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Anti-aliasing is used on images and visuals displayed on screens. Anti-aliasing takes an image designed for a higher resolution and smooths out the jagged edges so it will look better (and less distorted) at lower resolutions. Without anti-aliasing the images will appear pixelated—with jagged edges that are actual pixels being displayed. With anti-aliasing a gradient is applied, making the image look smooth. In this example from Wikimedia Commons, you can see an aliased image on the left, with very jagged edges, and a smoother anti- aliased image on the right.

two images, one anti-aliased

You do not want to anti-alias things that will be printed. Printers have much high resolutions than screens and generally do not need anti-aliasing. In fact, an image or bit of text that has been anti- aliased will look pretty bad and oddly blurry when printed.

So, if something will be viewed on a screen, apply anti-aliasing for a smoother, less distorted, and more professional look. If something will be printed, do not apply anti-aliasing for a cleaner, more professional look. If it will be printed and seen on screen, I suggest making an anti-aliased screen version and a regular (aliased) print version. One way I can tell a newbie designer is an anti-aliased printout or an aliased item on screen.

Reference: “Anti-aliased-diamonds” image from Wikimedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anti-aliased-diamonds.png

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