How to Reduce Pixelization in Photoshop

How to Reduce Pixelization in Photoshop

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Photoshop is the gold standard for photo and image editing, especially on a pixelated image. The software is extremely powerful and capable of manipulating photos in a number of creative ways. It also functions as a means of restoring or improving image quality after the shot is taken. Reducing pixelization is a common need for improving quality in a lower resolution photo.

Why Do My Pictures Look Pixelated?

Before we move onto our guide, let’s take a look at an example to get a better idea of what we’re going to be dealing with.

This lowercase letter A is presented at a size of 256×256. Notice how crisp the lines are – your eyes won’t see any pixels, just curves and straight lines. It doesn’t appear to be blurry or jagged in any way.

Now here’s the same image file, resized to be 1024×1024. Take a look at the difference.
Notice how on every curve you can see rectangular blocks? That’s pixelation. It happens when there is too much display area, and not enough data to create smooth curves. When this happens, images become blurry, distorted, and just overall worse in quality.

Pixelation usually occurs when you try to resize a low-quality image or when viewing a very low-quality image. When you upsize an image too much, it becomes blocky in appearance, with stair-like nature of each curve. This destroys the overall effect of the image you are viewing.

Short of creating a new image of the same object in a higher resolution, there is no way to increase the resolution of an image. However, it is possible to use software tools to improve the image quality so that the pixelated image doesn’t look so bad.

There are a couple of different ways to accomplish this task. You can use an online service to process the image, or you can use Photoshop, Paint.net, or other graphics program to do the same job manually.

In this article, I’ll present a short tutorial on how to improve the appearance of a pixelated image regardless of what tools you have available.

Before we get started, an important note: whenever you edit an image, make sure to make a backup copy of the file and work only on the copy. Leave the original image file intact, so that if things go terribly wrong (remember that things often go terribly wrong), you still have the original image as a fallback.

5 Common Reasons And Solutions For Pixelated Text In Photoshop

1. The Project Size Is Too Small

When creating a new project in photoshop, you can choose the size of the document you’ll be working with. The size is measured in pixels, so naturally, if you choose a small size – 200×200, for example – you’ll automatically have less pixels to work with than if you chose a larger size, like 1000×1000.

To make sure your document size is large enough when creating a new project, first head to File > New (or press Command + N on Mac and Control + N on Windows). In the new project window that pops up, you’ll notice the area on the right where you can edit the measurements of your document. Make sure the unit selected in the drop-down box next to Width and Height is Pixels.

Now you can type the width and height you’d like. For best resolution, I’d suggest anything over 1000×1000 with a resolution of 200 PPI or higher.

Click “Create” on the bottom right and you’re good to go.

If you’ve already created your project, you can still change the size of your canvas by heading to Image > Canvas Size.

In the window that comes up, make sure you’re working in Pixels by clicking either of the unit dropdown boxes next to Width and Height and selecting Pixels.

Then, enter a different size for the Width and Height of your canvas. Again, anything above 1000×1000 works best.

2. You’re Too Zoomed In

Another reason your text might appear pixelated is if you’re zoomed in too closely on the document. The closer you zoom into your project, the larger the pixels will become, to the point where you might be able to see them if you’ve zoomed in too close.

To check how much you’ve zoomed in on the document, head to the tab above your project with the project’s name and a percentage. This percentage you see is the percentage you’ve zoomed into the canvas.

370% in this case will give you an unrealistic view of how the text will look in its actual size at 100%. Zoom out by heading to the bottom left and clicking the percentage there. You can then type in the amount you’d like to zoom – it should be no more than 100% when checking the quality of the text. As you zoom in more, you’ll gradually begin to see more and more pixelation in your text regardless of your project settings.

3. You Haven’t Enabled Anti-Aliasing Yet

One way to ensure your text doesn’t have blocky, pixelated edges is to make sure your anti-aliasing settings are correct. Aliasing is a visual stair-stepping effect that appears on low-resolution images. It follows, then, that anti-aliasing prevents this by smoothing the edges of an image.

