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How To Change the DPI in MS Paint

Posted by Jamie on December 20, 2018

It’s reader question time again and today it’s about image resolution. The full question was, ‘What is image resolution all about, why should I care and what resolution is best for publishing on my blog? Also, how can I change the DPI in MS Paint? Two separate questions but linked so I’ll answer both in this tutorial.

Image resolution is an important subject to understand if you’re a blogger, Instagrammer, want to be an above average Snapchatter or want your images to look good online. It is also a little complex and while we may know how many megapixels our camera phones are capable of, few know how that relates to image resolution or what resolution works best online.

What is image resolution?

Image resolution relates to how many pixels an image holds. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the more detailed the image. The more detailed the image is, the larger its file size. A lower resolution image would contain fewer pixels and therefore less detail. It would also be a smaller file.

It may help to think of a pixel as a mosaic tile. Individually, it may mean nothing but placed within a larger image, it contributes to the whole. The smaller the tile and the more tiles in a mosaic, the more detailed the image.

Image resolution is measured in PPI, Pixels Per Inch and the higher the number, the more detailed the image. The lower the number the less detailed and larger those pixels are to make up the image. Go too low and you see each individual pixel and the image becomes ‘pixelated’, meaning you can see each square rather than the detailed image.

PPI vs DPI

DPI, Dots Per Inch sound similar to PPI but are not. PPI refers to how many pixels appear on a screen while DPI refers to how many pixels appear when printed. Confusing I know but someone thought dividing them was a good idea. Or at least not renaming them when dot matrix printers became a thing of the past.

Even more confusing is that there is no set standard for DPI. Different printers will have different ways of processing this so you never quite know what you’re going to get unless you know your printer.

Screens display pixels in fixed sizes and the pixel density is decided by the screen and not the image. Most HD monitors will display between 72 and 300ppi regardless of the image resolution. Printers do not have fixed pixels sizes. Instead, most non-laser printers will print CMYK dots of varying sizes depending on how you have set up the image.

When you’re dealing with DPI, the question you need to ask yourself is not how many DPI you’re dealing with but how large they will be. Newspapers tend to print at 85dpi and you can see the individual dots when you go up close. For most commercial print jobs, 150dpi is the practical minimum but can be a lot more.

As the first part of our question relates to a blog, you would be more concerned with Pixels Per Inch as they appear on screen, not DPI. The second part, about changing DPI in MS Paint, is likely concerned with printing the image, so DPI is more of a factor. Even though the two terms are used interchangeably, they are technically different.

What resolution is best for publishing online?

When preparing images for the web, you have to balance detail with file size. You want a high enough image resolution to look good but don’t want the file to be so large that it slows down page loading. The industry standard is 72ppi but this is outdated as PPI doesn’t affect loading time, file size does.

As most cameras and camera phones manufactured in the last ten years or so are plenty enough for high resolution images, all you need to do is resize a good quality image to the dimensions you need. You then need to compress that image to be the smallest possible. If your image placeholder is 800 pixels wide, resize the image to that and use image compression to shrink the file size without compromising quality too much. Two web services for shrinking file sizes are http://www.shrinkpictures.com and http://www.picresize.com.

How can I change DPI in MS Paint?

Changing the DPI in MS Paint is only relevant if you’re planning to print. As you now know, if you’re preparing an image for the web, DPI is irrelevant. It is also defined by the image quality so while you can see the DPI, you cannot change it.

  1. Open your image in MS Paint.
  2. Select File from the top menu and then Properties.

The DPI should be listed in the center next to Resolution.

Image resolution is a complex subject and I have only scratched the surface here in order to answer the question(s) asked. There are hundreds of sites on the web that can explain things much better than I can. Check them out if you want to learn more.

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