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6 Causes of Pixelated Text in Photoshop and Their Fixes

You’re working on some text in Photoshop for your photo. Things are going along great…until you realize that your text is horribly pixelated! Why? You may have even created this exact type of file before and not had this problem. Why is the text pixelated now?

pixelated-text-photoshop-1 There are a few things that can cause pixelated text in Photoshop. The good news is that there are also a few easy fixes. Read on to learn all about what pixels are, what can cause pixelated text in Photoshop, and how to fix it.

What Are Pixels in Photoshop?

Images in Photoshop are actually made up of millions of tiny little swatches of color. Each tiny square is displayed in the color corresponding to that part of the image. These building blocks are called “picture elements” or pixels for short.

When viewing an image in Photoshop at normal magnification, 100% or less, individuals pixels are far too small for the eye to pick them out. Each square is only one color, but because they are so tiny when viewed at a normal distance, the colors in the image appear to blend together and create a scene like what we would see in the real world.

Zoom in a few hundred percent, try 500%, and you’ll see the colored squares that make up the image.

You also may notice that each square has a light gray outline around it. This is Photoshop’s pixel grid and helps users when they need to see pixels individually.

If you don’t like it, you can turn it off. Simply go to View in the menu bar, then Show, and deselect Pixel Grid.

Calculating the Number of Pixels

How do you find out how many pixels are in your image or document? The height and width of an image in pixels is called the pixel dimensions. You can find them by checking out the image size details.

Go to Image and choose Image Size. This will open up a dialog box where you can see the dimensions. There are a few options for viewing the image size, such as inches or percents, so be sure that the dropdown menus are set to pixels.

You’ll see how many pixels correspond to the height and width of the image. For example, 5472 x 3648 pixels. Multiply the height times the width and you get 19,961,856 pixels. Obviously, unless viewed at high magnification or an extremely large size, you won’t be able to distinguish individual pixels.

Working With Text in Photoshop

Using text and graphics or images together is an excellent way to create a powerful statement. Just check out the statement below. The photo of the bear adds a powerful punch that the words alone cannot express.

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Though Photoshop is not the ideal program for working with text, it is useful for combining text and graphics together. Photographers, in particular, tend to like it because they already know how to use Photoshop and don’t need to worry about learning a new program, like Illustrator.

Working with text in Photoshop is simple. Choose the Type tool, which looks like a T, from the tool panel. Alternatively, simply pressing ‘t’ on your keyboard is a shortcut for opening the tool.

At the top of the screen, you’ll see the control panel for the Type tool appear. There are dropdown menus that allow you to choose the font style, size, and add effects like italics and bolding. You can also choose the color by selecting the color picker and choosing the color you want from the dialog box.

Once you’ve chosen your settings, you’re ready to add the text box. Simply click and drag in the document. A new text layer will open and you can start typing to add the desired text.

Depending on the design, you may find it easier to create multiple text boxes. This way you can reposition words and apply effects independently, making it easy to envision changes.

To move between text layers, simply double click on the layer you want to work with. Then you can make formatting, color, and sizing changes as necessary.

Rasterizing Text

Text doesn’t initially appear in Photoshop as pixels. Thus, in order to use some effects in Photoshop, such as filters, you have to rasterize the text first.

Rasterizing converts the text into pixel format. Once the text is rasterized you will no longer be able to make formatting changes, so you should make sure that you have everything the way you want it first and avoid rasterizing if at all possible.

If you try to do anything that requires rasterizing, a warning will pop up announcing that the text must first be rasterized. You can choose to continue and the software will rasterize the text or cancel to go back.

What Is Pixelation?

What about when you can see the pixels, or their jagged effect, particularly around the curves of the letters? This is called pixelation. It doesn’t look very good or very professional.

If you’re not sure what we mean, think back to the old 8-bit version of Mario and other video games. Remember how everything had a blocky outline and very little detail? That’s because with the technology available back then the number of pixels was extremely limited. So each square was large and the edges were super obvious.

