format print or even a billboard is designed to be viewed from a distance.

You can think of it like a huge TV screen - close up you can see the dots/pixels that make up the display screen, but from normal viewing distances, from a position where you can see the entire screen comfortably, the dots/pixels are not visible.

Large format prints are generally printed at somewhere between 72 to 150dpi. 300dpi is for prints you are going to view close up - such as A4 size, or in a publication. If you print your image at 30" high, you'll be printing it at around 182 dpi - this is absolutely fine for an image such as the one you describe.

For this same reason, huge billboards are often printed at even lower resolution, like 20dpi or less. These are designed to be viewed from a passing car, or from across the street.

  • The poster/print is going to be hung on a wall where it will be looked at closely - I guess I should have made that more clear. Thats why I was wondering how much it will degrade if I try to scale it, because it will be looked at closely. Even though its 300dpi. So if I scale to 30" it should be fine? – Alex Monterville Jun 6 '17 at 9:23
  • How close? You'd have to be a few inches away to see the pixels at 182dpi - or use a magnifying glass or something. Who would do that? Resampling the image to print at 300dpi won't give you more detail, in fact quite the opposite - resampling causes a degree of blurring. – Billy Kerr Jun 6 '17 at 9:27
  • If you are really worried about this - then have two prints made - one resampled and one not. Prints are cheap. – Billy Kerr Jun 6 '17 at 9:36
  • Inspector Gadget might🕵️ not worried but just wanted to make sure - actually forgot that resampling wouldn't help with the detail so that step and doing two different prints will definitely help. – Alex Monterville Jun 6 '17 at 10:13

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