Matching Image size to Print Size

So, all the hours in Photoshop are complete, your masterpiece is ready for the world. You have decide to have your image printed, so the world really can see it!  A decision is made on the perfect paper and mount for the image, you have placed your order, uploaded the image file and now its only a matter of waiting for the delivery or is it?

Does your image file match the size of the product ordered or is the aspect ratio incorrect. Does your Image file contain enough data to produce a quality print at a resolution that does justice to your masterpiece? Have you left enough space on the edges to ensure that when the print is being mounted important pieces of the image, part of the head or foot or an arm , are not lost?

The answer to these questions can make a big difference and can save you from the frustration of not being able to have your image the way you thought it looked its best.

The Pitfalls - The Solution

We see a number of issues that arise regularly but the three most common without doubt are as follows:

  •   Incorrect aspect ratio - the dimensions of the image do not fit the dimensions of the print requested.
  •   Insufficient data in the image file to produce a print with a satisfactory resolution at the requested size.
  •   Details in the print placed too close to the borders - these get lost or cut during mounting or framing.

What do these mean and how can the problems be avoided :-

Aspect Ratio - : is the relationship of an image's width and height. 35mm film frames are approximately 24mm x 36mm, giving an aspect ratio of 2:3 and on this basis print sizes and media have developed for a 2:3 ratio. Some examples are 6x4, 12x8, 18x12,and 30x20. Note that all these sizes are quoted in inches, as the largest market remains the US which still works in Imperial and that is how most media arrives in Australia.

DSLR cameras shoot in 2:3 ratio as they are an effective continuation of the traditional film cameras, point and shoot cameras have a 3:4 ratio as they were originally developed to display on a computer monitor which - you guessed it - had a screen ratio of 3:4.

Other ratio's exist, created every time you crop an image in a freeform method, and then to add to the issue we can introduce stitched images which can have any ratio.

What does all this mean, simply that if you have an image and you have not sized it to match the print size chosen, then a crop is going to be necessary. What about Photoshop I hear, well despite all the magic within, photoshop will not always have the answer, especially on highly detailed prints. Will the cropped image still contain the details important to you, possibly not and on many occasions the whole impact of the image can change.


Shoot Loose : This won't help you with the card full of tightly-composed photos you took this morning. But from now on, make sure you zoom out just a little bit from your subject, to allow yourself room for cropping later. Don't worry, modern cameras give you plenty of pixels to play with.

Don't Crop During Editing : Resist the temptation to use the crop tool as part of your editing process. Yes, cropping is an integral part of composition, but you'll find yourself with the same problems as if you'd shot tight.

Crop Before Printing : Now is the time to make sure the cropped image that you like is the size of the selected print.

Clone : This is tedious, and doesn't always work, but it can get you out of trouble when the image details lost in a crop are to important.

Content Aware Fill : For those with the latest generations of Photoshop this is one piece of magic that may save your bacon. This can work very well with landscapes, particularly areas of sky etc that are not the detail of the image.

Top & Bottom Borders : sometimes the image may lend itself to the addition of a decorative border. Will only work with landscape orientation and should be a rarity.

Pick a different size Print : I have this option listed last but it is without a doubt the easiest solution, match the image ratio to the print size selected.


Resolution : An area of many excellent articles and much misconception. On our Epson printers we can achieve quality results from 200ppi to 360ppi . To simply make the math easy we use files at 300ppi, with this number we can see what the native dimensions of the file are and begin to see if the quality of the image will be acceptable at the ordered size. As a simple check for a 10 x 20 inch image we would be looking for your file to have 3000 x 6000 pixels, 18megapixels, a large file.

When you want an image larger than its native size, it is necessary to resample or interpolate the image - you ask the computer to make up the extra pixels. E.G if a file has dimensions of 1800x1200 pixels its native size at 300ppi is 6in x 4in. If you want this image at say 24x16 then the computer has to make up 5400x3600 pixels which is a big ask. The best way to look at this is to not  resample and see what resolution we get from the native file,  we get 75ppi. OK for a computer screen but way below the 200ppi minimum for an acceptable print resolution.


Do the math: This one is quite simple but it does have a big impact on the outcome for you.

Obtain a larger File : Is it possible to obtain a larger file of the image concerned, do you have a RAW file with more detail.

Order a smaller Print : It may be necessary to change the order to a size that is more suitable for the file size, a change of product may also exist as a Canvas print is more forgiving than a paper print due to the material texture.

Third Party interpolation programs : Many people find that programs like Genuine Fractals and Alien Skin Blow-Up can help when making big changes.

Contact the Printers : Prior to an order seek expert opinion.


Image Details Close to an Edge - In the process of printing an image particularly for Block mounting on Aluminium Panels or face-mounting on Acrylic panels it is necessary for the image to be enlarged beyond the chosen print size. This also happens in borderless printing and is how the printer ensures there are no white bits left on the paper.

In the case of the block mounting 1 cm is added in both directions and is then cut off after mounting, this will mean that if you have detail right to the edge of your image, bits will be lost.

Solutions :

Leave room - when cropping either in the computer or at time of capture in the camera be aware and allow space so that you can have a choice of presentation.

Titles - If including your name or a title on the image place it at least 1-2cm into the image. Better yet enlarge the canvas and place text outside the image.

Clone - It is possible to add an edge but as previously noted this is tedious and time consuming, so option one is better.

Add A Border - With a canvas print it is possible to add a border to your image that will allow the whole image to be on display on the face. If in doubt, consult with your printer.


I hope that some of the matters covered here can assist you in achieving the perfect Display of your image and many years of enjoyment.

If in any doubt contact us through the website or phone us at the shop as we are dealing with these issues on a daily basis and have many satisfactory outcomes. We are keen photographers ourselves and will always try and give you the benefit of what we have learnt in these areas, a well presented print is always more enjoyable than a hard drive or file labelled  "My Photo's".

Ken Scarfe