For this reason, setting the anti-aliasing will also smooth the edges of your text. Select the Type Tool and head to the upper settings bar, then click on the AA option. The anti-aliasing will automatically be set to None with some fonts. Any of the different options here will make the edges look much less pixelated. Let’s go with Smooth.

This will help smooth the edges and make pixelation less visible.


4. You Haven’t Set Your File Format As PNG For Export

If your text appears low quality after export, you might’ve exported it in the wrong file format. There are several file formats you can work with when it comes to Photoshop, and some will result in better quality images than others.

While different files have different uses and strengths, PNG is considered the best file format for anything to do with text. Jpeg, for instance, is best for smaller, compressed files such as photographs. However, this compression can result in the text appearing at a much lower resolution when exported. This can be solved by exporting to PNG.

To ensure you save and export your text image as a PNG, simply go to File > Save As.

In the window that appears, head to the dropdown box next to Format and you’ll see a large selection of different file formats you can choose. Find and select PNG.

It is worth noting that saving as a PNG file will result in any areas you’ve set to appear transparent on your canvas (represented in Photoshop by a grey and white checkered pattern) to appear transparent in the exported version. This is another reason PNG is the ideal file format for text-based images like logos – instead of a bothersome white or black background, the background will appear transparent and your text can be easily applied in other projects.

5. Your PPI is too low

PPI, or Pixels Per Inch, refers to the number of pixels in each inch of your image. Naturally, it follows then that the higher the PPI, the better quality your image will appear. The same premise applies to text as well. When working with text in Photoshop, a high PPI means that you’ll have clearer, sharper edges and less visible pixelation in your text.

You can check your PPI setting either in a new project or while working with an existing project. To check and edit your PPI for a new project, first open up a new canvas by clicking File > New.

In the new project window that appears, head to the drop-down menu next to Resolution and make sure Pixels/Inch is selected.

The number you see in the box next to Resolution is the amount of PPI you’re working with, so you can edit this to a high PPI – something above 300 will give you excellent, crisp-looking text. Just remember the higher your PPI, the larger your project will become.

You can also change your PPI while working on a current project by heading to Image > Image Size.

In the window that comes up, make sure Pixels/Inch is selected as the default Resolution measurement, and edit the number to anything over 300.

Apply this and you’ll notice the edges of your text suddenly become much cleaner.

Seeing pixelation in images and text while working in Photoshop can be frustrating, especially if you don’t know the reason. Hopefully, now that you understand some of the most common reasons text can appear pixelated, you can apply these easy fixes and get a crisp, smooth-edged text for a beautiful final result. To learn more about working with text in Photoshop, check out my complete guide here!

Text tutorial

Step 1: Select the subject

In the example, we want to separate the apple quickly from the background with the best possible result. To do so, choose the Quick Selection Tool from the toolbox, and holding the left mouse button down, paint over the subject until Photoshop has created a complete selection. Make sure to include details such as the water drops in the selection. If Photoshop accidentally selects unwanted content, paint over the area in question holding the Alt key pressed. The more you zoom in on the subject, the easier it is to redraw the edges to “show” Photoshop what to select.

Step 2: Smooth the edges using “Select and Mask”

After you have selected your complete subject, click the Select and Mask button in the menu. If you choose the Overlay view, selected areas appear transparent and nonselected areas are highlighted in red. But to smooth the edges, a different view is better suited. Go to the View drop-down menu to change the view. In our example, the view is set to On Black with 80 per cent opacity. The edges of the apple are now clearly visible. Next, zoom in on an area where the jagged edges are particularly noticeable.

