Canvas sizes - inches and dpi and pixels

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By Qinni
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This is a sort of guide on canvas sizes, inches, dpi and pixel x pixels.

when it came to canvas sizes, I always kind of assumed that inches belonged with dpi and pixels were just pixels and that everyone knew that; but i read a whole bunch of comments on a tumblr blog where someone asked about canvas sizes, and SO MANY people were replying with things such as, "4000x4000 px at 300 dpi" or "2000x2000 px at 200dpi".

and I guess not everyone quite understands what dpi's really used for xD.

DPI = Dots per Inch. It means how many dots will be printed per inch.

DPI is actually used for printing purposes. It shows the printer how much pixels to print per inch, literally. A common printer (at home or even at a lot of printing stores) at best prints at 150dpi most of the time actually; there are some super duper great printers that can print REALLY fine that can go up to ...apparently a lot more xD; #dpi, so that's why everyone usually suggests saving your project at 300dpi; most printers are fine with 300dpi, because anything above that is a little overkilling it. There are some super-fine printers though that can print up to maybe 600dpi, but those are not really that common. alright, so apparently it's pretty common =P~ but I've never found myself needing to go above 300dpi; stuff in 150dpi works well for me too, actually >_>;;~ Unless, of course, you're doing extremely high-quality fine-art prints that can sell up to $30-$60 a piece, because really high-quality prints (that requires 600+dpi) costs a lot to print in the first place, so I won't suggest this for anime/comic conventions ^^;~

so say I have a canvas at 5400 x 3600px, it literally means that I have a canvas that can be printed on a 18 x 12 inch paper at 300 dpi. If I have a 5400 x 3600px canvas at 200dpi, that pixels of the canvas don't change, but the inches on the physical paper can change to 27x18 inches when it comes to printing it. The canvas pixels aren't going to change just because you have it at 200dpi, so putting 200dpi, 300dpi or even 800dpi, it isn't going to make a difference digital canvas-wise. If you say something like "5400 x 3600px at 300 dpi", it's the same as saying "5400 x 3600px at 18 x 12 inches.". See how they don't mix? :)

Either put down how big it is in pixels (because you don't REALLY need the 300dpi if you're not printing it out), or if you have an intention of printing it out, do it in inches (or cm, if that's what you're used to) with a dpi attached.

Even photoshop makes it clear - The pixels are in the "Pixel-dimention" section, and the inches/cm/mm/etc and dpi is under the "Document-size" section.

TL;DR: Canvas inches and dpis are for physical prints only; Pixels are digital, so they don't mix with dpis or inches, etc. Digital and physical don't mix in a way that would make sense. Please don't say "2000 x 2000px at 300dpi"~ @_@;

I hope I made sense and cleared up some misconceptions about dpi and canvas sizes :). ….and i hope i didn't make a mistake here hahaha;;;.

sorry if i sounded like a know-it-all v_v;; i guess I found a new pet-peeve D;~…

damn, i wrote a lot; sorry, bad habit D:~!

edit: if you're a math-kindda person, you can also look at this mathamatically:

12 x 18inch at 300dpi =

12 x 300 dpi = 3600pixels
18 x 300 = 5400

therefore 12 x 18inch at 300dpi = 3600 x 5400pixels

and that's how you get the pixels vs inches + dpi.

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DATSUN-FIEND86's avatar
As a beginner to digital art, i found this useful. Thanks!
detecM's avatar
PeTroDuDE's avatar
Valuable info.. Thanks :)
fernandocoutinho's avatar
Thank you for sharing relevant information. It contributes a lot to everyone.
xxRisunaxx's avatar
thank you so much for the math equation~! it helped me understand this >w<
Engineerista's avatar
I am trying to design a Dakimakura of 20x54"...I keep trying to set the physical size for a highres print, but can't get the physical size I want. Any chance you can help? I use Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, but the settings are very similar to Photoshop. I have a menu to image size and a menu for canvas size.
melancholicdaisies's avatar
This is fair, but I think people are entirely justified to say "X by Y pixels at Z DPI" because you can't fix DPI once an image is set (as in if you want to print at a certain DPI, you'll just have to decrease the size of the image if DPI is too small). So When people make that statement,they are doing creating a safety net by assuming that the asking artist may be interested in printing. Also, there is a direct correlation between DPI and inches, so it actually doesn't make a difference to change inches or DPI on sai since it automatically converts it.
party-mcfly's avatar
This cleared soooo much up for me
Owlxie's avatar
sorry if this is a noob question but is the resolution section on sai when making a new canvas the same as DPI? i feel pretty nooby asking this and i've been using SAI for a year hehe -nervously sweats-
Qinni's avatar
the units used for size should be marked down on SAI. i haven't used SAI in a while though so I can't remember if it had inches, but it should always say whether it's in pixels or inches. If it's in inches, there will always be a DPI section for you to input. If it's in pixels, dpi is not necessary. 
TheDerpyEnthusiast's avatar
I feel your pain. I don't know either.
what canvas size should i use if im making a youtube banner
Joydom29's avatar
Hmm. Seems interesting. Mind if I ask you, but what is the average size of canvas for something like a tutorial? Those long deviations? Since I'm wondering if I can use that canvas size for my closed species.
Petros-Stefanidis's avatar
Really helpful man. Thank you for posting.
singularitycomplex's avatar
My printer only prints at 600 dpi, it's a newer HP Photosmart, so I'm getting overkill regardless. Why would I print an image at 3600x5400 and have every 1 "dot" end up being printed as 4? Well the answer is quite simple really: because my computer sucks monkey balls and wouldn't be able to handle 7200x10800 pixel images, lmao. 
singularitycomplex's avatar
God damn dA needs a way of deleting comments. 
usagi-loops's avatar
I believe there's a way: on the top right corner of your comment there is a pencil icon. Click it and it will give you the choice to edit or hide your comment. Think two times before commenting. Just a kind advise, 'kay?
YuukiHikari's avatar
I had a general idea beforehand, but never really had a firm understanding.  That math though... that makes it make perfect sense.  Thanks so much!
gaarapandachan's avatar
I've been looking for something like this! what are good dementions for a webcomic? usually i scan stuff in, but i want to start drawing digitally - but whenever i do the pictures end up pixelated when i zoom in a bit, and i can't seem to do any proper detail. (using paint tool SAI btw) i thought it was something to do with a low DPI setting but apparently not...?
Orcha3000's avatar
ok so if you wanted to make a pixel icon how big would the canvas be?
Thanks this was really helpful.
sockstealingnome's avatar
So if you want to print something out at say poster size, it isn't necessary to paint it around the same canvas size?
Qinni's avatar
I'm not sure what you mean here, but it's necessary to paint however big you want to print it as, at at least 300dpi.
sockstealingnome's avatar
Ok that's what I thought. After a certain size my program crashes though. I guess I need a better computer.
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