Sometimes in Photoshop, text can end up looking like something akin to those old video game characters. Obviously, this is not ideal.

Read on to learn about reasons why this happens and how to fix it.

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Why Pixelation Happens

1. The Document Is Too Small

A larger document size in Photoshop will give you more pixels to work with. For example, a document that is 1200×1200 gives you twice the number of pixels than one that is only 600×600. You’ll still get a square document, but now when you add text, there are enough pixels to properly display the font.

Of course, a small document isn’t always the problem. Or you may not be able to increase the size. Let’s keep going.

2. The File Is Too Magnified

Another thing to keep in mind is the magnification. Any text, no matter how sharp and clean it is, will become pixelated if you’re looking at it with too much magnification.

Check the tab at the top and you’ll see the name of the document along with a percentage. To get a real view of the document, you need to be looking at it at 100% magnification or less. At 300% or 400%, anything is going to look pixelated and horrible.

3. Anti-Aliasing

Anti-aliasing helps to smooth over the jagged edges of an image. The same idea can be applied to working with fonts.

To set the anti-aliasing, select the text tool. To the right of the font type and size dropdown menus, you’ll see a dropdown menu marked aa.

With None selected, the font will have the clearest pixelation. The other options Sharp, Crisp, Strong, and Smooth will blur the pixelation and make it less visible from a distance. Smooth is usually the best choice, but you can try the others and see how they affect the font.

Remember, if the font is highly magnified, you’ll still see the pixelation and you’ll see where the anti-aliasing blurred it. But once you zoom out, you should see a smoother edge to your font.

4. Font Style

Don’t forget that some fonts are specifically designed to look pixelated. A designer might desire this type of font when creating an ad for an old-style video game or something similar.

If you’ve chosen a font that is supposed to look pixelated, you’ll have a hard time smoothing it out even with all the tips in this article.

Other fonts have jagged edges, although they may not be designed to look pixelated, necessarily. If it’s a font that you just have to use but you want to smooth it out, you can try rasterizing the font and adding a Gaussian blur filter. It won’t look perfect but it will diminish the jagged effect to some extent.

If this method isn’t working for you, there’s one other thing you can try. It may be cumbersome depending on your setup, but you can try drawing the text yourself with the pen tool.

However, the simplest solution to this cause of pixelation is to choose a different font. Photoshop has many to choose from so finding one that will work for your purposes shouldn’t be too hard.

5. Pixelate Effect Filter

There is also a slight chance that a pixelate effect filter got put into place somewhere along the way. The font has to be rasterized before the filter will take effect, so the chances of this happening accidentally are slim.

However, it can happen so it is something to be aware of.

You can find the pixelate filter by pointing to Filter in the main menu and going down to Pixelate.

6. Photoshop As Program

Photoshop works in pixels and sometimes there may be no way to avoid the pixelation. For example, you may need to work with a size that is so small that pixelation will always appear no matter what you do.

In that case, it may be better to choose a different program, like Illustrator, to create your text. Illustrator works with vectors rather than pixels, avoiding the problem of pixelation altogether.

If you still need to work on the project in Photoshop, you can even create your text in Illustrator and save the file. Then open it in Photoshop to continue working. Bringing it into Photoshop will reintroduce a little bit of pixelation, but it’s better than if the text were created in Photoshop itself.

Fixing Pixelated Text in Photoshop Doesn’t have to Be Complicated

There you have it! Six reasons that could be causing your pixelated text problems in Photoshop. Luckily, their fixes aren’t too complicated and, hopefully, something from this list has fixed your particular problem.

Looking for more Photoshop advice, tips, or tricks? Check out these 5 must-know Photoshop tricks for every photographer. Our team of photography experts is hard at work answering all your questions about photography!

Nicholas Mitchell

Nicholas Mitchell

Nicholas is a staff writer at Photodoto. His interests include photography, collecting cameras old and new, video editing, and all things 3d. If a new gadget comes out on the market, he's sure to be the first to try it. He enjoys experimenting with low light photography, very long exposures and high speed filming.
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