What are Pixels?

What are Pixels? How do we define pixel? What is resolution? 

Let’s get started with a pixels. Pixel is short for Picture Element, it is a single point of illumination on a display screen. A screen or more specific to us, an image can have hundreds, thousands or even millions of these minute points. Each pixel has a specific luminance and colour. Luminance is just how much light passes through the point.

Display screens/ monitors which again can be made up of hundreds, thousands or even millions of pixels which are split into rows and columns. From a short distance away the pixels appear on the monitor to form one continuous image.

In Graphic Design

The easiest way to explain the relevance of pixels to graphic design is to begin by looking at the following images:

Pixelation comparison

Image A looks good but Image B is definitely not what we were aiming for. What we can take from this though is that two images can have the same dimensions in space but contain a different number of pixels.

If we try to inflate an image too much it becomes pixelated which is not good, unless it is an intentional design choice.

What are Pixels? 1

Looking at the Mother Earth day image displayed we see a perfect example of a pixelated design choice.

What Are You Designing For?

It is really important that we make note of where the end asset is destined for. Especially when producing work destined for the web we need to consider the lowest possible size we can go before losing quality. Why would we want to go as low in size as possible? Why would we risk pixelisation?

Each pixel is information that requires memory. Higher quality images can take up a lot of space. The more complex your image is, the more image there is to store.

Graphic Design RAM required

You might get sharper images but you will take up more memory to store the colour and intensity data of each pixel. As graphic designers, this can also impact our productivity as the screen takes longer to refresh. A smaller image takes less memory and time to refresh the screen.

Graphic design end asset destination

The size that we need however is completely circumstantial i.e. dependant on where the end asset is going to be displayed. For example, if it is a social media profile picture we are designing it’s going to require a different resolution to a banner ad.


When we refer to resolution in graphic design, we are usually referring to the width and height of an image or display screen in pixels. For example, if you have a 1080 HD screen it means that your screen displays at 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall.

What are Pixels? 2

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