Recently, we asked our friend Marina Poropat Joyce, author of Designing for Print, to share some tips on designing for large format print media. Large-format printing is ideal for small business material or short-run items that a business would need for a trade show.
(The following is a condensed version of her original article; see below for the full article.)
Wide Format printing used to be only for large items, but that is no longer true. Large-format presses are now capable of printing many small projects, just like a digital press. The finishing techniques available are getting fancier with each new generation of equipment.
Some wide-format presses can die cut without a die, print on metallic paper, and lay down gloss coating. Granted, those machines are not everywhere, but they can be found. Not requiring dies drastically reduces the upfront cost of adding unique cuts or shapes. There’s no longer any print run or item that is too small for these presses. Some are available as desktop models for design studios and agencies, making it possible to print and prototype quickly and conveniently.
Things to do for large-format printing:
- Set the resolution to 300 dpi (dots per inch) for the best results for point of purchase displays or other items that will be viewed from a distance of less than three feet. For items viewed from a distance of three to 10 feet, set the resolution to 150 dpi. For items viewed from any greater distance, such as a very large-format billboard, set the resolution to 360 dpi. Work at 1/10th the billboard’s scale or 72 dpi at 100% scale because it gets very hairy to work on a ten-foot banner at 100% of its actual size in any design program. So go ahead and work at a smaller scale and just make sure your placed or linked graphics are set at a high enough resolution to handle the final reproduction size.
- If you are working on a poster that will print 34” in. x 44 in. and your file page size is 8.5 in. x 11 in., that means the print will be 400%, four times as big. Ensure your graphics are set to 1200 dpi at the 8.5 in. x 11 in. size if they will be viewed from less than three feet.
- Use vector art as much as possible if the work is going to be enlarged. That way, you can design freely and not have to worry about the resolution of raster images.
- Keep your workflow RGB so that your printer can convert to CMYK in their RIP for the best results.
- Make sure that any rules are set to an actual width and not to “hairline.”
- If your work is going to be used outdoors, let your print provider know that upfront and make sure the provider can print with outdoor inks. Do not use a lot of magenta in a piece meant to be outdoors because magenta fades more rapidly than the other process colors.
- If you need to match an inkjet item exactly with an item printed by an offset printer, talk to your print provider well in advance to see which item should be printed first.
- Go crazy with materials! Wide-format printers can print on plastic, fabric, foam core, wood, styrene, metal, and much more.
- A typography class is the best way to learn about fonts’ legibility when viewed at a distance, but here is a guide:
Viewing Distance Text Height in Inches Point Size 15 feet .0525 in 37.8pt 20 feet 0.7 in 50.4pt 30 feet 1.05 in 75.6pt 50 feet 1.75 in 126pt 100 feet 3.5 in 252pt 500 feet 17.5 in 1,260pt 1,000 feet 35 in 2,520pt
Want the book?
Use the link below to take advantage of a Millcraft Coupon Code for $10.00 off Marina’s book: Designing for Print.
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