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Best print size

How large a print should I order for this image?

We get this question often and here is our answer: As large as you have room for and as large as you can afford. Some of our customers submit very blurry images and ask us to print really large, and they are always happy with the result. Although we will probably warn them, we will print any image any size (some labs won't). Other customers print small because they want the print to be sharp when viewed up close. If you are concerned about sharpness, read on.

Ways we can help you decide what size you will like

  • Although we can't tell you how large to print, we can help you choose your best image for printing if you upload several possibilities (no charge nor obligation and no need to add to cart or place an order).
  • After we prepare your image for printing at the size you ordered, we upload to your account on Redipix.com a detail view corresponding to a 3x3 inch area from the print. You can adjust your browser to make it 3x3 inches on your monitor then stand back to your expected viewing distance. If it is not sharp enough for you, it is not too late to change the size (if you already paid we can issue a refund).
  • After you have viewed in your monitor, we can print a 6x8 inch detail proof at at your chosen print size. We do not charge for printed proofs. You can pin this on the wall and view at various distances.
  • We provide a table below with advice and below that a screen test you can perform on your computer.

Pixel dimensions and resolution

A high resolution image has a large number of megapixels, a large digital file size, and is capable of showing great detail in a print. If your image looks sharp when expanded to fill your monitor screen, you will probably like it on a big print (better: See screen test below). The table below provides some guidelines to help you choose the size of print to order based on the resolution of your image, but in the end you must make your own decision based on how it will be viewed. A large print viewed from a distance will be enjoyed even if it has lower resolution.

Digital camera settings

When planning for large prints, it is always best to set your digital camera to the highest resolution (largest pixel dimensions) and best jpeg compression quality. If you have an advanced camera, for even better quality, you can set the camera to raw mode (we can process your raw files).

Pixel dimensions isn't everything

You will enjoy your large print most if you pick out your best photos. Is your image in focus? Is there a distracting background? Are the highlights overexposed (blocked)? Are the shadow areas underexposed so there is too much noise to reveal details? Are there harsh shadows from direct flash? Is everyone smiling? In a sharp portrait you should be able to see individual hairs.

Print quality for various image resolutions

We upsize with Perfect Resize to make the sharpest possible enlargement from your image. If the table says "poor" or "fair" this doesn't mean you should not print that size. If you view a blurry 24x36 print from 2 feet back it will look just as blurry on a 12x16 print viewed from 1 foot.

 

Image source or Megapixels 4x6 print Negative or slide 1 MP 2 MP >5 MP
Pixel dimensions     864x1152 1200x1600  2560x1920
Quality of 12x16 inch print good excellent good excellent excellent
Quality of 16x20 inch print fair excellent fair very good excellent
Quality of 24x36 and larger poor very good poor good very good
Average JPEG file* size     0.5 MB 1 MB >2.5 MB
Average TIFF file* size     3 MB 6 MB >14 MB

 

The screen test for judging maximum print size

You can read everything on this page, and you can ask for our advice, but in the end you will need to decide how large to print based on expected viewing distance and your tolerance for blurriness and noise. Here we describe a test that will help you make that decision using your computer monitor:

  • Open your image in your favorite editing/viewing program (Internet explorer or Paint will work, for example).
  • Find a ruler and adjust the zoom level (try the view menu or scroll wheel or Ctrl+, Ctrl-) until the image is 10 inches across on your monitor.
  • If you want to judge a print that is 36-inches across set the zoom level to be 3.6 (=36/10) times larger. For example, if the zoom was 25%, now set it to 25x3.6=90%. If the image does not fit on the monitor, move the sliders to view the most important part of the image.
  • Now stand back at what you consider a normal viewing distance. Does the image look good to you? If you see little squares (pixels), note that those will be smoothed out when we upsize in Photoshop. Although we use a special program for upsizing, Perfect Resize, don't expect that to add additional detail that is not there in your image. If you see a lot of noise (little random dots like film grain) we can reduce that using Noise Ninja.