Large Format File ResolutionLarge Format File Resolution

08 Apr
Posted Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:49
Just how big do my files need to be for large format printing?

It depends on the substrate for your final output and viewing distance. A building graphic or a vehicle graphic does not require the same resolution as a retail banner. In any case you'll probably be surprised at just how low a resolution you can get away with.

Design with vector

You should design with vector art when ever possible. