Large Format Graphics

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.

Illustrator or InDesign files

 Large Format GraphicsAlways 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.

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. Learn More About Large Format Graphics