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To understand digital imagery, you have to understand its most basic building block, the pixel. Short for picture element, a pixel is a single dot or line of color. In still photographs and on the screen of computers and other devices, the pixel is a perfect square. Each pixel aligns to the one next to it in regular rows and columns with no gaps in between. As the pixels grow smaller and more numerous, they dissolve into what's known as a continuous tone image, in which groups of similarly colored pixels merge to represent details that look anything but square, which is why it's often characterized that the more pixels you have the better the final image will be.
But pixels are more analogous to organic cells. Quantity is important. For example, it takes several trillion cells to make a human being, but quality is just as important. It takes healthy cells to make a successful organism. In much the same way, a badly rendered image may contain a hundred million pixels, and a well-rendered one may contain just a few hundred thousand. It all depends on the quality of the original digital photo or scan and the purpose of the final image.
In this chapter, we'll explore two image attributes that depend on pixels: image size and resolution. You'll learn how many pixels you need. You'll learn how best to resize an image when you need fewer or more. And in the end, you'll understand the mechanics of what makes a successful image both in print and on your screen.
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