How To Resize An Image In Photoshop And Keep It Sharp

This article was written in 2009 and remains one of our most popular posts. If you’re keen to learn more about Photoshop, you may find this more recent article on getting started with Photoshop of great interest.

Some time ago on the SitePoint forums, Stevieg_83 asked about a problem he was having with resizing screen shots. His question was:

I normally use Fireshot add-on for Firefox which renders a good quality image. However, when I then try to resize in Photoshop, the quality goes right down hill. Anyone have any tips?

I thought it might be useful to write something about this, because a lot of people find they get fuzzy or blurry images when they try to resize them, regardless of whether the image came from a camera, a scan or a screenshot.

1. I’ll start by taking a screenshot using Fireshot. You can see a section of the overall screenshot, viewed at 100% magnification below. There’s an image on the right hand side and some text on the left.

(Note: I’m using Photoshop CS4 here, but this technique is the same from version CS onwards).

Screengrab

2. Copy and paste the screenshot into a new Photoshop document or open the screenshot in Photoshop if you’ve already saved it.

3. Choose Image > Image Size. When you want to REDUCE the image size, click on Resample Image check box to make sure it is selected and choose Bicubic Sharper from the drop down menu.

Image Size Dialog

In the Width field enter the number of pixels you want the new size to be. I’m resizing this image from 543 pixels down to 300 pixels wide. Click OK and your image is resized.

The result below shows the text has become a little fuzzy (remember it almost half its original size) but the image on the right still looks very sharp.

screengrab-bicubicsharper

Compare this to if I had chosen the Bilinear option in the drop down menu. The text has completely broken apart and the image is looking fairly rough around the edges.

screengrab-bilinear

If I chose the Nearest Neighbor option, you can see the results are even worse.

screengrab-nearestneighbour

So for reducing image sizes, choose the Bicubic Sharper option. It’s very useful for designers or photographers who want to put smaller versions of their work on the web. If you’re doing a lot of image reduction, you can set up Photoshop preferences so that Bicubic is the default choice. To do this choose Preferences> General and you’ll see Image Interpolation and there you can pick Bicubic Sharper from the drop down menu and click OK.

preferences-dialog

Tips For Resizing

  • Make sure your image is in RGB color mode before you do anything! If it’s not, choose Image > Mode > RGB to convert it. After you’ve converted it, you can change the mode again if necessary.
  • Try to only resize an image once. The more you resize, the more blurry and fuzzy things get. You can get around this by using a Smart Object, but we’ll look at that another day.

So I hope that’s useful for people wondering about how to resize images.

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  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    Nice little tip :) Gracias!

  • http://www.starsites.co.za Jacotheron

    One thing I have learned when enlarging an image, you might need to do it a few times as you can enlarge it to a maximum 120% the original size (to keep it in good quality), but I have always struggled with scaling it down and keeping it sharp. Thanks for another great post.

  • stefan24

    great tips thanks for the article

  • thomas

    Great! I am just writing a manual and this is really great to know for including screenshots! Thanks

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk TomBradshaw

    I’m doing this at the moment, great little tip, thanks Jennifer!

  • conradical

    If you are using CS4 then converting your layer to a smart object would let allow you to scale back up if you accidentally scaled a little too small.

  • taimurkazmi

    Nice tips

  • Anonymous

    How does Transform compare? with Bicubic Sharper.

  • Riddler

    Hello,

    And what do you think about resizing pictures using online tools, for example http://www.pictureresizer.org ?

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    Hi Riddler

    I haven’t seen pictureresizer before. Will investigate!

  • http://www.kronikmedia.co.uk kronikmedia

    I have mostly found problems with making an image even slightly larger in sized unless it is in vector format. For most of gifs and jpegs, I guess the ideal way would be to first convert the graphic into a vector format prior to resizing. But them again illustrator may be better suited for working with and creating vector images.

  • YahyaAziz

    Good stuff, Jennifer! People do need practical, specific advice on resizing, otherwise they’ll continue to suffer the frustration of still doing it poorly for years. It’s great to see really useful tips on the Web.

    When resizing images smaller, I can report that the justly-famed IrfanView does an excellent job. For comparison purposes, I right-clicked your original image (screengrab.jpg) and saved it to the desktop. I then opened it in Irfanview, hit Ctrl-R to resize, chose the new width (300) and left my standard settings untouched: the ‘Preserve aspect ratio’ box checked; the ‘Size method’ set on ‘Resample (better quality)'; and the ‘Resample filter’ on ‘Lanczos filter (slowest)’. A click on OK, and the job was done.

    What about quality? IMHO, the result of IrfanView’s implementation of Lanczos gives a slightly more readable version of your original than does Photoshop CS4’s recommended option, ‘Bicubic sharper’. But judge for yourselves!

    Anyone wanting to compare results can repeat the steps above (having first downloaded and installed Irfanview from http://www.irfanview.net).

    Using Irfanview to resize one image is quick and easy, but what if I had 500 images to resize? Simple – use IrfanView’s batch processing to handle all similar resize operations at once. The options available for batch processing repay a little study, as it’s a very versatile operation indeed. But for straightforward batches, e.g. those with a common reduction percentage or a common output width, you can leave all those advanced options alone; the batch process will handle them all much faster than you could do them one at a time.

    Regards,
    Yahya Abdal-Aziz
    Convener,
    Graphics SIG,
    Melbourne PC User Group
    “Users helping users”

  • wenice

    As for the question that Stevieg_83 encountered,i experienced the similar problems before,which also made me frustrated . Things changed until someday i accidently found a sofeware called photo magic ,which can resize images easily without complicated operations.If you are a Mac user and you happen not to like using photoshop to edit images,i would recommed you go and have a look,you may find this helpful.

  • Don

    I am dispointed in Jennifer’s article, “How To Resize An Image In Photoshop And Keep It Sharp” because you haven’t explained how to resize an image to an expanded, larger image. Fore example, I would like to enlarge a 3×5 image to an 8×10 image. How would that be done? Is there a way it can be expanded on a webpage, using lesser resolution, making a screenshot, then sharpening in photoshop?

    Don