Tip for Creating Large-Format Graphics that Make Maximum Impact

Tip for Creating Large-Format Graphics that Make Maximum Impact

Your brand has a big story to tell – and the best method for telling it in a big way is with large format printing. Whether it’s for a trade show display, outdoor wall mural, indoor wall wrap, or hundreds of other applications, these larger-than-life graphics will get you noticed.

Of course, you can’t have large-format graphics without the ability to print them. And at The Trade Group, we’re pretty proud of our printers.

There’s the VUTEk GS Series 3250X Pro Grand Format UV Printer. It’s one of our most versatile pieces of equipment. The VUTEk can print on just about any type of material up to 126.5-feet-wide and two-feet-deep. Meaning, we can produce seamless, 10-foot high backdrops of virtually any length with images of the highest quality thanks to Ultradrop technology, which enables us to print finer drops and produce higher-quality images.

In addition, the VUTEk is environmentally friendly – using LED UV curing lamps that produce minimal heat and require low energy to operate.

We also have the EFI FabriVU 340 – 126” Grand Format Dye Sublimation Printer, which can print directly onto fabric or via paper transfer. The FabriVU 340 uses water-based, dispersed ink, which provides a higher color gamut and more vibrant colors than were available in the past. Water-based inks are also very environmentally friendly.

Of course, before these printers can do anything, they need graphics to print. Designing and creating large-format graphics is quite a bit different than designing an average graphic. The standards and best practices for one do not necessarily apply to the other.

Fortunately, there are some tips that will help you get the best results out of your large-format design.

Bitmap vs. Vector

There are two common files for large-format designs: bitmap and vector.

  • Bitmap Images – bitmap images (sometimes referred to as raster images) are made up of thousands of different colored and shaded pixels on a grid that determines the image’s color and form. Photos are bitmap images. Photoshop is the most common bitmap editor, enabling you to manipulate the color and other properties of the pixels. Because bitmap images are made up of a finite amount of pixels, resizing can be tricky.
  • Vector Images – vector images are made up of points, each of which has a defined X and Y coordinate. Using the mathematical relationships between the points, they create paths to form shapes. This enables vector images to be increased to any size without loss of quality.

Photo Credit: Maijin The Artist

Design Programs

There are three main programs used to design large-format graphics (all of which are Adobe products).

  • Illustrator – creates vector images, so they can be scaled up without losing clarity. Files created in Illustrator are typically small, so they won’t (completely) hog all of your available storage space and are easier to transfer for printing. It is also possible to incorporate bitmap images from Photoshop.
  • InDesign – primarily used for brochures and similar media, InDesign also creates vector images. However, the program does have restrictions on page scale. So, it is not often used for large-format printing.

Always remember to convert your fonts to outlines when delivering Illustrator or InDesign files to a print vendor. This turns the fonts into “shapes” (as opposed to leaving it defined as text), so it can be neatly scaled with the rest of the image, and you won’t encounter any font substitution problems.

  • Photoshop – only creates and uses bitmap Photoshop is mainly used for photo and image editing. Because Photoshop images are composed of pixels, it’s relatively easy to scale down with no loss of quality. However, increasing the size will cause pixilation, so it is essential that images have a sufficiently high resolution to fit the large-print space. When working at these large dimensions, bitmapped images are going to take up a lot of space and can really slow down an average computer.

Working with Bitmap Files

So, there are times, when you are creating a graphic, that you will you need to import a bitmap image from Photoshop. To do this, it is essential that the dots per inch (DPI) is high enough that your graphic doesn’t suffer from a drop in quality.

Fortunately, because these images are meant to be viewed from a significant distance, it is possible to use a lower DPI than you would for an image in a magazine. Often these images are not even going to be viewed at eye level, and details are not as noticeable when seen from 20 feet away.

Instead of the 300 DPI used for magazines, for many large-format images, bitmap graphics at 100 DPI is acceptable – and for very large graphics 60 DPI will work fine.

Photo Credit: Android Guys 

Viewed from Afar

Remember that these designs are intended to be viewed from far away, so it is unnecessary to cram every inch of space with detail – no matter how tempting it may be to do so. Sometimes it can be hard to resist filling in the white areas, but with large-format designs, too much detail can actually make it difficult to discern images and limit the overall impact.

This is doubly true of text. Try not to have too many words. This will make it hard to read and, again, have a drastic, negative effect on the overall message of the piece. Keep copy to a minimum and use distinct fonts that are easy to read.

Finally, use colors in your foreground images that contrast with the background for maximum visibility and make sure to keep the area behind any text clear. When text is placed over a busy background, it becomes very difficult to read.

Work for Scale

File sizes for large-format graphics can quickly become unwieldy, so it is a good idea to work at a scaled percentage of what you intend the final to be. For example, if a final printed product is going to be 120 inches by 60 inches, you can create a file that’s 30 inches by 15 inches, or one-fourth the size. This will be easier on you when you are trying to move items around, and the file size will be more manageable.

It is extremely important, however, to clearly communicate to the print vendor about the scale you used and how large they are supposed to scale the files up. Not passing this message on will be a costly mistake.

Print Testers

It is extremely costly to print a large-scale graphic, which is why you want to get it right the first time. So always print out several test copies of your finished graphic. Use legal-sized paper (11×17) and make sure the image is perfectly scaled to match the larger version.

First, carefully look over the image to double-check that everything reads correctly, all images are in their proper place, and the overall effect is what you intended.

Once you are happy with your up-close inspection, step away from the design to view it at a distance. Just like with your printing, try to appropriately scale your distance from the print out so it is equivalent to where someone would be when viewing the graphic in actual size. Only after you (and maybe several others) have approved the graphic that the design is legible and text readable from both views is it ready to print.



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