Resolution - What does resolution mean?
The word “resolution” has many different definitions depending on the context in which it is used; in terms of labelling, there are two relevant definitions, which can be referred to as “image resolution” and “print resolution”.
Generally speaking, the term “image resolution” refers to how much visible detail a digital image (specifically a bitmap image) or film image holds. In terms of labelling, image resolution is usually encountered when describing the images that are to be printed onto labels; images described as “high resolution” will contain a lot of detail, while images described as “low resolution” will contain less detail. As bitmap images are made up of a rectangular grid of pixels, the resolution of a bitmap image is usually expressed as the number of pixel columns (width) x pixel rows (height), the total number of pixels in the image (pixel columns x pixel rows and divide by one million = no. of megapixels), or as the number of pixels within a length unit or area unit (pixels per inch or pixels per square inch) – technically speaking, these are not true measurements of resolution (they do not account for other factors that contribute to the resolution of an image, such as colour depth) but they provide a popular convention for describing the “size” and “quality” of an image.
Bitmap images are resolution dependent; if you decrease the size of a bitmap image some of the original pixels are removed, while if you increase the size of a bitmap image new pixels are added between the existing pixels (and are assigned colour information based on the surrounding pixels) – in both cases, some of the image quality is lost because the amount of visible detail in the image is reduced (the smaller image has lost pixels and the larger image doesn’t have unique information for each pixel, which means the amount of detail is lower than it should be for an image of that size).
Printer resolution refers to the level of detail a digital printer is capable of creating. Printer resolution is measured in terms of DPI or (printer) dots per inch, which is the number of dots of ink or toner that a printer can fit within an inch. A high printer resolution will result in a better quality of print – up to a point. As a general rule, 300 x 300 DPI produces “Normal or Good Resolution”, 600 x 600 DPI produces “High Resolution”, and 1,200 x 1,200 DPI produces “Photo Resolution” – in other words, the printer resolution is high enough to recreate high resolution digital photographs. While some printers offer higher printer resolutions, the human eye is not capable of distinguishing between images printed at 1,200 x 1,200 DPI and those printed at a higher printer resolution.
Printer resolution is important in applications that require the reproduction of high resolution artwork (such as photographs) onto labels; a high printer resolution ensures that the level of detail in the original digital image is recreated as closely as possible on the labels to produce sharp, crisp, and natural looking copies. It is also important for the production of barcode labels (and QR code labels); if the printer resolution is too low, the quality of the barcode (or QR code) may be insufficient for a scanner to be able to read the barcode correctly.
Printers will usually offer a number of print settings related to printer resolution so that you can choose a resolution that is appropriate for each print job you want to complete; for example, a printer with a 600 x 600 DPI printer resolution could offer both a “Good” print setting (using 300 x 300 DPI) and a “Best” print setting (using 600 x 600 DPI).Go Back to Glossary