How Large Can You Enlarge Different Megapixels?

Many people who use digital cameras want to know how large they can blow up or enlarge their photographs based the megapixel count of their camera. This article is aimed at teaching you how much you can enlarge your photographs depending on what type of digital camera you're using and what the pixel settings are on your camera.

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Here are some concepts you should understand before to fully understand the chart below:

This chart outlines how big you can blow up your digital pictures.
This chart was created and sent to us by one of our students. To use this chart find the resolution of your image and multiply it to find out how many megapixels the image is. For example a 1024 pixel by 1024 pixel image would be a 1MP (1 Megapixel) image because 1024X1024 is ~1 million pixels.

Color Quality Comments PPI Range
Superb
Superb
Just about the finest quality possible.
200+ PPI
Excellent
Excellent
The casual photographer will see no difference to a slight difference when compared to Superb.
150-199 PPI
Better
Better
Better than Good, but not as good as Excellent. The typical photographer will be very happy with prints of this quality.
100-149 PPI
Good
Good
Quality that your typical photographer will be happy with.
80-99 PPI
Fair
Fair
Quality will depend on the individual picture. For larger size prints the typical photographer will find them acceptable, but the sharpness will not be as high as a Good quality print. Compelling subject matter may trump the loss of sharpness. But doesn't it always?!
79 PPI or less

What is the difference between DPI and PPI?

It should be noted that the image enlargement size recommendations above are on the conservative size and will allow for optimal enlargement capabilities with the best and crispest possible picture.

However, you can still blow your photographs up further if you don't mind loosing a little bit of crispness.

For example you can enlarge a 6-7 megapixel print to 16.20 or an 8 megapixel print to 17x22. Better yet, you can blow up a 10 megapixel print to 20x30 for a good quality print.

If you're interested in learning more about this. Have a look at our online course.

(The chart on this page is entirely subjective!)

Which Company Makes The Best Prints?
How To Display Large Prints On Your Walls.
More photography resources.
Photography Glossary.

61 comments

  1. Scott says:

    Um, I have no idea what the top chart is supposed to be. What do the numbers in the colored boxes mean? Where did they come from? Is a high number good or bad?

      • Michael Thomas says:

        I find it very interesting that your chart, indeed your whole approach to this subject, glaringly omits the absolutely critical importance of sensor size. Your chart would have us believe that one can achieve the same quality of print from a camera with a 1″ sensor with a resolution of, say, 16 megapixels as a camera of the same resolution using a full frame sensor. That is so false!!!!! Sensor size is far more important in determining resulting print quality. As an example, you will get better pictures from a 10 megapixel full frame camera than you will from a 20 megapixel 1″ sensor camera. Do the math concerning the light gathering capabilities of each camera.

    • Numbers that are in the color boxes are ( ppi) —Pixels per inch .The more pixels
      per inch you have in the file of the photo ,will allow one to get better looks and or
      a bigger print………………..virgil graham

      • Let’s try to keep things civil around here please. Also just to be clear the word maroon means brownish-crimson color. The word moron generally refers to a a stupid person. The more you know!

        • Tom C says:

          IIRC that is a Bugs Bunny term/phrase… “What a Maroon”… which I GUESS in cartoons (way back then) was a little better than saying “moron”.

          do a search for “what a maroon” if you care… which i doubt.

  2. Jim says:

    Whilst the information here is generally correct, it does have one glaring error. My biggest gripe about your page is the totally incorrect use of dpi. Dpi is a PRINTING term – it measures the number of dots of ink/toner etc. placed on the print itself. Dots have a physical being. They exist.

    Your printer determines the dpi of your print based on the machines they use and you have no control over dpi. If you print at howme you do have that control and you set it based on the quyality you want. Epson offer Maximumn Quality, Best Quality etc and that is in effect amending the dpi of the print.

    However what you are talking about here are digital images and digital images are measured in PIXELS and the term you should be using is PPI PIXELS PER INCH. Pixels are the smallest part of a digital image and how close you place them will determine only the size of the print.

    PPI and DPI are not the same. Photoshop gets it right. Wikipedia gets it, so why do so many (decent) web sites providing good information like this get it wrong? All it does is add further to the confusion.

    Anyway other than that, the information here is good. You can easily get a 20″ print at pretty decent (good) quality from a 2Mp image. That may surprise many but it’s true.

    I generally don’t go lower tha 100ppi but have a very large print sent at 75ppi that was printed at 3m x 1m! Looked amazing

    So I do like the page…. Just needs correcting 🙂

    Cheers
    Jim

  3. Jason says:

    I think DPI is relevant. It’s just another number to be concerned with.
    The highest pixel counts will be rendered moot by a low DPI print.

  4. Paul says:

    I am looking to make a 20×30 print from an image that is 2331×3496 pixels. My Top Gear maths estimate that to be ~140 ppi. The photo printing website recommended 300 dpi for a high quality print. (Should they have specified ppi instead?)

    Here is my question: My photo editing software allows me to increase the resolution to 300 ppi for a 20×30 image. Will doing so make a difference in the quality of the print?

