How to correct pixelated images in Photoshop

Written by kate sedgwick Google
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How to correct pixelated images in Photoshop
Pixelated images are a result of poor resolution. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

A digital image is pixelated when the scale of the image is too large in proportion to the information the file contains. A pixel is a the smallest unit of data in any given image. Generally, the higher the dots or pixels per inch (DPI) in an original image, the less the pixelation. If you have a small image and attempt to increase its scale, those pixels will become visible as squares within the image. This is because the original low-quality image was small enough to conceal those pixels while there isn't enough data in the image to smooth the image when the size is increased. If you are working with a pixellated image, improve its appearance by decrease the display size.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Access the original image the pixelated image came from, if possible. If you see pixels in your photo, the size of the image was increased too much or incorrectly the first time round.

  2. 2

    Open the image in Photoshop and check its size by going to "Image," then "Image Size." A dialog box will open that reveals the image's dimensions. At the top of that box, note the pixel dimensions in width and height. Beneath that, under "Document Size," make sure "Resolution" is set at "pixels/inch" and make a note of that, too. The "Image Size" dialog box shows how much information is contained in the image file.

  3. 3

    While you're in the "Image Size" dialog box, try adjusting the original image by selecting "Resample Image" at the bottom of the window, then selecting "Bicubic Smoother." This will make the most of the image you're working on before you make further changes. Click "OK."

  4. 4

    View the image at its real size by going to "View" then "Actual Pixels." If your image appears pixelated already, there may not be much you can do to improve the quality of the image. If it looks okay at the displayed size, but you'd like it larger, follow the next steps.

  5. 5

    Open a new document by going to "File" then "New." Title the new image, then select "pixels" in the drop-down next to "Width." Select the desired size for your new image. Remember that the more you increase the size of the image, the more visible the pixels. First try doubling the image size to check the result. If your original image was 300 x 200 pixels, try a new image that's 600 x 400 pixels. Increasing the size much more than this is not likely to produce good results.

  6. 6

    Keep the resolution in the new image the same as the resolution in the original image. If that's 72 pixels/inch, the new image's resolution should also be 72 pixels/inch. If a higher value is selected in the resolution field, Photoshop will work double-duty when increasing the image's size. This is because the program will also increase the resolution without the benefit of the information necessary to cause that image to appear smooth, blowing up the pixels and causing more distortion.

  7. 7

    Use the Move tool to drag the original image into the new Photoshop document.

  8. 8

    Go to "Edit" in your toolbar, then "Transform," then "Scale." Hold the "Shift" key as you drag the edge of the layer to prevent the image from warping and drag the edge until it is scaled to fit the edges of the new document. Press "Return."

  9. 9

    Go to "Layer" in the toolbar, then scroll down to "Flatten Image." Smooth the image again.

  10. 10

    Go to "Filter" in your toolbar If the image is fuzzy or pixelated, then scroll down to "Blur" and select "Gaussian Blur." From there, adjust the radius option until you are unable to detect the pixels' edges. This process will cause your image to be blurry, but the pixels should no longer be visible. Save the image with the desired format.

Tips and warnings

  • When an image is pixelated, there isn't any way to add more information. There are programs designed for enlarging images, such as Perfect Resize and Photo Acute, which resample images and make the most of the available information.
  • If you experience problems with pixelation in photographs, try increasing the resolution in your camera's menu options.

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