Pixel Aspect Ratio Photoshop: Does It Matter?

When you photoshop an image, you focus a lot on the details. So that image looks sharp and clear. However, as soon as it is projected on another screen, all the details go missing and the image looks weird. Well, you are not the only one. That’s why today we will talk about the main culprit behind this incident: pixel aspect ratio photoshop. But, what does it mean?

The pixel aspect ratio is simply the ratio between the horizontal and vertical lines of a pixel. While the display resolution refers to how many pixels can fit in a frame. The PAR indicates the size or shape of each pixel inside that particular frame.

If you want to produce crisp and sharp images like a pro, there’s no way to avoid PAR. Here, we will discuss how PAR works along with how to apply it to your photoshop project.

So, if you are interested, keep reading.

What Is The Pixel Aspect Ratio?

To understand pixel aspect ratio or PAR, let’s figure out what aspect ratio means. It entitles the ratio between a frame’s width and height. For example, if a display frame has a 1:1 aspect ratio, it will look like a square. However, a 16:9 ratio indicates a rectangular shape due to being wider.

What Is The Pixel Aspect Ratio

Pixel Aspect Ratio

Now, we know what aspect ratio means for a frame. Apply the same definition on a pixel now. So, PAR means how much wider a single pixel is in comparison to its length.

For example, if you see a PAR of 1, it means that the pixel has a square shape with the same width and height. However, PAR:2 looks narrower and more like a rectangle. It’s due to the extra width.

Why Do You Need Non-Square Pixels Aspect Ratio In Photoshop?

Everybody thinks only image resolution is enough. If that’s so, then why does an HD image from your computer look so distorted on a wide screen Television? It’s because of the difference in PAR.

As you can see below, NTSC has three standard frames: DV, D1 & Widescreen. The D1 screens have an aspect ratio of 4:3 and 720x480p resolution. Previously, screens with a 4:3 ratio had a resolution of 640x480p. You could adjust pixels with a 1:1 ratio easily.

That being said, the number of pixels on the vertical axis is the same (480p). The number of pixels has only increased for the horizontal axis. It implies that the pixels can’t be square any more. The recommended PAR for D1 is 0.9. As you can tell already, 0.9 means the width is 0.9 units (smaller) and the length is 1 unit (larger). That makes it a non-square pixel.

Output Resolution PAR
NTSC D1 720x486p 0.9
NTSC DV 720x480p 0.9
NTSC Widescreen 720x480p 1.21

Why Should You Care About Pixel Aspect Ratio Photoshop?

You must have already guessed why it’s super important to consider the pixel aspect ratio. In case you want more clarification, here you go.

Pixel Aspect Ratio Photoshop

To Reduce Distortion

Whether it’s NTSC or PAL, each standard has a specific number of pixels to fill the screen. And, you must change the pixel’s shape according to that. If the screen is 4:3 with 720x480p, the ideal PAR would be 0.9.

But, for a widescreen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the PAR will reach 1.2. Otherwise, a circle would look like an egg. That’s why it’s so important to match the final output’s PAR requirement during photoshop.

Sharper Image

Most images that you design will be projected in a medium with different resolutions. It can be for D1, DV, or broadcast screens. Maintaining the specific PAR for these screens will make sure your design is not losing any detail.

Sometimes a pixel gets stretched to match the display’s ratio. But it causes great harm to the object on the screen. It loses information or detail. If you are into 3D animation or video gaming, you would know the frustration.

Which Pixel Aspect Ratio Is Perfect For Your Photos?

When you go to correct the PAR, it gets a bit overwhelming due to all the menu options. Because pixel aspect ratios rely heavily on the type of frame you are using.

Moreover, you need a different PAR, if the aspect ratio of the frames doesn’t match. And, each option on that list is there to serve a specific frame requirement. That’s why you should know what each of these options refers to.

Here’s a quick guide to help you.

Menu Options Resolution DAR (display Aspect Ratio) PAR (Pixel Aspect Ratio)
Square 640x480p 4:3 1
D1/DV NTSC 720x480p 4:3 0.9
NTSC Widescreen 720x486p 16:9 1.2
PAL D1/DV 720x576p 4:3 1.067
PAL WideScreen 720x576p 16:9 1.422
Anamorphic 2:1 2

As you can see, if you want to keep the PAR to 1, select the “square pixels” option. If the display has a 16:9 aspect ratio and uses NTSC standard, pick the “NTSC widescreen” option. This table should help you identify all of that.

In case, you are still not sure which one is the best, stick with the “square.” This PAR works with most frame types. Because 4:3 is the most widely used aspect ratio. it won’t make your image look distorted even on an NTSC D1/DV or PAL D1/DV. Hope that helps.

How To Change The Pixel Aspect Ratio In Photoshop?

If you are not happy with the pixel aspect ratio, here’s a quick tutorial for you. Also, we have kept the process simple and straight. Check it out.

Step 1: Open The “View Tab”

First of all, open the image in your photoshop software. Now, click on the view tab. It should be on the bar above the picture. Once you expand the “view” tab, it will show you a list like this. Click on the “pixel aspect ratio.”

Open The View Tab

Step 2: Select A PAR

Once you click on “pixel aspect ratio”, another list will appear. Here, you can see all the standard output types. The “square” option will be selected by default. But, you can change that by selecting another standard.  If you want the image to match a D1 standard, click on “ D1/DV NTSC.”

Select A PAR

Next, go back to your image. The image won’t look distorted anymore.

How Do You Turn Off Pixel Aspect Ratio In Photoshop?

Now, to turn it off, keep following the above method till you find the “pixel aspect ratio” option. If you have changed the PAR before, you will notice a “tick” beside the “pixel aspect ratio correction.”

pixel aspect ratio correction

In that case, just click on the “tick” again to uncheck it. Now, if you select the “pixel aspect ratio,” and you can see the “square” option is selected by default again.

pixel aspect ratio

sum of net transaction

Here is a quick tip: Don’t crop the photo to get rid of the pixel correction. Since the pixel’s shape has changed, cropping the sides won’t help much.

What To Do If The Photoshop Software Doesn’t Allow Non-Square Pixels?

That’s a very common question. You might want to change the PAR for your clips following our method. But the application doesn’t allow any input to create a rectangular pixel. What can you do now?

Well, our first suggestion would be to switch your Photoshop application. That would save you a lot of hassle. If that’s not possible, we have a small trick to share.

Suppose the final display screen needs a resolution of 720x480p. That would require 0.9 PAR according to the table above. Since, you can’t apply that ratio, create a larger file than necessary. That means, instead of 720x480p, you make a 720x540p file.

That way, when you project the file on the final output, it will automatically be downsized. It is like distortion but in a good way. the larger file’s pixels will become narrower to fit the screen and that will give us the ideal PAR of 0.9.

As for the 720x486p, reformat your file into 720x576p. You should definitely try this trick.


Pixels are like the building blocks for your images. They are square-shaped small color dots. However, many people don’t know that pixels don’t always have to be square. And, that knowledge only can change your whole photoshop experience.

In this article, we have tried to educate you regarding the pixel aspect ratio. You can use our brief tutorial to change your image quality if you want. And, that will give you a shaper and crispier image.

With that, we are signing off. Hope that you have got what you were looking for.

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