    Thanks!

    • JOHN says:

      Duncan….I would love to know what your answer is to this question. I have the same question.
      Thanks for the chart, by the way.

      • Simon Knight says:

        The simple answer to “does increasing the number of pixels in a digital file make a difference to the quality of the print is that it should not” it means that you have some control over how the increase in pixel count is achieved. However in my limited experience it depends on a combination of 1) the method that is used to add in the extra picture elements (pixels) and 2) the subject matter of the image file. It is also worth knowing that your printer is asking for 300 pixels per inch because the printer (machine not human) is most likely printing 140 dots per inch in what is known as the screen pattern. Double this number is required to achieve an acceptable output which means 280 pixels per inch. 280 has been rounded up to 300 which gives a little headroom. Please note I am talking about commercial printing machines not typical home print machines which often employ variable size dots and semi random patterns. With these machines it is possible to get good output at lower resolution. Obviously what is deemed good is up to the person viewing the final print.

  5. ed says:

    I have a Canon full frame nearly 25mp…my understanding is this larger cmos results in a better enlargement than the cmos of a phone camera Or camera of 25mp with small cmos. Is this correct? As such it seems the larger cmos would be an even enlargement And different considerations on the chart. Thanks.

  6. Ian says:

    Hi guys i do a lot of photography but currently only have an iPhone 4s and some apps for editing, however i produce fairly decent pictures that some people would like to buy from me. They transfer me money via paypal then i email them an un-watermarked/un-cropped version of the image they desire, however when it comes to them asking what size canvas or photo they can print up to i’m not sure. I’ve printed one at 14″X14″ before and it come out perfect but i have no idea what the maximum would be, also i have seen huge posters of high quality images, probably 8ft high by 5 ft wide and the image claims to be shot with an iPhone 6 which also has an 8mp camera? I’m no professional on the matter but i feel sure that cannot be achieved with an 8 megapixel camera? Any answers on this would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Fred Heany says:

    jim December 10, 2014 claimss to have hi quality photo 40 inches by 9 feet with
    75 pixels per inch. When the properties on your photo comes up at say at 2000 pixels tall by say 3264 wide x 2448 high pixels wide. I scale it up by a factor of 4 times (ie 8 in on my computer screen to 8 x 4 = 32 inches becomes 32 inches. do I divide the 2448 by 4 to get 612 pixels or Square root of 2448 and come up with 49.47 pixels?

    With my I phone 6 plus when I enlarge 4 times it diminishes the quality at 4 times, at 3 times its not bad. Attempting to blow up a nature photograph for the living room 4 feet high by 6 feet wide. Meeting with the image producer tomorrow

  8. Sonja says:

    Hello, thank you so much for this chart!
    I have an image of 3500 x 2329 pixels so this would come to just over 8MP. Just also about saving and changing the resolution, by how much is it safe to do so? For example if I save it as 300ppi/dpi at 20×30″ or 24×36″ would that be safe or a bit too much for good quality? Or what is a better way to save the image? Thanks! 🙂

    • BG Davis says:

      You will get better results with an image processing program. One great free program you can download is FastStone Image Viewer, which is actually a photo editing program. You can resize/resample your image using this program, which for this purpose performs just as well as PhotoShop or any other paid program.

    • BG Davis says:

      According the the spec sheet, the SX30 is 14mp, not 16mp.
      That said, a lot depends on the shot. If you shot in good light, with low ISO, at the optimal f/ stop (every camera/lens has a “sweet spot” aperture at which images will be the most clear) you should be able to get a decent print of 11×14 or perhaps larger. You have to realize that the physical size of the sensor is at least as important as the pixel count, and 14mp is a lot of pixels to cram onto a tiny 1/2.3in sensor.

  9. All I have to say is Optics, Optics, Optics! Why you may ask? Well real photographers will never let their children buy Nikon or Canon! Now for my explanation! Pop Photo last month, was showing off a 400mm Canon lens…$6,350.00…They just could not effectively B.S. their way around the fact that this piece of Junk was not capable of anything larger that 5 x 7 photo quality shots! Soooo…If you are suckered into buying one of the Canon 24 mp bodies, and place this 400mm piece of junk glass on it, you will get 24mp’s of High Resolution CRAP! I have to tell you that this is not the only lens that was that bad from the Junk yard factories of these two giants of the Photographic Flim-Flam industry! And because PopPhoto has Millions tossed at them every time NiCanon come out with a new piece of junk glass, they waltz their way through their explanation as to the Chromatic and Spherical abberations that may be present, and VOILA! Another happy but dumb NiCanon lens owner! Now mind you, they sell some pretty expensive and sharp lenses if you have 36K-69K in your bank account, and you will be happy…Broke…But Happy!

    • BG Davis says:

      It’s not terribly constructive to make wild accusations with zero evidence. DxOMark does scientific tests on cameras and lenses and this is a more reliable source of information. Although I don’t use Canon or Nikon anymore for various reasons, they both have produced excellent cameras and there is no doubt they will continue to do so. Again, DxOMark and similar sites will give rational analysis, which is far more useful. For more detailed analysis and evaluation of performance, ImagingResource also does excellent tests with rational conclusions.

