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Photoshop maximum pixels / printing

James Trory , Oct 02, 2009; 09:17 p.m.

I am about to start working on printing a wall scroll that is roughly 16 feet long by 4 feet high. It has been worked on before, several years ago, and when it was printed then it was printed in two halves and then literally taped together. This was because back then, Photoshop couldn't support an image that large.

I was just on the Adobe website and it says that even for CS3, which I am using, the maximum pixel dimensions PS can support are 300,000 x 300,000 which is well within the range of this image at full length (110,000 x 27,000). So I got excited because I thought I could print the whole thing in one piece using PS and not something confusing like ImagePrint.

Problem is, the two separate halves open up fine in PS, but the File>Print command is grayed out. I can access Page Setup to specify paper size but not the Print dialog box. What's going on? So I can't even print them in separate pieces in PS? All the other settings for the image seem to be fine - Greyscale, 8-bit, Gamma 2.2. I don't know what it could be other than PS can't do it, but that is not what Adobe's website says so I'm confused.


Colin Mattson , Oct 02, 2009; 09:29 p.m.

Photoshop can't do it—the print size limitation is 30,000 (with 4 zeroes).

The file size limitation is indeed 300,000 square, but OS and print driver limitations choke back what can be printed considerably. If you want to print the whole thing in one go, you'll basically need to export it and run it through a RIP.

Otto Mellar , Oct 03, 2009; 12:46 a.m.

I was going to say something boring like the usual "do you need 300 ppi output resolution for something that is billboard sized".

But I did some calculations and found that at 300 ppi, your output would be about 367 x 90 inches or twice the size of high resolution! Why do you need to print at 600 ppi? IMHO, you could print a 30,000 pixel wide image to 16 foot wide and no one will think it low resolution.

Why don't you test print a segment at 150 ppi and view it from a couple of paces away?

Hakon Soreide , Oct 03, 2009; 03:36 a.m.

30000 pixels at 16 feet is 156ppi - which should be enough for a brilliant print that won't look pixelated unless the image has been uprezzed a lot. Even at "tiny sizes" (16"x20" or thereabouts) 150ppi might be enough.

Kari Vierimaa , Oct 03, 2009; 06:00 a.m.

I agree, 156ppi should work wonderfully for 16x4' print.

Kelly Flanigan , Oct 03, 2009; 11:19 a.m.

A 150 ppi print is totally sharp at a viewing distance of 2 feet.

Photoshop broke the old 30,000 pixel limit already; Photoshop 7.0 of circa 2002 has a 30,000 pixel limit; Photoshop 8.0/CS of circa 2003 has a 300,000 pixel limit.

Whether you can print using more than a 30,000 pixel size now is just dependent on your printer drivers; OS etc and not modern Photoshop.

Our DOS based engineering plotter of 1992 would print a 19 foot long image by 3 feet wide as its limit; at 400 pixels per inch; a B&W bitmap image. There was a hard limit at 19 feet set in its driver; this is a 19x12x400 =91200 pixels; the main computer was a 486-50; printer and scanner cost 58K.
Our 1994 vintage 36" old inkjets use NT in their RIP boxes; there is a hard limit of 30,000 it's RIP software. A long banner if made with Photoshop CS could be more that this 30,000 pixel limit; but if we use the older printer we made a image less than 30,000 pixels.

*****There is really NO answer to IF the ppi is OK for your application; unless your fork over some actual details like viewing distance. It is like asking how much food one needs for a gathering of folks; but you cannot figure a rough guess of the number of folks.
If one is making a giant super detailed wall map of Los Angeles area from Santa Barbara to the Inland Empire that is 16 feet wide; 150 ppi is not going to be enough to read fine print used to label between dinky streets that are side to side. With fine mapping; often 300, 360 or 400 ppi is used; sometimes even 500 on rare occasions.

Find a local printer and see what the max pixel limits are for their printers; ones that go above 30,000 are around. Our old DOS printer of 1992 could use above 30,000; our newer wide format ones do to. Do NOT assume that jsut because a printer is new that it will work with an image above 30,000.

Most folks who want a giant print do not buy a printer for making one giant print; ie they farm teh job out. If you want a septic tang pumped; you call up the honey dipper man; you do not assume what his max tank holds; or assume what the weight of his truck is either. What you do is ask them.

With a LOCAL printer one avoids shipping costs; one can see samples too.

***Your question actually reads like you are going to print the long banner print yourself; ie your comments about the "grey out". Thus if you actually have a big printer; you should contact the printer folks and see what the limits are; maybe all you need is a newer driver.

A print at 300 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 1 foot; thus :
A print at 150 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 2 feet; thus :
A print at 100 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 3 feet; thus :
A print at 75 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 4 feet; thus :
A print at 60 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 5 feet; thus :
A print at 50 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 6 feet; thus :
A print at 30 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 10 feet; thus :
A print at 10 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 30 feet; thus :
A print at 3 pixels per inchs fine to most folks at 100 feet; thus :

<pro> printers rant on :)

IF your work on what your viewing distance actuallly is going to be; then one can figure what ppi is required. This ie easy in pro work; hard in amateur printing clients.

***Pros have an actual client; the image is on a billboard at 100 feet; thus 3 ppi is great. Or it is hockey dasher boards; thus 3 to 10 ppi is ok. Or it is a super detailed wall map for the Los Angeles police dept to be looked at 1 foot away at times; thus 300 ppi is a minimum. Maybe the text ont eh map is a font from total hell; and darn microtype is used too; and thus 360 to 400 is required. The pro image might be a calm setting that is 8 foot high by 12 foot wide in a dental room; one views teh image while being drilled on. You are fixed in a chair 7 feet from the wall; thus 300/7= 43 ppi is great.

***In amateur work to box is a viewing distance is about impossible for a printing client; thus the trend is always more pixels to cover ones bum. In many cases actual clients want absurd resolutions; off a factor of ten. For many folks worrrying about all these pixels is their main concern; ie waht often is NOT important. The failure modes then with amateurs and giant wall images is that the image has no soul or no impact. Or the image is so big that it absorbs alot of reflected light; and the room looks way darker. Or their are assumtions that we printers will mount or laminate; or ship these giant beasts for free.

</pro> printers Rant off:)
Most all the stuff that is printed in super giant sizes does NOT even require a 150 ppi image; often images are great at 100; 50; even 30 because giant pirints are typically viewed farther away. If you find out a viewing distance;t ehn one can box in what the actual ppi is required; and not a cover ones bum absurdly high number.

Michael Hendrickson , Oct 04, 2009; 05:37 a.m.

Indeed, as noted above, you haven't stated the contents of what you're printing.

If it's a picture of something then of course it will note require a high-res printing. And only you can decide what the minimum "threshold" for print quality is.

I strongly second the idea of taking a small crop of the image and printing it at a few different resolutions on 8x10 and then seeing how it looks.

If the print contains typography, then that's going to be a different situation. Any graphic artist will tell you that needs a minimum of 300 dpi for good "drawing" of the curves, as well as a good rendering of thin lines. 600 dpi is better; above that, the difference starts to become less noticeable.

For a long time, 1200 dpi has been the standard minimum for "publication quality" of type, but in the last few years many books are now printed from 600 dpi originals. Because I've been working with type for so long, I can tell the difference, but I doubt many others can.

In any event, if the letters are nice and big, you'll be okay in the 300-600 dpi range for sure.

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