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Graphics, information and citation examples on this guide were taken from the Art Research guide of the University of California Irvine and are used with permission.

Learn the jargon 

This page explains these terms used when working with digital images:


Pixel is short for "Picture Element," each of the minute, individual elements of a digital image or display.

Pixels vary in form and function depending on the type of display device.


Dead Pixel by Simon Wicks (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Resolution - the degree of sharpness of a computer-generated image measured by the number of dots per inch in a printed image or the number of pixels across and down on a display screen.

Higher Resolution:

Medium Resolution

Lower Resolution

Flowering Spurge by cotini (CC BY-NC-SA)

File Size

File Size is the amount of data in an image file, usually measured in "kilobytes" (KB), "megabytes" (MB), etc.


Compression - reduction of a file's size by changing its format.

Low Compression:

More Compression:

Highly Compressed:

Sealion by Todd Ryburn (CC BY 2.0)

File Format

File Format - standardized means of storing and viewing images on computers.  Each format uses a different compression scheme.