Designing For Large Format Printing

Large Format Design Tips

Know your image resolution AND the intended vantage point– When designing with raster images such as photographs, its best to be aware of the native image resolution. The general rule of thumb for standard printing (offset and digital) is at least 300 dpi. For large format print – its all about distance the piece is intended to be viewed at. A wall mural may be viewed as close as 2-3 feet, which would require (depending on the size of the wall) a higher resolution image to begin with and at least approximately 150 dpi when expanded.


This image represents what it might look like to view a billboard up-close. Back up and the image becomes more clear.

In extreme cases such as highway billboards – the image will be view at a much greater distance and as a result will not require a high resolution graphic. In fact its not uncommon for large photographic billboards to not exceed 50 dpi.

Working with raster images in large format printing will require some practice as well as trial-and-error. Using a layout program, zoom in 100% to get a better idea of the overall image quality. It can also help to print out a small test print for color calibration before sending the image to the printer to avoid wasted ink and material. Large format digital printing can be a slow printing process so its best to get it right the first time.

**Note** Since Photoshop CS, Adobe has included a large-document file format designated PSB. This format is intended to support up to 300,000 x 300,000 pixels – greater than the standard 30,000 by 30,000 pixels a PSD file will support


Viewed up-close or from afar, vector graphics provide crystal clear results.

When possible, work with vector images – Working with photographs and raster images can be tricky and requires some experience. Working with vector graphics will guarantee more straight forward results. As most graphic designers already know, vector images can be expanded without loss of resolution – making this the ideal format for large format graphics.

Using a vector based program such Adobe Illustrator of CoralDRAW, start with a smaller size scale of the final piece. Working in a document with dimensions of 10 ft x 20 ft can be extremely slow.

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