Here are six 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 difficult 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 pre press dept 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 prepress contact also.

The process is usually governed purely by the end result and size. Viewing distance governs the file setup and image quality. You can 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 when needed.

Listen to the advice of the pre-press dept and CSRs; Sure the company logo is a specific spot color, but sometimes certain files will come out better in context CMYK. Unless a spot is 100% required, try to plan accordingly for the best outcome.

Font Legibility

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 can be EXPENSIVE and you don’t want to take any chances. 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 production.

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