There is no set resolution for any individual item or collection. Resolution setting depends on a number of factors (NINCH Guide):

  1. The type of information content (text, continuous tone images, maps, etc.)
  2. The final output for the digital file; screen image or print or both.
  3. The needs of the end user
  4. Limitations of equipment.

In keeping with the concept of a rich digital master, though, resolution should be set with the intent of creating an image file that captures all of the information in the original object but not more in order to keep file sizes reasonable.

Following are default resolution values for some typical objects likely to be digitized in the scanning lab.  These values are generally consistent with published recommendations from NARA and the Digital Library Federation.


Bitonal 600 ppi
Grayscale 600 ppi

Reflective Material (Photographs, Drawings, Paintings, etc.)

5 x 7 or smaller 600 ppi
up to 8 x 10 400 ppi
11 x 14 or larger 300 ppi

Transmissive Material (Negatives, Transparencies, Glass Plates, etc.)

  35 mm 4 x 5 8 x 10 or larger
Color 2800 ppi 1200 ppi 900 ppi
2800 ppi 1800 ppi 900 ppi