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Detangling DPI by Raeistic Detangling DPI by Raeistic
TUMBLR FRIENDLY VERSION HERE
Let's talk about DPI.
I've heard people ask, "If I make an image in Photoshop and I want to bring it into After Effects, what DPI should it be to be good quality?"
Or on Deviantart: "I made my canvas 2500x3000 pixels @300DPI."
No. That's not how it works xD

DISCLAIMER: This guide is targeted mainly at people who work digitally, for digital/web output, set their document size via pixels, and rarely print, but still set their DPI thinking it changes something about the quality of their digital pixels. Obviously if you work specifically for print, DPI is going to matter a lot more to you than pixels. In that case this guide is not really meant for you, but the information still applies nonetheless.

Advanced cropping, resizing, resampling in Photoshop from Adobe, in case you still don't understand and/or want to read about more advanced specifics regarding image resolution.

OTHER CLARIFICATIONS:
PPI = Pixels Per Inch

PPI is often used interchangeably with DPI. They are not, however, the same thing. PPI is device-dependent while DPI is image-dependent. (Though if you want to get technical about it, PPI is for screens (Screen Resolution), DPI is for printers (Print Resolution), and the image resolution is neither DPI nor PPI, it's the 'Image Resolution,' measured in pixels-per-inch. The DPI and Image Resolution are so closely related though that they may as well be the same thing, I refer to them as the same thing, and for the sake of this guide I am also referring to them as the same thing, since most people know it as DPI anyway). I know, crazy right?

PPI is for screens. A screen with a higher PPI will fit more pixels into every inch of its screen size, giving you higher quality visuals. The higher the PPI of a screen, the smaller the pixels get, and newer monitors tend to have higher PPI (retina displays, anyone?). It’s why, when you got that shiny new Windows computer, your icons/windows/everything all seemed to be smaller than the ones from your old one.They show you that same 256x256 image in their new, smaller pixels, resulting in a higher quality, less pixelated look. More info about Pixel Dimensions, Image Resolution, and Screen Resolution at Adobe here.

Also, the Resampling section applies only to bitmap images. Resampling images (ie changing their pixel dimensions) is okay for vector graphics, since they're scalable essentially indefinitely without losing quality. But you already knew that, right? ;]

EDIT: Adjusted the wording in a couple of places in the hopes of making it a bit clearer.
EDIT2: Added links for more info, adjusted more wording.

Rosie the Riveter painting by J. Howard Miller, retrieved from the website of the Virginia Historical Society. This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice. More info here and here
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-04-17
Detangling DPI by ~Raeistic ( Suggested by L0NES0ME and Featured by PirateLotus-Stock )
:iconlawsdraws:
lawsdraws Oct 28, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Very helpful, thank you! 
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:iconraeistic:
Raeistic Oct 28, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I'm glad you found it useful (:
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:iconmarakamiya:
marakamiya Jun 1, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh my god. I wonder how many drawings I've resampled O_O (most likely all of them)
Always learning.
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:iconraeistic:
Raeistic Jun 1, 2013  Student Digital Artist
x) Yup, we're always learning. But depending on what you actually meant to do, the actual consequences of resampling your image could vary from 'it's not that bad' to 'ugh yea never do that again' hahaha.
For example, if you meant to resize a picture's pixel dimensions down because you wanted to put it online, then that's not that bad. You ended up doing it, albeit probably in a messy, un-ideal way. Lowering the DPI while the Resample button is checked would take out pixels and make your pixel dimensions smaller, making an image more ideal for online use. So, not that bad, however, next time you should just resize the pixel dimensions so you get nice numbers like 600x800 instead of 493x851 or something x)
However, if you took a look at the DPI number in Photoshop and said, "Hey, this is only 72 DPI, let me just crank that up so it's higher quality," and it was your FINAL piece instead of just the start, a sketch that you would then ink/color/work over digitally... then yea that's bad x)
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:iconsinclair13:
sinclair13 May 8, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
This is so helpful! :D Thanks :D
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:iconobaba:
Thanks. This is one of the basics that can get overlooked in the process.
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:iconlilyofthesword:
LilyOfTheSword Apr 18, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
It's nice to see that there is someone out there who understands this! :dummy:
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:iconraeistic:
Raeistic Apr 18, 2013  Student Digital Artist
^^
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:iconveethry:
Veethry Apr 18, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ALL THIS TIME

I never unchecked that resample size button :iconcryforeverplz:
No wonder why the resulted image file always get rescaled to 72 DPI (if I get this correctly).

So if we are working to print the image, the size will get rescaled depending on our DPI image? Like, if I have been working on a A4 canvas in 72 DPI, the image won't fit the whole paper when it gets printed in 350 DPI?
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:iconraeistic:
Raeistic Apr 18, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Hmm, no, checking the Resample button won't change the resolution by itself, it just changes the pixel dimensions... the resolution only changes if YOU change it, you save out a Web Version file, or you UNcheck the Resample Image size and then change the Inches in the document size. Try it (:
Your second point though, is essentially correct. If you set up an A4 canvas in 72DPI, you're only giving it enough pixels to print with 72 pixels for each inch IN THAT A4 SIZE. Then when you go to print it and change your mind about its print quality and change it to 350DPI (without resampling, because otherwise it's going to resize your pixels and make them all blurry and that's bad), then you're going to take that limited number of pixels and you're going to squish it into 350 pixels every inch, instead of 72, so of course it's going to fit on less paper. If you set up an A4 canvas in 350DPI though, then you will get a LOT more pixels to work with, so when you print at 350DPI, it will fit exactly on an A4 paper size because you had it set up that way. (:
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