October 10th, 2014
Given that this is the season for trade shows, fashion shows and the final outdoor events before the cold grip of winter sets in, we are getting more calls for large format printing than ever. It makes total sense - companies want maximum visibility at these events and this is where large format shines. What better way to gain visibility than with a large poster or step-repeat banner? Thing is, in any printing projects size is just one consideration. If you are trying to really make an impact then we have a few simple tips to get your money's worth when it's time to go to press.
1. Create a focal point
All too often we see people trying to do far too much with the space they are given. Either they try to spell out too information, which no one will ever read. Or they toss as many shiny graphics as possible, resulting in a garish potporri of design violations. The real key here is to decide what your message is going to be. If brand visibility is your goal, then the logo should be the dominant element of the layout. If you are trying to grab people with an offer, make an attetion grabbing headline the focal element, followed by your brand. With this much real estate, it's all about priorities.
2. Use vector graphics
Clients often come to us, frustrated from working with another printer because their graphics printed a bit blurry. We look at their files, and the resolution is technically ok, but the final print is just not as crisp as they wanted. At this stage our only recourse is to recommend the use of vector, as opposed to raster art. For the uninitiated, rasters use square pixels, like a mosaic to create an image. This is where people turn to Photoshop or GIMP. Vectors, as authored by Illustrator or Corel Draw, utilize geometric equations to render shapes. While this may sound unimpressive at first, it actually makes a huge difference. Since the image is not made of tiny pixels, they will print flawlessly at any size. You could print a tiny graphic onto a bus
, and it would still look razor sharp.
3. Mind your resolution
While vectors are the obvious choice for logos, icons and text, there are some instances where they are not suitable, and photography is one of those cases. When you absolutely need to use an image, you must ensure that the resolution is high enough. So how much is enough? It depends on the quality and placement of the image, but a general rule of thumb is to have it be 200-300dpi at actual size
. What we mean by that is the document size needs to be set to the proper dimensions. For instance in Photoshop, if you wanted to print a 24"x36" poster, you would set the document width to 24, height to 36 and the dpi to 200 (We recommend 300dpi for optimal image quality). Keep in mind you cannot just add resolution to a poor quality image - the source must be of high quality.
4. Preview at actual size
While this may sound like impractical advice at first, you'd be surprised how many people are just not content with the size of their artwork, even after you tell them the dimensions. Our advice when dealing with logos (especially on a step repeat banner), is to print out a small section of it, preferably where the logo resides. This way you can decide if it has the legibility you are looking for. It's also an effective technique for deciding if your images have enough resolution at the specified size.