High Resolution Confusion


Today’s Question: My new computer has a higher definition “Retina” display. On the new display, images viewed in the Photoshop window look much smaller than usual, even though they look normal-sized when displayed on Flickr. In Photoshop the photos are too small to sharpen properly. I’m puzzled that they behave that way on Photoshop but look the way they always have on Flickr. Any ideas that might be helpful to me?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The issue here is that the display is set to a very high resolution, thus causing the image to appear smaller. You can scale the display resolution in the Display options in the Preferences dialog for the operating system, or simply zoom in on the image.

More Detail: When you set an image to the 100% zoom setting in Photoshop, one pixel on the display is used for each pixel in the image. This is preferred for evaluating sharpening, for example. But on a very high-resolution display such as the Retina displays from Apple, this can cause the image to be smaller than is comfortable for you.

You could change the resolution of the display in your operating system, or simply zoom in on the image within Photoshop. In either case, however, you will be scaling the image on the display. That is less than ideal in terms of evaluating sharpening, but doing so won’t cause a major issue in this context. Keep in mind, for example, that the image is likely being scaled within the web browser based on the hardware configuration for each person browsing your photos.

Note that on the Windows platform you are able to adjust the scaling of Photoshop to help improve the experience on high resolution displays. Thus far this feature has not been made available on the Macintosh version of Photoshop.