Screen Versus Print - A Helpful Guide

Artwork prints are developed using the Roland VersaCAMM VS-300i inkjet printer and cutter machine.  This 8-ink color printer outputs to a maximum of 1440x720 dpi, which offers incredibly sharp, vibrant professional-quality artwork replication, plus clean, precision die-cuts around border and perforation cuts around the buttons outer and inner rim, so you can place artwork in Sanwa OBSC or Seimitsu PS-14-KN pushbuttons.

Artwork Size and Print Resolution

What is resolution, and how does ppi differ from dpi?

DPI-PPI Sample PhotoResolution is the measure of pixels in a computer display.  Your monitor can display a number of pixels on screen, usually measured in width x height.  An example of a common resolution is 1920x1080 - 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down. 

Pixels per inch - or PPI - refers to the pixel density of a digital image.  It can also represent density of your computer monitor or smartphone.

Dots per inch - DPI - is the number of dots printed within an inch square.  The more dots, the more detail is usually displayed on the material.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

As previously mentioned, the VersaCAMM 300i can output to a maximum of 1440dpi.  For most projects regarding fightsticks, 720dpi is just fine. Aesthetically, however, the output is only as sharp or detailed as the source file it is given.

What does this mean to you? To print artwork that originated at a lower resolution, or to place it within a high resolution document in Photoshop or similar image editing app, the image is often enlarged to fit.  An image that is sourced at 300dpi has a lot of data, much more than the 72dpi image.  The 300dpi image can hold a lot more detail, and the image can remain crisper when resized.  This isn't the case with a 72dpi image - there isn't enough data in the image at this resolution for resizing. The results are pretty stark when printed.

If you work with any of our templates which are saved at 300dpi, you'll immediately notice the difference when importing that lower resolution image.  You'll first find that the image is much smaller than you saw online in your browser.  This is because browser resolution matches your screen, which is often 72ppi, and appears large.  Photoshop - by contrast - attempts to simulate the resolution of a 300dpi document as the template requires this.

Enlarge it to fit desired size you want, you'll find that the results are not ideal.  The display of an enlarged low-resolution image is often blurry or jagged; Photoshop has no more image data to work with, so when enlarged, it tries to fill in pixels that didn't exist in the original image.  Here is an example:

300dpi.jpg 72dpi.jpg
300dpi 72dpi

As you can see, the image on the left is sharper.  The printer cannot correct this, so it is important that you work with high resolution files.

What's on the Internet?

As you begin sourcing artwork from search engines like Google, you will come across many images that are sourced at 72dpi. This is because the artwork is optimized for the screen, not print.  That said, not all artwork that appears on the internet was designed for the screen. 

Size Matters

c26-B004OZ922E-1-l.jpgDigital cameras do not factor in DPI when photos are captured. Instead photos are measured in resolution - how many pixels the camera can capture at a time.  Many cameras can now capture millions of pixels in light information.  This is called "megapixels" or "MP" for short. Often, you'll see cameras advertised with 8MP, 12MP or 16MP.  This is helpful to know - some artwork on the internet have similar properties, in that they are quite large in resolution.  You can sometimes find art of 2MP or 4MP.

Here is an example on Google Images:

http://bit.ly/fa-plexworks-hires

The link displays artwork with resolution of several thousand pixels across or down, which total millions of pixels.  

How does this translate to print, or in our case, how could this be used to ensure optimal output?  Our photoshop templates are saved at 300dpi.  This means that documents containing these large graphics will output quite sharp even at 720dpi.

This is achieved because a multi-megapixel document has a greater chance of containing enough pixel data to manage the DPI density of print.  This depends on the intended size of the print in inches.  Let's look at an example:

The Razer Atrox control panel has a width of about 15 inches.   If we have a 4000x3000 pixel image, you can achieve a print of that length at 267 pixels per inch.  if you have a slightly larger image (4500x3375), you can achieve an optimum 300dpi.  A rule of thumb here: images 4MP or over have the best chance of replicating faithfully when printed.

Ideal Versus Reality

Optimally, every desired graphic you compile for your fightstick artwork will have a resolution fit for printing.  In reality, this is not always possible.  You may find that a graphic that would perfectly compliment your Fightstick theme, but its resolution is too small to work without compromising its appearance when enlarged for 300dpi.  It is here that you will decide on the following: to resize the artwork anyway, continue to search for a higher-resolution copy, or when applicable, convert to a resolution-independent vector graphic.

DPI Calculator

calculator_PNG7933.pngThe printing and scanning resource website scantips.com offers an incredibly helpful DPI calculator.  You can enter the intended dimensions of the printed artwork by its shortest or longest length (used to determine the ratio), and enter your chosen image dimensions.  Pressing "Calculate Print Resolution" will output the resulting pixel density when printed at the dimensions you specify, plus suggest the image resolution you'll need to achieve a consistent 300dpi.

The DPI calculator can assist in determining how much the image may blur or distort when placed in our Photoshop template.  This is quite helpful as you build your Fightstick artwork. 

Using our Photoshop Templates

Each of our artwork or plexiglass control panel templates for formatted for Photoshop - the most popular image editing application available today.  The template files are saved at 300dpi.  When viewed onscreen, the layout may look quite large.  It is important that you do not modify this template, either by resizing the existing elements on the template, or changing default 300dpi resolution.  Resizing the template will not make the artwork print any sharper, and result in our placing your order on HOLD status.

As mentioned prior, low resolution artwork (under 300dpi) will blur when resized to match 300dpi.  How much it will blur depends on the resolution of the source images.

Thanks to vsellis.com and scantips.com for information.

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