Is 200 DPI Good Enough for Printing?

For many businesses and organizations, printed materials are the primary means of communicating with customers and the public at large. Things like brochures, posters, and even leaflets all play a vital role in getting a message across. The quality of print jobs, therefore, is crucial to achieving the desired results and a big part of this is the resolution. This raises the question, is 200 DPI good enough for printing?

Generally speaking, 200 DPI is adequate for many types of print jobs. For instance, if the material does not involve intricate graphics, then 200 DPI is probably good enough. If, however, the project involves artwork like photographs, and the artwork is going to be printed in large format, then 300 DPI may be needed.

When it comes to technology, there seems to be a constant pushing of the envelope. Computers are getting faster and more powerful, TVs are achieving higher resolutions, and smartphones are getting smarter. But when it comes to printing, more is not necessarily better. 200 DPI is plenty good enough for many print jobs, but as with many things, there is more than meets the eye. Here’s what this means.

Is 200 DPI Good Enough for Printing?

DPI, or dots per inch, is the standard measure for printing resolution. It is a way to quantify how clean, crisp, and detailed a print job appears. When something is printed these days, the visual content you are seeing is composed of tiny dots laid down on the print medium (usually some type of paper). As the name suggests, DPI refers to the number of these dots that can be lined up side-by-side in one inch.

Thus, if something is printed out at 200 DPI, each inch of the printed material will contain 200 dots, at 300 DPI, each inch will contain 300 dots, and so on. The higher the DPI, the more dots there are per inch, and presumably, the finer the detail and the better the resolution.

But how much DPI is good enough and for what? While certain types of images, such as photographs and intricate graphics, are best printed at 300 DPI or higher, there are many other types of documents that are perfectly viewable at 200 DPI.

For instance:

  • 200 DPI is fine for letters, correspondence, and white papers
  • Business documents containing simple graphics (like charts or infographics) should come out fine printed at 200 DPI
  • Even images and art files can look good at 200 DPI without noticeable blurring or pixelation (they just will not be as crisp and detailed as when printed at higher DPIs)

For obvious reasons, artwork-centric materials should be printed at 300 DPI or higher, but this leaves plenty of document types that can be produced at 200 DPI with perfectly acceptable results.

Is 200 DPI OK for Printing

As a level of printing resolution, 200 DPI falls within the decent-to-good range by just about anybody’s standards. This applies to a broad range of document types, from simple business letters to materials containing graphics.

But at the end of the day, the only standard that truly matters is how a print job looks to the intended viewer under the circumstances that it is intended to be seen.

Viewing Distance Matters

The general rule of thumb when it comes to determining whether 200 DPI (or any DPI value for that matter) is okay for printing is that if the document or graphic content does not appear to be pixelated or choppy, then its DPI is suitable for the print job in question.

In this regard, a project’s DPI is not the sole factor that should be considered when trying to figure out its print quality. The whole point of printing something is for it to be seen and for the message it is trying to convey to be perceived with the impact that it was intended to deliver. To this end, the viewing distance for the printed material matters greatly.

For instance, the required DPI for a brochure with vibrant graphics that will be read at arm’s length will be quite different from a large billboard that will be seen from a great distance away. Whereas the former will likely require a good number of dots per inch to produce the rich detail that is needed, the latter can rely on much larger dots while still having the desired visual effect.

Here are some examples to illustrate this point further:

  • At a viewing distance of 2 to 3.3 feet (roughly arm’s length), 200 to 300 DPI will be needed to produce a good printing resolution
  • If the viewing distance increases to 5 to 6.5 feet, then the minimum DPI decreases to a range of 90 to 120
  • From 50 feet away, 12 DPI is sufficient to produce a clear image
  • From a 200-foot distance, a resolution of 3 DPI is enough for an image to be seen clearly
  • At a distance of 650 feet, 1 DPI will produce a perfectly viewable image

What these figures demonstrate is that when it comes to print quality, DPI only tells part of the story. A major part of the equation is viewing distance, and only when this is properly factored in can a meaningful evaluation of printing resolution be made.

Image Size Is Important Too

As far as graphics and artwork are concerned, image size is another important consideration that directly affects the print quality of a document. Where resolution in printing is expressed in DPI, resolution on a computer screen is typically indicated by the term PPI, which stands for pixels per inch.

When documents are created on a computer before printing, graphics, and artwork can be edited and manipulated in any number of ways. For the best results, it is important to keep the native formatting of an image and avoid enlarging it beyond its original resolution because doing so may result in pixelation which will be visible in the final printed results.

Determining an image’s size when printed at a certain DPI (in this case, 200 DPI) is a fairly straightforward process:

  • Go to the image’s properties to view its dimensions in PPI
  • For each value (height x width), divide the number by 200
  • For example, if the image height is 1000 pixels, divide this number by 200 to get 5
  • If the image width is 1400 pixels, divide this number by 200 to get 7
  • Thus, when printed at 200 DPI, this image’s size will be 5 inches by 7 inches

This analysis is important because this image’s print quality at 200 DPI will be optimized at these dimensions.

Final Thoughts

Modern printing equipment is capable of producing incredibly high-resolution documents with intricate details and vibrant colors. But such high-quality printing, typically involving 300 DPI or higher, is not necessary for all printing tasks. For certain projects, 200 DPI is more than just okay, it is the perfect level of quality that gets the job done the right way.