How to Choose the right dpi Print Resolution for your needs?

When selecting a printer, there is more to consider than just cost. Print quality and speed, for instance, can each have lasting impacts on your business. Time is valuable, and a printer that is too slow will negatively impact productivity. Yet a fast printer that yields hard-to-read results is no better. This brings us to the question of dpi and how dpi affects print resolution. 

What is dpi?  

“dpi” is a printing acronym that stands for “dots per inch.” Printers reproduce images by imprinting a series of tiny dots on your media, which combine together to form the text or graphics you intended to print. The density of the printed dots found within any given inch on your labels or paper is known as the dpi. More dots printed results in a higher density of dots and, thus, a better print quality. Evidence of improved print quality, or resolution, can be found in sharper, more detailed images and crisper looking text.  

What is the difference between 203 dpi and 300 dpi Printer Resolution?

203 dpi essentially means that your printer will output 203 dots of ink per inch of printing. 300 dpi will output 300 dots of ink per inch, and 600 dpi will output 600 dots of ink per inch. While one could argue that 600 dpi is the “best” and 203 dpi is the “worst,” this comparison simply refers to print resolution. Just because print quality is higher, does not necessarily mean it will be a better fit for your printing needs when you factor print speeds and costs into the equation. 

Which printing resolution do I need for my labels?

Believe it or not, 203 dpi resolution meets the needs of most applications when it comes to document and label readability. 203 dpi is perfectly acceptable for shipping labels and for most law enforcement applications, such as printing eCitations. The nice thing about 203 dpi is that your labels or documents will print faster (and probably more cost-effectively), plus they’ll still appear perfectly clear and readable for your purposes. 

Should your application require mid-range printing resolution, 300 dpi is your best bet. Print speeds will be fairly quick, costs will be middle of the road, and resolution is considered “high.” For law enforcement printing, 300 dpi is advised when printing detailed logos or images, rather than plain text. 

Print resolution of 600 dpi is rarely considered when it comes to at-home printing, law enforcement printing, or basic shipping labels. However, if your applications include printing scannable barcodes, small fonts or symbols, a 600 dpi resolution printer will result in the clear, readable images you need. Examples of applications for which you will want a 600 dpi resolution printer include: 

How do barcode labels affect the supply chain - image of a worker labeling a box
  • Electronics product labels 
  • Circuit board labels 
  • Labels smaller than 1” x ½” 
  • Fonts less than size 6 
  • Asian characters less than size 10 
  • 2D barcodes smaller than .3” x .3” 
  • Photos   

Keep in mind that while print speeds do decrease with increased print resolution, it is a tradeoff you must make to ensure the high-quality results you need. 

For more information about label printing, watch this video produced by printing industry leader, Zebra Technologies

Zebra Tips on Deciding Between 203, 300 or 600 DPI Print Resolution
This video includes tips on determining your needs & summarizes the difference between 203 dpi and 300 dpi Printer Resolution