As a Procreate user, you might have heard about DPI and how important it is for the quality of the artwork. But what exactly is DPI in Procreate? How is it connected to the resolution of the screen and the "pixelation" of the image? In this short tutorial, I'll answer all your DPI-related questions, so that you can choose the best DPI for Procreate.
What You'll Learn in This DPI Procreate Tutorial
- What is DPI in Procreate?
- How to change DPI in Procreate
- How to choose the best DPI for Procreate
- How DPI affects the quality of an image
- What's the difference between DPI and resolution?
What Is DPI in Procreate?
A digital image is made of pixels—tiny little squares of various shades and colors. If they're small enough, we can no longer see them individually—they blend into each other, creating an illusion of smooth transitions. The smaller the pixels, the better the illusion. If the pixels are big enough to be seen, we say that the image is pixelated.
A printed image is made of dots, and they work just like pixels—the smaller they are, the smoother the transitions.
Here's how it works in practice:
- If you set your DPI to 1, you'll see 1 pixel within each inch of the printed image.
- If you set your DPI to 72, you'll see 72 pixels within each inch of the printed image.
- If you set your DPI to 300, you'll see 300 pixels within each inch of the printed image.
To fit more pixels inside one inch, you need to make them smaller. So by increasing DPI in Procreate, you're decreasing the size of the pixels visible in the print.
DPI and Resolution: What's the Difference?
Each digital image has three properties: pixel dimensions, physical dimensions, and DPI. These three are interconnected, which means that by changing one, you change the others.
Pixel dimensions are the dimensions stated in pixels. The bigger they are, the more you'll be able to zoom in before the pixels start to become visible.
Physical dimensions are the dimensions stated in inches, centimetres, or millimetres. The bigger they are, the bigger the printed image.
DPI simply links these two in a very predictable way: pixel dimensions / DPI = physical dimensions (in inches).
So when you create a new canvas in Procreate, you can go about it in two ways:
- Set the physical dimensions and the DPI. Procreate will calculate the pixel dimensions for you
- Set the pixel dimensions and the DPI. Procreate will calculate the physical dimensions for you
What's the Best DPI for Procreate?
Now for the important question: what DPI should you choose for your Procreate artwork? Technically, you could use huge dimensions and 1000 DPI every time, but it doesn't make much sense in practice—big files with lots of pixels require lots of RAM to be processed smoothly (and with each new layer, you add even more pixels!). That's why Procreate limits the number of layers depending on how big your file is. So it's better to make your decision this way:
If you want to create a print of your artwork (or keep this option open just in case), use 300 DPI. It's considered the standard for making the print look nice and smooth at a reading distance. If your print is going to be looked at from a bigger distance (like a poster), you can use a lower DPI (for example, 150). Make sure to start your file with physical dimensions, using the size of your intended print.
If you want to display your image online only, DPI is irrelevant. You can use 1, you can use 1000—it won't change anything. When creating your file, decide how big you want your final artwork to be when displayed online, and make your pixel dimensions at least twice as big—this will give you lots of room to zoom in. You can make them even bigger to give yourself more space for tiny details—just keep an eye on the layer limit! If you want some hard numbers, 3000 x 3000 px should work great for most purposes.
Sometimes, you'll see people giving recommendations like: "If you don't want your image to look pixelated, use at least 2000 x 2000 px, 300 DPI." But this advice is simply misguided. A 2000 x 2000 px file in 300 DPI has the same image quality as a 2000 x 2000 px file in 72 DPI. It's the pixels that define the image quality, not the DPI. A low DPI will simply give you a big, pixelated print, while a high DPI will give you a smoother but smaller one. Want to make your print smooth and big? Increase the number of pixels!
How to Change the DPI in Procreate
You can change your DPI in two ways: while creating a new canvas, or after the image is already created. The former is the best option—it will ensure that you're adding the correct number of pixels to the file right from the start, so when the printer needs them, they will be there.
But what if you haven't set the DPI correctly earlier, and now you want to make sure your file will look good as a print? Open your file and open the Actions menu in the upper left corner.
Go to the Canvas tab, and click Crop & Resize.
Check Resample Canvas to apply your changes to the whole image, not just the canvas. Set the DPI, and then click the pixel dimensions and change them to physical dimensions. This will tell you what kind of dimensions you can currently print your image in using the defined DPI. If you want to make them bigger, change them now and click Done.
If you go back to the Settings now and set the values to pixels, you'll see that the pixel dimensions have been changed to accommodate the physical dimensions and the DPI.
Here's the kicker, though. What you're doing here is basically resizing a raster image, and this always comes at a loss of quality. You want to put extra pixels in your print to make them super dense and smooth, but you don't really have those pixels—they have to be interpolated. So while your higher DPI print will not look pixelated, it will not look sharp either. That's why it's important to set the correct DPI (or increase the pixel dimensions) as early as possible.
Now you know how to change DPI in Procreate, and what the best DPI in Procreate is!
Did you know we have more Procreate tutorials on our site? Check them out:
- How to Use Photoshop Brushes in ProcreateDaisy Ein19 Jun 2023
- How to Create a Stylish Neon Portrait in ProcreateMaria Dimova16 Jun 2023
- How to Do Symmetry in ProcreateNataliya Dolotko21 Oct 2022
- How to Draw in ProcreateLauren's Scribbles10 Jan 2023
- How to Color Match in ProcreateLauren's Scribbles26 Dec 2022