  10. BG Davis says:

    The chart and commentary is great, but one key fact is missing: if you send your images out to be printed, the print shop will almost always insist on images that have a resolution of 300PPI. This means that the upper part of the chart (images below about 10mp) will not be acceptable at any of the sizes indicated. So either you need to resample prior to submission, or you need a camera with higher pixel count.

    Moreover, if one compares images taken with the same lens using two cameras with APS-C sensor, say, Pentax K-r (12mp) and Pentax K-5 (16mp), the sensor with higher resolution generates images that are noticeably more detailed. And of course if you do extensive cropping this effect becomes even more evident.

  11. Reacher says:

    i appreciate the information here I just have one question. Are these dimensions relative to the setting you capture pics with? IE: “fine” vs RAW?

    • @Reacher The best thing to do is shoot RAW at the highest quality your camera can shoot in. If you want to know where your camera fits on this chart find your camera’s megapixel count. And compare accordingly.

  12. Glenn says:

    Hi, all these comments are great and very helpful. What i want to know is: I have a Fuji S1 16mp. I want to be able to print off 24×30 prints. So do i shoot in 16 mp and in raw? or what should I put my camera setting on? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.

  13. Scott says:

    Thank you for the handy chart, and time you’ve invested. I’d like some clarification. The numbers in the coloured boxes are DPI? How is the resolution calculated on the film scans? A 4×5 could be scanned to great range of output resolutions, as could the other film sizes. Further, using just one example 16×20 prints w/ 6×6 & 6×7 film sizes the difference in dpi is only 8? If we crop a 6×6 to the same dimensions of 6×7 we lose about a third of the image area. I chose 6×7 and 16×20 because that format fits closely without cropping.

    Beyond that, the call on print appearances is subjective. Some will see things others won’t. But there are a few other criteria as well: optics, technique, subject matter, iso, scanning, post work.

    • Film scans could be scanned at any number of different resolutions. This chart just shows a rough subjective guide for taking the resolution you have in MP and checking roughly how it will look in a print. Honestly don’t read too much into it. It’s just a loose guide!

      Thanks.

  14. Andrew says:

    I shoot most of my pictures with my Android. Mostly because it is always with me and editing is quick and easy. Plus lugging a slr around, everywhere I go, can be burdensome. I have a few pics, after editing, that are around 1MP. Is there any way to enlarge these without compromising the resolution? Otherwise, I may have to lug my slr around…thanks!

    • If you want the best quality I would say ‘lug’ around your SLR. But if you absolutely must increase the size of a file one neat little one neat little trick is to do it in steps. For example instead of making an image 10% larger in photoshop make it 1% larger 10 times. It actually makes a noticeable difference. But this is a worst case scenario, you really should never do this unless you absolutely have no other choice.

  15. John says:

    A really useful chart so thank you for posting this info. I’ve just been asked for a 40″ wide print of one of my pics so this is really handy. With all of the variables that go into a printed picture, don’t forget the viewing distance! One poster stated that there was an 8 foot x 5 foot print from an 8mp image from an iPhone and wondered if this was achievable. This wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny but from a distance would look impressive, so do bare in mind where the enlarged image is going to end up. Look at advertising hoardings on the side of buildings. Look great when you drive past in your car but get close and you can see the DPI. Even the most polished surface can look pitted when viewed through a magnifying glass!

  16. Barbara says:

    I would like to buy a 60 x 80 Plush Fleece Blanket. The camera I own is a 16.2 MP. Every picture I take is to low a resolution, according to the stores web page. Can you tell me what kind of camera I would need to take pictures that would be good for this type of printing?
    Thanks

    • Something like this would actually be an exception to almost everything above. You could probably get away with the camera you are using because you don’t need perfect resolution/clarity for a blanket. I would talk to someone at the place you’re trying to buy it from and I’m sure they’ll be able to help. Hope this helps.

  17. Alan says:

    Are those print sizes in inches, or cm?
    You have metric units in film sizes, but end up with PPI – Pixels Per Inch. So there’s a change to Imperial units somewhere…

  18. Leslie Jackson says:

    I’m also a photographer and I generally use my professional camera but I need to use my iPhone 6s today. What is the largest print I can make & still be in the Great/ Excellent category? I’m praying I can make a print that is 42″ x 24″…..what do you think?

  19. Has R says:

    Please help me understand,
    if i have a 6 mp image and i want 16+ inch photo, does increasing the DPI in Photoshop to 300 (in case the original file had 200 DPI for example) helpful?

  20. stayci says:

    Hi I was just trying to print a a2canvas from a picture that is 500×333 px it wont let me print it a2 size …. Also if I want a picture blown up to a2 size or bigger what do I need to know

  21. Bardia says:

    I need to blow up an image I have that is 4016×6016 px to about 7 feet high and 9 feet wide. what canvas size should I have on my new photoshop document if i want to transfer those photos over to the board for a good quality print?

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