To smooth the edge, move the slider in the Global Refinements area. First, we want to eliminate the jagged effect. To do so, move the Smooth slider to a value between 3 and 6. In our example, we set the value to 5. Next, we are going to soften the edge. To do so, set the Feather slider to a value between 2 and 3. Here, we use a value of 2.8. By increasing the Contrast slider, the edge is drawn more sharply to separate the light-coloured background even more effectively from the red apple. In our example, we set the value to 30. We don’t need the Shift Edge slider since we do not want to add more background or remove apple content.

Step 3: Output of the cut-out and edited subject

Finally, enable the Decontaminate Colors checkbox. This activates a thin black frame at the edited edge which will, however, disappear once confirmed. Also, when you enable the Decontaminate Colors option, the subject will be output directly with a new layer including layer mask. After you have done this, confirm the workspace with OK .

You now see your extracted subject. To view the final result, create a new layer and fill it with any colour. Once the background has been coloured, you will see that the edges of the apple appear smoother than before.

You have completed editing and can now continue working on your separated subject.

Tutorial and design by media designer Christoph Ullrich.

Follow these steps to use Image Size in Photoshop and resize your image as desired:

Open an image in Photoshop and choose Image > Image Size .

Modify image preview

A window displays the preview image, in the Image Size dialog. Do any of the following to modify the image preview:

  • To change the size of the preview window, drag a corner of the Image Size dialog box and resize it.
  • To view a different image area, drag the hand icon that appears within the preview.
  • To change the preview magnification, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) in the preview image to increase magnification. Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) to reduce the magnification. After clicking, the magnification percentage briefly appears near the bottom of the preview image.

Modify image resizing parameters

Dimension : To change the unit of measurement for the pixel dimension, click the triangle next to Dimensions and choose from the menu.

Fit To : Using this option, you can:

  • Choose a preset to resize the image.
  • Choose Auto Resolution to resize the image for specific printing output. In the Auto Resolution dialog box, specify the Screen value and select a Quality. You can change the unit of measurement by choosing from the menu to the right of the Screen text box.

Constrain : To maintain the original ratio of width to height measurement, make sure that the Constrain Proportions option is enabled. If you want to scale the width and height independently of each other, click the Constrain Proportions icon (link icon) to unlink them. You can change the unit of measurement for width and height by choosing from the menus to the right of the Width and Height text boxes.

Width/Height : Enter values for Width and Height. To enter values in a different unit of measurement, choose from the menus next to the Width and Height text boxes. The new image file size appears at the top of the Image Size dialog box, with the old file size in parentheses.

Resolution : To change the Resolution, enter a new value. (Optional) You can also choose a different unit of measurement.

Resample : To change the image size or resolution and allow the total number of pixels to adjust proportionately, make sure that Resample is selected, and if necessary, choose an interpolation method from the Resample menu. To change the image size or resolution without changing the total number of pixels in the image, deselect Resample.

If your image has layers with styles applied to them, select Scale Styles from the gear icon to scale the effects in the resized image. This option is available only if you selected the Constrain Proportions option.

When you finish setting options, click OK.

To restore the initial values displayed in the Image Size dialog box, either choose Original Size from the Fit To menu, or hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and click Reset.

Photoshop Smooth Edges

There are different methods to make the selection edges smoother. Let’s understand them:

Method1: Using the Refine Edges tool

Photoshop provides a feature that refines edges to automatically smooth edges of the object. It can be found in the options bar at the top of the workspace. In this method, we will be using the refine edges tool, which is one of the easiest ways to make smoother edges.

Follow the below steps to apply this tool:

Step1: Open the image

The first step is to open the image that we want to edit. To open the image, press the Ctrl+O key combination or drag and drop the photo in Photoshop.

After opening the image, make sure the background layer should be unlocked. If it is locked, then double click on it to unlock. It will extract the background layer and the image layer. Now, we can apply selection and other options on it.

Step2: Remove the background

Mostly we have to refine the edges in case of removing the background. So, we are removing the background from this image. If you want to refine any existing object, you can skip this step.

There are different ways to remove the image background in Photoshop. We are using the magic wand tool. Activate the magic wand tool by hitting the W key. Also, we can select it from the toolbox given left to the workspace.

