Design Tips for preparing to print Large Format
Whether it’s a giant banner or a tradeshow backdrop, large format printing presents unique challenges for designers. Here are a few handy tips for smoothing out the process.
Use Vector Resources As Much As Possible
Not only do vector images scale up or down perfectly, they also have a much smaller file size which reduces the slowdown on your computer. Anyone who’s ever worked on a several hundred megabyte Photoshop file knows how painful that can be. Plus, it won’t take forever to spool to the printer when your printer tries to print it.
Work At a Smaller Scale (Using A Vector Program)
It can get a little ridiculous trying to design a 40 foot banner to scale @ 300 dpi and most apps have limits to the maximum canvas sizes anyway (Illustrator’s max size is 227.5 inches, InDesign’s is 216 inches). It’s very helpful to work at ½ to ¼ scale and have the printer scale it up. If you need to use raster images in your designs, calculate the necessary working resolution based on the full sized design and link to them externally instead of embedding them. Be sure to inform your printer, too.
Industry experts had this to say about the resolution of bitmap/raster images for large scale printing:
The process used is governed purely by the end result and size. Viewing distance governs the file setup and image quality.
Use the following rules of thumb:
– Close viewing less than 1 metre but larger than half a metre 200 dpi Minimum.
– Medium viewing 1 to 3 metres 150 dpi Minimum.
– Distance 3 metres and above can range from 150dpi, 4 to 6 metres 100 dpi and 6 metres above 75 dpi at full finished size.
Stick To Process Colors
Sure the company logo is a specific spot color, make sure your job is set up and costed that way. Plan accordingly.
Most large format pieces are designed to be viewed from a distance. Be sure to use large text sizes that are very easy to read. Try to stay away from really fancy fonts with details that will blend into your design and may fall apart when printing. You’ll also want to consider the contrast and how busy your design is so that your type doesn’t get lost in your creative.
Take A Step Back From Your Monitor
Stand about 10-20 feet away from your monitor and see if your design still looks and works great when viewed from a distance. As designers we tend to focus on the details but in a large design piece nobody is going to see the minutia from far away.
Print A Small Scaled Sample First
You generally only get one shot at printing a large format piece. Large format printing is EXPENSIVE and you more than likely won’t get a mock or preview piece. Printing a smaller scaled version on an 11×17 or equivalent will help you to catch printing errors, misalignment or other issues before you send it off to print.
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