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Understanding the data behind photos

And how to get the best file type for printing your photos & pages at 300 DPI

In this post I share my findings & suggestions on how to choose the correct file type download in Canva that print 300 dpi photos & pages. I cover .jpg .png and .pdf Canva downloads.


As a memory keeper, I soon discovered that images have their own language.

How to download to save your designs from Canva is a question that frequently comes up. And the terminology can be confusing. Understanding the differences in terms and what each one means; pixels and bytes (image size and file size), quality, size and resolution is very important, especially if you are digital or hybrid scrapbooker. If you're ready to dive down the rabbit hole and follow my printing experiment, and see my final thoughts on this...please keep reading.

What is a pixel?

I found this post from Persnickey Prints super helpful and easy to understand. Simply put every photo, in digital form, is made up of pixels. Pixels are the smallest unit of information that makes up a picture. Because pixels are so small, our eyes can not detect the elements on the grid as individual squares. Instead, our brain blends each pixel into a smooth digital picture. If you zoom in on your image far enough you'll see that images are like a mosaic formed by small little squares or tiles, in photography each little tile is called a pixel. I've simulated these 4"x6"photos (using the pixelate effect in Canva) below to show what this would look like if you could actually see the pixels close up.


original photo // zoomed photo // pixelated photo


What is resolution?

The number of pixels in an image is called resolution.Resolution is the amount of pixels per length unit. To achieve a print size in inches, divide the size in pixels by the desired print resolution. (formula | px / dpi)

What is Pixel count?

Since pixels are the smallest unit of information that makes up a picture, to calculate the resolution of a photo you would use a formula for the area of any rectangle: multiple length x height. For example a 4x6 photo has a pixel count of 1200x1800 pixels. (formula | 4 x 300 by 6 x 300 = 1200 x 1800 px)

What is DPI?

Print resolution is measured in DPI. (dots per inch) DPI is what tells the printer how many dots per inch the ink needs to put on the paper. 300 dpi is the industry standard print resolution for high quality printing. So simply put 300 dpi means that a printer will output 300 tiny dots of ink to fill every inch of the print.

What is PPI?

​PPI describes the resolution in pixels of a digital image. A digital image is simply made of of pixels taking up a certain amount of space on your screen. The optimal resolution for images on screens is 72 dpi. Right here it's important to understand how the resolution is different for printed images vs digitally displayed images.

What is Pixel Density?

Both DPI and PPI are terms used to describe resolution, or clarity of an image, but each refers to a separate media type; print (dpi) vs digital (ppi).

The general rule for this is the higher the dot density, the higher the resolution is when it is printed. However, increasing the DPI also increases the size of your file, so you will only want to use a high resolution only when absolutely necessary.

Understanding File Types

​The final size of your design depends on the resolution of the file type you choose when downloading your design in Canva. Here's what Canva recommends:

  • JPG is useful for saving images at small file sizes. It’s usually chosen for Web use but also produces the lowest resolution printed designs.

  • PNG is ideal for saving line drawings, text, and icons at small file sizes. It’s also a common choice for Web uploads.

  • PDF Standard is ideal for screen viewing multi-page, text-heavy documents.

  • PDF Print is the only file format which saves professional print quality at 300 DPI. Use this file format when printing or if you want a high-quality version of your design.

So with all of this information, it really comes down to this question:

How do you choose what file type to download in Canva to give you the best print quality?

It's one of the most frequently asked questions I get from our community of memory keepers. It also can be a confusing subject to explain. So if you've read this far, thank you, you're awesome!! You now have a good foundation for this next part.

First off, I decided I needed to get to the bottom of this to confidently answer this question for myself. After researching all the information I shared above, I next entered the testing phase in Canva. Using one of their photo collage templates I downloaded it multiple times in multiple file types. I'm sharing my results below.

Canva Download & Print Test Results

Here's the baseline details: I created two identical designs in Canva; #1 in inches (8"x10") and #2 in pixels (2400 x3000px) If you do the math you'll see they are the same size. With each download, my intent was to create a file that would print at 300 dpi. I tested these file downloads as: .jpg .png and .pdf. and printed the pages on glossy photo paper using an HP Envy 7155 photo printer.

The Download Results | .jpg files

Design Size in Canva

Download File Type

Size Setting in Canva

Pixel Size in Canva

Setting in Canva

File Size my computer

Print Score

8"x10"

​.jpg

1.5

2400 x 3000

80

508 KB

9.5

8"x10"

​.jpg

2

2400 x 3200

80

791 KB

9.5

2400 x 3000 px

​.jpg

1

2400 x 3000

80

508 KB

9.5

2400 x 3000 px

​.jpg

1.5

3600 x 4497

80

950 KB

9.5

When downloading a .jpg file in Canva Pro, you have the option to adjust the settings. In my opinion this feature is a solid reason to upgrade your Canva account, especially if you want a smaller file size with a high quality print. Before you click download, Canva does display the pixel dimensions your design will be. I love that!!

In this run I tested two size options, each with different pixel sizes ensuring 300 dpi. Then, I printed all four pages, labeling the backside with my settings, and scored each page out of 10 for print quality. To my eyes, they were near perfect. I even had extra sets of eyes on them to see if they could see any differences between the prints. They could not and seriously thought I had printed 4 copies of the same design.


The Download Results | .png / .pdf

Design Size in Canva

Download File Type

Size Setting in Canva

Pixel Size in Canva

Setting in Canva

File Size my computer

Print Score

8"x10"

.png

1.5

2400 x 3000

n/a

4.1 MB

9.5

2400 x 3000 px

.png

n/a

2400 x 3000

n/a

4.1 MB

9.5

2400 x 3000 px

.PDF

n/a

n/a

n/a

14.7 MB

10

Same as a .jpg, when downloading a .png file in Canva Pro, you have the option to adjust the settings. For design #1 (created in inches), I did have to increase the size setting to 1.5 on design to get a file that would be 300 dpi. On design #2 (created in pixels), no size adjustment was needed.

My last download test was a high quality .pdf file. Once downloaded, the file size was the largest by far at almost 15MB. Storage space is something you want to keep in mind, especially if you are storing a lot of digital files. However, I did score it a perfect 10 after printing. When compared with the other printed pages it was just a smidge better in clarity of text. But honestly, it was like splitting hairs.

My Final Thoughts

So what did I learn from all of this? My takeaway was for me file size matters more than file type. I came to this conclusion because I tracked it. I was able to save each type of file to print at 300dpi with great results. I also really love printing smaller prints on my Epson PM-400 and .jpg files are great for that! It's good to know that I don't need to "oversize" my download just to get a high quality print. If you outsource your photo printing, I encourage you to double check their printing guidelines, most usually have this info available online. And not all services, like for photo books as an example, will accept a .pdf upload for printing. Blurb however, is one that does.




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