Prepping Your Design for Large Format Printing (6 Tips)

Tue Apr , 2020

One question printing professionals often ask themselves is ‘what resolution should my images be?’

In the case of small format printing, the answer is simple: image resolution should ideally be twice the output line screen, or around 300-400 dpi. Exceeding this limit increases file size without improving print quality. On the other hand, lowering the resolution below this limit can cause uneven edges and areas of contrast.

But when it comes to large format printing, this question is often difficult to answer.

Large format printing is a powerful and effective way to get your business into the limelight and make a positive impact on prospective customers. Banners, outdoor signs and media backdrops are valuable advertising tools that help increase your brand’s visibility and customer engagement.

But an attractive design isn’t enough. Considering the size of the finished product, perfecting the image’s resolution and dimension is an important part of the process. From file formatting and resolution adjustment to checking colour contrast, there are technical aspects to take note of to maximize the effectiveness of your large format print.


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6 Tips to Design and Prepare Images for Large Format Printing

Working with multiple apps and tools makes it easy to miss out on important aspects when preparing a document or image for large-scale printing. Here are some tips to help you avoid these mistakes.

  1. Select Appropriate Fonts

Most large format prints are meant to be viewed from a distance, which means you need to choose fonts that are clear and legible.

Usually, sans-serif fonts look better from a ways away than script or serif fonts. Again, fonts that are too bold or have wide spacing between letters are difficult to read, especially from far away. To check a font’s legibility, take a step or two away from your computer monitor. Is the text easily readable? Experienced graphic designers limit the number of fonts they use on a banner design as too many can crowd an otherwise effective design. Instead, try variants of one or two font families. Include only short, crisp phrases and choose fonts that won’t strain the reader’s eyes.

  1. Maintain Balance

Balance is a key element of any design but particularly for large format printing projects. Using too many images, signs or text can make your banner look cluttered and unprofessional.

Instead, convey your message in a concise, creative way while keeping things simple. All you need are a few short, crisp phrases with eye-catching graphics.

The term ‘design balance’ refers to white or negative space around each design element. Too much text or too many graphics will leave readers confused and clueless about your business. Blank space gives a clean, professional look to your design.

  1. Include Bleed Area

Page bleed is another important yet often overlooked aspect of large format printing. It’s a printing term that refers to a colour or image used in graphic design that extends to the edges of the paper. Generally, anything you print will need to be trimmed at its edges, and a bleed area ensures that the final document looks exactly as you planned. Keep 3 to 5 mm of space on the edges of the design and fill them with a colour of your choice. Make sure that no text or graphics drift into this space or you may lose them during the final trimming process.

  1. Limit Your Colour Palette

Limit doesn’t mean eliminate. Although you need to use colours, going over the top can mar your objective of drawing in prospective customers. As with fonts, be sure to limit your colour palette to make your design cohesive and readable. Sometimes, the magic lies in contrasting colour combinations instead of using too many colours at once.

Make sure that all text and images are clearly readable against the background colour. For example, choose a red font against a white or beige background to emphasize the text.

  1. Choose the Best Image Resolution

As discussed, the file resolution and dimensions for standard offset printing will not apply here. Instead, the image resolution of your large format print depends on three important factors: viewing distance, viewing conditions and the image.

The closer an image is viewed, the more details the eye can see and the more dots per inch (DPI) you need for your design. Aim for 300 dpi for a viewing distance of one metre, 150 dpi for a distance of one to three metres, 100 dpi for a distance of three to six metres, and 75 dpi if viewers are farther away.

Also, consider whether the image is illuminated enough. Low contrast or soft focus images can be printed at lower resolutions.

  1. Choose the Right File Format

There are generally two types of large format printing file types: EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) and TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). EPS files can contain both text and graphics, and is a better option for vector images. TIFF files are more suited to high-quality graphics, with colour depths ranging from 1 to 24-bit. They also support special Adobe Photoshop features like layering and transparency.

No matter what type of file you choose, don’t flatten the original file before sending it to the printing company. Keep an editable file to make the design and printing process easier. It’s a good idea to talk to your printing service provider before choosing a file format.

Large format printing has a huge promotional potential for your business but can be a big investment. When it comes to your money and brand imaging, it’s important to get your promotional material right. Choose an experienced printing company in Toronto that creates high-quality, impactful print materials at reasonable prices.