Print Quality

What Does Print Quality Mean?

Print quality refers to the quality of the hard copy or printout produced by a printer. There are many factors that determine the level of the quality, but, overall, it has to do with the accuracy of the reproduction of the source material, which is influenced by the quality and type of paper used and, of course, by the specifications of the printer such as the dots per inch (DPI), the print-head capability and the type and quality of ink/toner used.


Techopedia Explains Print Quality

Print quality is mostly measured in DPI, which is quite similar to the definition of pixels in terms of digital images and even screen resolution. DPI is equivalent to the ability of a printer to mimic the number of pixels or the resolution of the source image. If a printer has a lower DPI capability compared to the source image, the printed image becomes a down-scaled version in terms of resolution, although this is usually not an issue for regular printing at smaller “office” size prints but would make a bigger impact on poster printing and larger formats.

DPI is not the only factor that affects print quality; other factors include the driver of the printer and the ink or toner used. The printer driver transforms the source image into a set of instructions for the printer to follow, which determines where it places each dot on the page and what color to use. If the instructions are wrong, then the printout would definitely be wrong. Faulty printer driver programming is often the reason why printers sometimes display artifacts in the printed image.

Printers use the pigment-based CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) color space for printing. This is different from the color space used by computer screens, which is light based. The problem this presents for printing is that the printer can only give out consistent-sized dots for each color, so it must be careful which portions receive which dot of color in order to achieve the most accurate color reproduction. In modern LCD screens, each pixel can vary the intensity of each color, making it better for color reproduction. The quality of the ink or toner used also plays a big part in regard to color reproduction.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.