How to Enlarge a Photo Without Pixelating

By David Gordon

Digital photographs are made up of pixels, which are tiny squares of color. Pixels are so small that they blend together and we do not see them as squares, but when you enlarge a photo, the individual pixels become obviously visible. The image turns into a mosaic of colored tiles. By opening the image in an application such as Photoshop and resampling it at a larger size, you will avoid pixelating the photo. The application mechanically adds pixels to the image by averaging the existing pixels and adding neighboring pixels of similar color. If you do not have graphics software, free online applications are available and will give similar results.

Things You'll Need

  • Graphics software

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or a similar graphics program that resizes images.

Step 2

Click "Image Size" or "Resize Image" in the drop-down menu under "Image."

Step 3

Check boxes next to "Constrain Proportions" and "Resample Image."

Step 4

Under "Pixel Dimension," change the number of pixels next to "Width" or "Height." The other dimension will automatically change to maintain the proper height-to-width ratio. If you are unfamiliar with using pixels as a unit of measure, simple multiply the existing number by however much you wish to increase the size of the image.

Step 5

Click "OK" and save the image. Now you can print the image or enlarge it on your monitor without pixelating.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also resize an image in units of inches or centimeters. In this case, you should also set the resolution. For print images, set resolution to 300 pixels per inch. Set web or screen images at 72 pixels per inch.
  • The larger a picture is to start with, the better the results. A 50 pixel by 50 pixel avatar image has very little detailed information to start with. That lack of detail will only become more obvious when it enlarges.
  • No application can add detail that is not in the image to begin with. The best you can expect is that the program will make a decent estimate as to what color pixels to add. In effect, it will simply smooth over jaggedness, but the image will inevitably lose some sharpness if it is enlarged dramatically.