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What's a Pixel?

Duck with small pixels
Duck image with small pixels
The term pixel is a truncation of the phrase “picture element” which is exactly what a pixel is. A pixel is the smallest block of color in a digital picture. The term is also used for the smallest block of color on your computer monitor. In fact, to run these activities we recommend that you have the display setting for screen area on your monitor set to at least 1024x768 pixels. What that means is that your monitor has 786,432 blocks of colors arranged in rectangle with 1024 columns and 768 rows. This is less than one megapixel (which means one million pixels) – this would be a very low resolution digital camera on today's market.

The resolution of an image refers to the number of pixels used to display an image. A higher resolution image uses more pixels and allows for more detail to be seen in the picture. Scanners and printers will often advertise their resolution in dots per inch (dpi), which is the number of pixels per inch that they are capable of recording or depositing. A document printed at low resolution (fewer dpi) has jagged steps of dots that make up a curve like the letter “O”. From a high resolution printer (more dpi), that same letter looks like a smooth circle.

Same duck image with large pixels
Duck with very large pixels

See the Impact of Pixels on What Can Be Seen In a Digital Photograph

Go to Pixel Count and Mystery Pictures

Back to Digital Image Investigations