How to Determine the Best Resolution for Your Renders

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January 28, 2022

hen dealing with digital content, having a strong grasp of resolution is extremely important to create high-quality images that look professional. In this article, we’ll provide you with some information that will help you understand what resolution is and how you can determine what to use to best fit your needs.

What is Resolution?

When image resolution is being talked about, it’s usually referring to the number of pixels present in that image by specifying how many pixels tall and how many pixels wide it is. If you're not familiar with what exactly a pixel is, it’s essentially a tiny square of color that makes up the image when thousands of them are put together. When it comes to resolution, the lower the resolution, the more grainy or blurry the image will appear. To give you some context, the iPhone 13 Pro has a 12-megapixel camera which means that the photos it takes are 4000 pixels wide by 3000 pixels tall. This is essentially the digital dimension of the image. The more pixels in an image, the more detail that image contains.  More pixels do come at a cost though. Higher resolutions increase file size and can extend loading times.

Web Image Resolution

When you’re creating your website, it’s likely you’ll want to optimize it in as many ways as possible as a part of your SEO efforts. By choosing a file size that is exactly the size that you need for your site, you’re able to use as few resources as possible while maintaining the same professional quality. Keep in mind that the larger your file is, the longer it will take to load your webpage which negatively affects how Google ranks your website.

PPI (Pixels per Inch) and DPI (Dots per Inch)
It’s recommended that web images use 72 pixels per inch (PPI) whereas most common printing is done at 300 dots per inch (DPI). PPI and DPI both essentially refer to the density of the pixels or printed dots within an inch and relate to how clear or sharp the images appear.  

For digital uses, the pixel resolution is really what is most important to consider, but for print, you’ll want to consider both dimensions and DPI.  For example, while 300 DPI is very common for most standard prints, it isn’t always needed. 300 DPI is a very good resolution for anything that will be viewed relatively close to one's face, like a product’s packaging or magazine, but some things, like a billboard, which is only ever going to be viewed from hundreds of feet away, can get away with a DPI of 150 or less. From far distances, the viewer would not notice any decrease in clarity and thus the DPI doesn’t need to be as high. DPI and pixel resolution have an inverse relationship.  A 3000 x 3000 pixel image equates to a 10” x 10” print at 300 DPI, but that same image at 150 DPI actually equates to a 20” x 20” print.

The following table compares the size of a physical image to the dimensions of its digital counterpart based on if it’s optimized for the web or for print.

Physical size to digital resolution comparison table

When you’re creating digital images, you’ll also need to understand the difference between vector and raster based graphics.

Vector Graphics
Vector graphics use mathematics that tell each shape what path it should follow as well as what color it should be filled with or have as its border. The magic of vector graphics is that these images retain their appearance whether they are scaled up or down because they are based solely on mathematical formulas. Vector graphics are typically created in 2D design programs like Adobe Illustrator and while they have their advantages when it comes to image resolution, there are some limitations to this method as well. Since vector images are composed of simple shapes that have their own color, complex shading and realism are not possible. Instead, simpler illustrations such as logos, signs, or embroidery are better suited for this type of graphic.

Raster Graphics
Raster images are composed of individual pixels rather than defined by mathematical formulas. Here, each pixel has its own color that contributes to the overall detail of an image. Unlike vector graphics, raster images are able to display soft color gradients and shading but do lose quality and can become pixelated when the image is enlarged. Raster graphics are just like any regular photograph and 3D renders are no different. 

Video Resolution

As of now, determining the best video resolution depends highly on your medium. It’s also important to keep in mind that video resolutions operate just like raster images because essentially that’s what a video is, a series of frames cycling at 24, 30, or even 60 frames per second (FPS). You can go from a high video resolution to a lower one but you can’t go from a lower resolution to a higher one without compromising its quality. For example, if a video was made in 1080P HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), you could scale it down to 480P if you needed to, but you wouldn’t be able to easily convert a 480P video to 1080P without losing quality. 

Based on today’s monitors and televisions, the two most common resolutions for professional videos are 1080P HD and 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). With videos, the resolution is key when it comes to a viewer’s experience, although it isn’t the only notable factor. Other details to keep in mind would be the compression process, frame rate, bit depth, etc. In order to have a reasonably sized file, compressing the video helps to reduce data so that it can be delivered more efficiently.

Best Resolution

Picking your “best” resolution is really a subjective topic because it depends so heavily on what you’re using your content for. A better approach would be to first determine whether your images are intended for digital or print use and how large you need the images to be. If you’re unsure, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution and produce your images at a higher resolution and scale down accordingly.  Here at Go3DViz, we go over these and many other details with you to ensure that you get exactly the right images for your specific needs. If you happen to have any further questions about selecting an optimal resolution or have any inquiries about our services and what we may be able to provide you, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible!

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