Computers, Laptops & Tablets Accessories & Hardware 186 186 people found this article helpful Understanding Printer Resolution Relative to Print Quality and Detail When quality and detailed prints are important, so is resolution By William Harrel Writer our editorial process Facebook Twitter William Harrel Updated November 14, 2019 Accessories & Hardware Printers & Scanners Guide To Buying a New Printer Keyboards & Mice Monitors Cards HDD & SSD Raspberry Pi Tweet Share Email For most of us who use printers to print emails or the occasional photo, the resolution of the printer is not a concern. Even basic printers have a sufficiently high resolution that most documents look professional, while photo printers deliver great-looking prints. However, if print quality and vivid detail are important in your work, there is plenty to know about printer resolution. johnnyscriv/Getty Images Dots Per Inch Printers print by applying ink or toner onto the paper. Inkjets use nozzles that spray tiny drops of ink, while laser printers melt dots of toner against the paper. The more dots you can squeeze into a square inch, the sharper the resulting image is. A 600 dpi printer squeezes 600 dots horizontally and 600 dots vertically in every square inch of the sheet. Some inkjet printers have a higher resolution in one direction, so you might also see a resolution like 600 by 1200 dpi. Up to a point, the higher the resolution, the crisper the image on the sheet. Optimized DPI Printers can place dots of different sizes, intensities, and even shapes, onto the page, which can change the way the finished product looks. Some printers are capable of an “optimized dpi” print process, meaning their printheads optimize the placement of ink drops to improve the quality of prints. Optimized dpi occurs when the paper moves through the printer in one direction more slowly than normal. As a result, the dots overlap somewhat. The final result is rich, but this optimized technique uses more ink and time than the printer's normal settings. More is not necessarily better. For the majority of daily users, printing everything in the highest possible resolution is a waste of ink. Many printers offer a draft-quality setting. The document prints quickly and uses little ink. It doesn’t look perfect, but it is clear and good enough to meet many day-to-day needs. What’s Good Enough? For a letter or business document with graphics, 600 dpi is going to look fine. If it’s a handout for the board of directors, 1200 dpi does the trick. For the average photographer, 1200 dpi is excellent. All of these specs are well within the reach of most printers on the market. When your printer gets above 1200 dpi, you'll find it nearly impossible to see any difference in what you are printing. There are exceptions, of course. Professional photographers want a higher resolution; they'll be looking at 2880 by 1440 dpi or higher. Ink Makes a Difference Resolution is more than just dpi, however. The kind of ink used can trump the dpi numbers. Laser printers make text look sharp because they use toner that doesn’t bleed into the paper like ink does. If your main purpose in buying a printer is to print black-and-white documents, a monochrome laser printer produces text that looks crisper than that from a high-resolution inkjet printer. Use the Right Paper Papers optimize the differences between printers and so help create great images no matter what dpi your printer is capable of. Plain copy paper works well for laser printers because nothing is absorbed. However, inkjet inks are water-based and are absorbed by paper fiber. That’s why there are specific papers made for inkjet printers and why printing a photo on plain paper is going to give you a limp, wet picture. If you’re just printing an email, use cheap copy paper; but if you’re developing a brochure or flyer, it's worth investing in the right paper.