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Canvas sizes - inches and dpi and pixels

Journal Entry: Sat Feb 2, 2013, 7:29 PM

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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Add a Comment:
detecM Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2018  Student Digital Artist
Thx a lot !
PeTroDuDE Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Valuable info.. Thanks :)
fernandocoutinho Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2017
Thank you for sharing relevant information. It contributes a lot to everyone.
xxRisunaxx Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2017  Student Digital Artist
thank you so much for the math equation~! it helped me understand this >w<
Engineerista Featured By Owner Edited Nov 11, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
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 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2015
This cleared soooo much up for me
Owlxie Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I feel your pain. I don't know either.
goldensparr0w Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015  Student Artist
what canvas size should i use if im making a youtube banner
Joydom29 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015
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 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Really helpful man. Thank you for posting.
singularitycomplex Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013
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 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013
God damn dA needs a way of deleting comments. 
usagi-loops Featured By Owner Edited Oct 13, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013   Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Student Artist
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 Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2013  Student Digital Artist
ok so if you wanted to make a pixel icon how big would the canvas be?
bunnywafer Featured By Owner May 22, 2013
Thanks this was really helpful.
sockstealingnome Featured By Owner May 14, 2013
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 Featured By Owner May 14, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
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 Featured By Owner May 15, 2013
Ok that's what I thought. After a certain size my program crashes though. I guess I need a better computer.
BleedingProse Featured By Owner May 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Brilliant. About time someone made this clear.
CirqueDuBonheur Featured By Owner May 4, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Gaah I still do not understand and it is driving me INSANE! I use Sketchbook Pro 6, and I want to do a print somewhere around like 26x17. But all Sketchbook has is just a place to put in the inches you want for size. You can change it to pixels, but then that changes the inches...? So I wan to have my print be 300dpi, but I want it to be that big. How the heck do I do that?
Qinni Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
When it's showing inches, it should also show dpi at the same time. Worse comes to worse, you can do it manually: 26 x 17 inches at 300 dpi, you just have to multiply 26 by 300 and 17 by 300, and you'd have your measurements in pixels.
CirqueDuBonheur Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Ok, thanks :) I am just slow with this stuff ha.
cg4200 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013
i have a photo i took, its 4062 x 1993 pixels when i open it in intention is to print this photo out at work where we have a printer that can print 52 inches by however long the roll of print paper is.....but im trying to determine how big my photo actually is and how big can i get it to print without it getting says in the doc size that the photo is approx 13 x 6 inches at 300 resolution...that seems small.....can i just change the size to be larger and will it affect the quality....i want to create a big print but maintain best quality...what settings should i use or change?
Qinni Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
yah, 4062 x 1993 sounds around 13 x 6 inches at 300 dpi. You can change the size (make it 15 x 7 or something) but it will no longer be at 300dpi; it'd probably be around 260dpi or something (photoshop will give you an accurate number, i'm just guessing here). If you want a 52 inch by something picture AND have it print at 300 dpi, the pixel resolution would be extremely big, somewhere around 15600 pixels by something at 300dpi. (15600 pixels is 52 inches at 300 dpi).
At this point, I'm really not sure what you can do without losing quality though, since your digital picture is already set in a certain size at a certain quality;...I'd say re-take the picture and put the setting at the largest resolution possible, but I don't know if that's possible for you either. I think printing things out at 150 dpi would be okay too and the quality would suffer only a little bit. anything less than that dpi-wise would make the picture blur and pixelize (is that a word?).
Sub-The0ry Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, you are spot on. Thanks for helping me understand that a lot clearer!
KaikenKamiura Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Made life so much easier. I never really understood what DPI had to do with artwork in Photoshop. Thanks for posting this.
TildsArt Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
This reminds me of my design classes :P
In short it's 72dpi for digital and 300dpi for print
I usually set up a document for printing because you can never know what it could get useful for

