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Resampling your images in Photoshop

The process of resampling allows you to change the pixel dimensions of your image. This will affect the display and print size of your image. This part of the resizing process is important for several reasons:

  • Images will print faster when they are sized properly for your output device.
  • Images will print clearer when you size them to a target size and then run a sharpening filter to enhance the edge detail.
  • Images appear crisper when they are displayed at 100 percent on a computer screen (such as for a PowerPoint presentation or website).

The process of resampling is often identified based on whether you are scaling the image smaller (downsampling) or larger (upsampling):

  • Downsampling: If you decrease the number of pixels in an image, you are downsampling the image, which permanently discards data. You can specify an interpolation method (discussed in the next section) to determine how pixels are deleted.
  • Upsampling: When upsampling, you create new pixels to expand the image. Again, you can specify an interpolation method to determine how pixels are added. When upsampling, you add information that did not previously exist, which generally just makes a larger image that may appear less sharp than the original.

Choose an interpolation method

When you resample an image, Photoshop creates new pixels. Those new pixels are created based on the neighboring pixels. How those new pixels are formed is determined by the interpolation method you specify. Photoshop offers up to six methods to resample your image.

Choose one of the following methods:

Nearest Neighbor

This method is fast but not precise. It’s useful for resizing illustrations but it can produce jagged edges.


This approach uses pixel averaging. It is a balance of speed and quality, and produces medium-quality results.


This method is slower but more precise than the first two (and more desirable). Photoshop spends more time examining surrounding pixels before interpolating new ones. The math at work is very complex, so this method will produce smoother results than Nearest Neighbor or Bilinear.

Bicubic Smoother

This method is a refinement of Bicubic. It is specifically designed for upsampling (enlarging images).

Bicubic Sharper

This is also a refinement of Bicubic. It’s useful for downsampling (shrinking images). It does a better job of maintaining sharpness (when reducing) than other methods.

Bicubic Automatic

This automatically switches among the three bicubic methods based on the task at hand. For most, this is the best option.

Setting the default method

Photoshop allows you to choose a default interpolation method. This will be used when you invoke a sizing command, such as the Free Transform or Image Size command (more on both in the pages ahead). Choose the method that best matches your workflow.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences or press Command+K (Ctrl+K) to call up the Preferences dialog box.
  2. From the Image Interpolation menu, choose your default method (Bicubic Automatic is the most flexible method and is highly recommended).
  3. Click OK to store the setting.

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Rafael Jones

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