The magic wand tool will automatically select similar color pixels. Select the background by repeatedly pressing the Shift+ Drag keys. Once the background is precisely selected, hit the Del key to delete the selection. It will remove the background from the main object.

Now, zoom the image to see whether we got sharp or blurry edges to smooth that.

Step3: Select the area

Now, select the area that you want to smooth in the image using any of the selection tools. For example, we are using the magic select tool to select the edges, which will automatically select the similar pixels of the object. Always zoom the image while selecting pixels for better results.

Now, we can smooth selection edges by using the refine edges tool.

Step4: Smooth edges

Now, select the refine edges tool from the options bar given at the top of the workspace.

Activate the refine edges tool. It will open a dialogue box to refine the edges.

We can set our values, such as radius, feather, smoothing, etc., according to our requirements in this window. It will provide a live preview with a layer mask. When we change the values, it will display a live preview of how the object will be reflected in our image. The following are the usage of the given values:

Smooth: The smooth value renders a smoother outline for the specified selection.

Feather: The feather makes the transition soften between the selection and the background.

Contrast: The contrast value defines the soft edge transition when it increases and becomes crisper.

Shift Edge: The shift edge moves a soft selection edge inwards or outwards to remove unwanted pixels according to defined values.

Once we are done with refining edges, click on the OK button to apply the changes.

From the above image, we can the image edges are natural-looking. We can set any background to this image; it will look like an original image.

In the above image, we have added a background image and placed it below the object layer. It looks like an original background because the object’s edges are smooth; otherwise, it looks like an edited image in which the object edges contain the previous background.

Method2: Using Feather

We can also smooth the edges by using feathering. All we need to do is to set the feather value for the selection.

To smooth the edges of an object, follow below steps:

  • Open document (Ctrl+O)
  • Make a selection (Using any selection tool)
  • Navigate to Select-> Modify-> Feather

Alternatively, we can press the Shift+F6 keys. It will open a popup window to define the feather value.

Click OK to apply the feather. It will smooth the edges of the object. Apart from the feather option, we can also choose the Smooth option in the Modify menu; it will also smooth the edges. We can also combine two tools for better results.

Apart from refining edges and feather tools, we can use other tools such as clone stamp, spot healing, refine edges brush tool, burn tool, dodge tool, Gaussian blur tool, etc., to repair and smooth the edges.

The strategy is almost the same for all the tools to make a selection according to requirement and target edges and then apply the tool operation. Combine multiple tools for better results.

There’s 4 common ways to fix a minor pixelation in Photoshop:

A. Go to Filter > Noise > Despeckle.

Apply it a few times by pressing CTRL + F (Windows) or CMD + F (Mac)

B. Go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. Play around with Radius and Threshold sliders till you get the best result.

If you aren’t happy with Smart blur results, you can experiment with a Gaussian blur filter. Sometimes it works better.

C. 1. Go to Image > Image Size.

2. Set the resolution to twice the original size.

3. Check the Resample box and apply a Bicubic Smoother enlargement.

Tip: You can combine all 3 methods to make the image smoother.

Keep in mind, Photoshop only slightly smooths your pixelated image. Check how it deals with heavy pixelation compared to Let’s Enhance.

In this case, we used Smart blur and Bicubic Smoother enlargement in Photoshop. Let’s Enhance was in the default mode (Smart Enhance).

How do I know if an image is pixelated?

Photos are composed of pixel grids. When the image is upscaled above its original resolution pixels become visible. Picture becomes blocky, curves get triangle edges. You could see shapes like that in the old 8-bit games or modern pixel art.

How to avoid pixelation?

  • When taking photos set your camera to maximum megapixels.
  • When editing photos or uploading them to social media use source files with the highest resolution.
  • If you need to enlarge an image don’t use old upsampling methods like ‘nearest neighbor’. Opt for AI-based upscaling instead.
  • Use vector graphics for simple visuals like logos. You can scale vectors up and down without quality loss. But keep in mind, vectors don’t support precise color detailization. That’s why photos are only in raster format. I.e., they become pixelated when stretched out.

