What is DPI on the printer?

Find out what this acronym means and understand why it is so important in the world of prints. 

Do you know exactly what DPI is on a printer? You can see, this information is present in the technical sheet of all models, but we don’t always know what it is for specifically.

In this article, we will answer all your questions about this subject and make your life easier when choosing a new printer model. Although this is an indication of quality, it is also worth remembering that the quality of your file itself counts a lot. Printers do not work miracles and will not be able to print high-resolution images whose source file does not have a compatible resolution.

What is DPI?

DPI stands for “Dots per Inch”, which in direct translation means “Dots per Inch”. When it comes to printing, this means the following: that in one inch of space a given printer is capable of filling X print points. Just then, you can already conclude that the more printing points a machine is capable of producing, the higher quality it must present.

Let’s go with a simple example to make everything clearer. Suppose you have a printer whose resolution is 600 DPI. This means that in the space of an inch it will be able to subdivide that image to be printed into 600 dots.

On the other hand, a printer with a resolution of 1,200 DPI will be able to print 1,200 dots in the same one-inch space. In other words, the image printed by this second model will have greater uniformity and, consequently, will present a more interesting look. That’s why those who need to print good quality images should prefer printers with higher DPIs.

Keep an eye on the source image

Just as a printer with more DPIs is capable of printing higher quality images, they are also capable of accentuating defects in poor quality images. That’s why you need to keep an eye on the resolution of the image that will be printed. Their quality is also indicated in DPIs.

A 100 DPI image printed on a 1200 DPI machine tends to sharpen the fact that its source image is bad. A measure considered reasonable in printable images is 300 DPI. If you’ve ever submitted materials to a print shop, you’ve certainly received this type of recommendation. The rule also applies to conventional printers.

When it comes to printers for commercial and residential use, 300 DPI is an interesting number to follow, as it manages to present an image of reasonable quality without implying the generation of a very large file. Now, if you are thinking of other types of printing, especially large format (such as billboards or pieces of urban furniture) the recommendation is always to ask for guidance from the responsible printer so that there is no risk of your images being “blown out”.

Does the DPI rule only apply to images?

Yes and no. The process of filing an image or a letter on the printer is exactly the same. What happens is that when filling an image, a certain point (or pixel, if you take the image as a starting point) has different shades of colour and does not always represent a continuous geometric shape.

In the case of text printing, the letters are “simple” in the eyes of the printer, as there are patterns of shapes and sizes, so that even printers with lower DPI can represent them very well. To the naked eye, the difference between text printed on a 600 DPI or 1200 DPI printer is not significant. However, when we talk about an image, the differences are accentuated a lot.


Which printer resolution to choose?

It all depends on your goal. Today, there are printers on the market with resolutions ranging from 150 DPI to 6,000 DPI. If you’re going to print common indoor use, with few images and betting a lot more on text, a printer with 300 DPI resolution is enough.

If you intend to print some kind of graphic material, work with graphic arts or expect a little more colour realism, the 1200 DPI models are a good choice for office use. Finally, if you are a professional photographer and demand the highest possible quality in printing, bet on models with a resolution above 1,200 DPI.

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