..maybe you get famous and they want to print your art on building-sized panels o.o
InAnOrdinaryWay Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
the only time I bother about dpi is when I'm scanning images, which I usually do at 600dpi or above. like printing it's really the only time I find where the dpi settings will really affect the quality :shrug:
polarityplus Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
I was just explaining this to a friend thew other day
Unfortunatly I still don't think they got it
I'll show them this, it may help
Thank you for sharing:)
RJAce1014 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
The normal I use is 4500 x 3000px and the biggest I could get in my current computer is just 8000 x 6000px, anything above that become slower. I only use few layers below 20 on my projects so bigger don't bother me much.
Iyasha Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for writing this!! I never really understood dpi, and I think it'll help me with my future digital stuff.
irandom324 Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013  Student General Artist
truthfully i vaguely knew about dpi etc ~ i assumed it stood for something to do with like resolution kind of thing ~ but i never really bothered to look it up :>

so i just wanted to say that i found this very interesting and 'eye-opening' XD thanks for sharing this ^^
nervene Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013
I have had more than one ridiculous argument trying to explain this to people who would simply not let go of the idea that a canvas must be setup as 72 or 96 DPI if you will show it on your computer.
rotane Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Professional
Heh, imagine this to be true, then roughly 75% of all the content on the internet wouldn't show up :P
Xaifin Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Personally most things I do are 300/600dpi but I always work at A4+ sizes when it comes to the important work. You never know when your lecture is going to spark up a shit storm and suddenly demand it be the size of your display board :S
lalami02 Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
haha the TL;DR note made me laugh xD
I did read about this before, and I actually did my own research till the point it got so confusing and it gave me a headache. so I came up with this one conclusion out of all of it: if I wanna print my art better be 600dpi or 300dpi at least.. that's enough for me to know, for now =u=
Dapper-Rabbit Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013   General Artist
I pretty much understood this anyway but this still helped clear things up. thank you :)
ArtOfFredskov Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Ok I admit I didn't read the lower half, but as with 3+ years of experience with graphic design and prints here's some </strong>rules of thumb</strong>:

  • Create a doc for the purpose it's gonna be used.

  • If printed media: Generally make it as big sizes as possible, and make sure you put resolution to 300dpi. Keep and eye on the physical size (where it says Inches/milimeters/centimeters).

  • If for web, save at 72 dpi, and only the size that you need in pixels.

  • If you're not sure, just go with the biggest size, at 300dpi. You can always scale down on a copy, but never up!

ArtOfFredskov Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Want to buy Edit comment button. *facepalm*
Popo-Licious Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great article! I have a question though. :D I find that when I increase the dpi in Photoshop, it drastically resizes my canvas. (For example, a 4x6 inche canvas at 72 dpi fits my screen pretty well. 4x6 inches at 300 dpi makes my canvas enormous on my screen.) If dpi is only for printing and it isn't supposed to have an effect on viewing the image digitally, why does the canvas resize so much?
mhummelt Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Student General Artist
your screen can only show 72 or sometimes 94ppi (pixel per inch; ppi = dpi but ppi is the correct term to use when talking about digital useage) but it's going to show you all pixels, therefore the document will be larger on screen at 100% zoom since you still need to be able to edit all 300ppi not just part of them.
Qinni Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
because you're also miming the physical canvas by putting in 4 x 6 inches. When I say "physical", i meant....well, you don't really print out something by calling it 3000 x 5000 pixels, right? but you do say it in inches. When you put down inches on the computer, then it applies to a possible physical print.

sorry, when i say digital, i simply meant pixels, and when i say physical, i meant to say inches/centimeters/real-life-tangible numbers.

12inches x 18inch at 300dpi =

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

therefore 12 x 18inch at 300dpi = 3600 x 5400pixels
ink-wing-art Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
because there are so many more pixels. see, the printed image would be the same size, but the 300 dpi is much, much more detailed. it really isn't different sizes and you should be able to zoom out anyway.
Popo-Licious Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay! I just wanted to understand the reason behind it. Thank you! :aww:
Sasako Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2013
So since DPI doesn't really matter from a digital only stand point, could I set my resolution to 72 and save space and reduce lag from the file being so big? I used to think that dpi improved the quality of the picture for years. I guess that's wrong ^^; Thanks for the new info.
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February 2, 2013


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