DPI…not that big of a deal.

If you intend to sell prints using POD services, or if you are creating digital art that will be printed for some reason or another, such as book cover illustrations, then this is something you will likely have to deal with. I get it from time to time, especially when doing illustration contracts. A person from the print shop or publisher will tell me that my image has too low of a DPI and that they can’t print it. This person does not know what they are talking about. Now it could be that that what they mean is that the image’s resolution is too low, but, for my images, which are usually in the 40 Megapixel range, such is not the case. Most of the time they are just ignorant of what DPI really means when it comes to a digital image file.


It’s the size that matters!
The subject of DPI comes up quite a bit when you deal with digital art. DPI stands for “Dots Per Inch”. People who deal with printed media seem to think it is an important number. Indeed, when you actually print something, it can be somewhat important. An image printed at 300 dpi looks great to the human eye from just several centimeters away; at 50 dpi through, it would look pretty grainy close up. However, when it comes to digital art in its digital form, that is, as an image file on the computer and not printed out, it is almost completely irrelevant. In fact, it is actually less relevant even when printed than some might have you believe.

DPI has virtually no relevance for a digital file. It is just a number in the metadata (known as the EXIF data) of an image file that suggests to a printer how dense to print that image. That suggestion can easily be (and usually is) overridden when a print is made. For instance, if I have an image file where the EXIF data states 300 for the dpi and the image is 3000×3000 pixels, the bitmap data is exactly the same as a 100dpi version of the same image that is also 3000×3000 pixels. The only difference is that if you print them both without specifying a print size then the 300 dpi one will print a 10″ x 10″ print and the 100 dpi would give you a 30″x 30″ print. Now, if you took the 100 dpi and told the printer to give you a 10″x10″ print it would actually give you a 300dpi print thas is ten inches on each side, i.e. you’d be overriding the default dpi.

In other words, resolution is what matters. An image with a high resolution can print a larger, higher quality image than one that has a low resolution. When it comes to digital art, the number of megapixels is what is important, not dpi. That is one of the reasons I create all of my art at at least twelve megapixels and quite often as much as sixty. That size gives lots of printing options.

Not only is DPI irrelevant to digital files, is also overrated when it comes to printed material. It is true that the higher the dpi, the higher the quality of the print. Print shops often insist that 300 dpi is the gold standard and that all images be printed at that or a higher resolution. 300 dpi does indeed look great from even a few centimeters away, but how often do you really look so close at a piece of wall art that your nose is nearly touching it? Probably not often. Most people look at wall art from a few meters away. At that distance, a 300dpi and a 100dpi print of the same image at the same physical dimensions would look identical. If you don’t believe me, get a close up look at a billboard image one day. From arm’s distance, you’d see nothing but a bunch of colored dots. Billboards are printed at around thirty dpi.


Some people might tell you that DPI is not important for an image but that PPI is. They don’t know what they are talking about either. PPI stands for Pixels-Per-Inch. It applies to monitors not files. For a digital image file, this is meaningless. Where is does come into play is when an image is displayed monitor. A monitor with a high PPI will show images smaller but with higher quality, but, again, for the image itself, the resolution does not change. It’s the monitor that determines the PPI, not the image.


I hope that clears a few things up for some!


Don’t forget to check out this week’s sponsor, Dick Blick Art Materials (since I offer this site for free, I have to fund it somehow 😉 )


Where To Sell Art Online

Where do you sell art online?

This is a huge question. It’s one of the cornerstones of this blog. Later on, I’ll get into detail about specific sites, but for now I want to set the stage and tell you about the two main kinds of sites that allow you to sell your art over the Internet.

Direct Sale Sites

The first kind are what I call direct sale sites. On these sites, you create some sort of entry describing an individual piece of art along with at least one image. The site will have some mechanism that will display your entry to potential customers. Visitors seeing your work on these sites can then purchase your art through the site. The site might accept payment on your behalf or it may leave it up to you handle. Either way, when someone chooses to purchase your art, the site notifies you that you have made a sale. It then leaves it up to you to complete the transaction. If the site didn’t handle the payment, you’ll need to do that first, then you will need to ship your artwork to the buyer.

Direct sales sites, can require a lot of work on your part, but if you are selling originals, it’s pretty much what you’ll have to do. Some examples include eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy.

Now here is the thing about direct sales sites: I don’t generally recommend them. Selling art on these sites is nearly impossible unless you have a well known name. Besides, people go eBay and Craigslist looking for bargains, and you probably don’t want to sell your art at bargain prices. The one exception is Etsy which is dedicated to selling arts and crafts; though, reports I get from other artists are that crafts and sculpture do well there, but 2D art (photos, drawings, paintings, prints, etc.) does not.

So if direct sales sites are no good for selling your original art, what is? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute…

Print on Demand

Running With Buffalo
This is perhaps one of my best works. Because I have it on a print-on-demand site, I have sold numerous prints of all sizes of it to people all around the world.

The next type of site is the print on demand site, hereafter referred to a POD site. With a POD site, you create an account to which you upload digital images of your artwork. Usually, you need to provide some details about you work such as the title, description, pricing details, etc. The site then publishes your work to their galleries (or, in some cases, creates a personalized gallery for you). Visitors to the site can browse through the galleries an buy prints of whatever they like. If they buy one of yours, you get a cut.

What’s great about this model, is that after you upload your art, you don’t have to do anything else regarding that sale. The POD site handles the processing of the payment, makes the print, ships, handles the customer service. Most will even handle returns.

Previously, I mentioned that I don’t recommend direct sales sites for selling original art. That is because many of the POD sites allow you to sell originals as well. So, for an individual piece, visitors will have the option of buying the original, but can also buy a print. They see both, and after seeing a high price for the original, a lower priced print will seem like a bargain, making them more likely to buy at least the print from you (this is known as the “Anchoring Effect” in marketing). So, if you have original to sell, skip the eBays of the world and use POD sites that offer selling of originals instead.

There is one problem with POD sites however: the print series are, by nature, unlimited. This can give collectors a sense that your prints will have trouble increasing in value, and while your art may make for great decor, it makes for a poor investment. If you are really concerned about this, there are ways to overcome this, such as giving an expiration date to your postings, but I’ve found that they are mostly not worth the effort.

Other Types of Art Business Sites

There may be a few other types of sites out there. For instance, I use a service that lets people rent my art for a period of three months with the option to purchase a print at the end. There is also something called microstocks, which allow businesses and individuals to license your work for use in commercial endeavors. I don’t have much experience with microstocks, but, if you don’t mind giving up control of your work, if may be worth your time to look into them.

I hope this article wasn’t too long, but it is a necessary foundation for future articles. So enjoy,