Is blurred the same as pixelated?

Not quite. You get blurry photos when your camera is out of focus or when the image is enlarged with certain upscaling algorithms.

Pixelation occurs when low res photos are enlarged with the basic upscaling method, i.e. ‘nearest neighbor’.

How can I make a blurry picture clear?

The process is the same as for depixelation. Upload your pic to Let’s Enhance website and click Start processing. Our default AI upscaling network, Smart Enhance, automatically spots what’s wrong with your images whether it’s blur, pixelation, or grain and fixes them.

How AI depixelation works?

AI code is trained to reconstruct missing details on thousands of image pairs. In the beginning, it makes a lot of mistakes, just like humans. But just like humans, it improves with each new iteration. So when AI/ML-based app is delivered to users, it already restores missing pixels with high accuracy.

In total there are five quick and easy steps to get the best results. The first step that must be made is to make a choice to isolate one of the photo objects. You can get started by following these steps.

1. Making Selection

To make a selection or isolate one object of the photo to transfer to another photo, use the Magic Wand. You can select it in the Tools window. When you have selected the Magic Wand, there is info to select Tolerance, then enter 20. Now click on the background image that you want to remove or which is close to the photo object.

Hold Shift and continue to click around the object of the photo. Focus on not hitting the part of the object to be moved because it will disappear later. If the Tolerance at 20 is too big, you can lower it to 10.

2. Use Lasso

Next you can use Lasso for background areas that are very close to the object. Hold Shift and then click to outline the pasted area with the object. Accuracy is needed in this condition.

When you’ve collected all the stray pixels, including those very close to the object, press Command + Shift + I to Select Inverse. This will invert the selection so that it becomes the object as the live selection, not the background.

3. Time to Choose Select and Mask to Smooth

Still using the Magic Wand or Lasso options, you can click Select and Mask or just press Command + Option + R. Next select the Global Refinements section to make other adjustments.

Choose these settings for maximum results:

  • Feather: 0.5 px, to smooth the edges of the object.
  • Smooth: 3, to hit the part that still looks rough.
  • Contrast: 0, to support inorganic forms when there are parts that are still contrasting.
  • Shift Edge: -20%, to make the cropped object not look good and fit perfectly.

4. Edge Detection

If the object you want to use turns out to be quite complex, like an admin animal, then you’ll need the help of Edge Detection.

In the Edge Detection menu, there are two controls, namely Radius and Smart Radius. still choose the lowest number there. Start with Radius at 1 and Smart Radius unchecked.

The result is that there is a change in the pixels. You can increase the Radius to 5 to make the animal’s fur look smoother.

5. Use Refine Edge Brush

The last step that can be done is to refine the object with the Refine Edge Brush Tool. The appearance of the surface of the object can be sharp. You can directly click on the edge of the object to make it look sharp as well as smooth and blend with the background.

Those are some steps to create smooth edges in Photoshop. Hopefully, this information is useful for you so that the photos displayed look more professional.

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Reason Why Photos Become Pixelated:

Now, move forward towards the reasons for those images being pixelated. Here is the list that portrays the most relevant ones.

  • Pixelation usually occurs when you try to resize a low-quality image or when viewing a very low-quality image. When you upsize an image too much, it becomes blocky in appearance, with stair-like nature of each curve. As a result overall image turns blurry and unclear.
  • The most common cause of image pixelation is the resizing of pictures. When you resize a small photo to its larger version without doing any technical work on its resolution, the bitmaps appear on the screen. Hence, the overall image turns blurry and unclear.
  • Sometimes, on scanning, the images may also appear pixelated due to the scanner quality.
  • Human or camera errors can also cause your images to appear with pixelation or blur.
  • When you open your images on incompatible applications or software, the pixelation happens too.
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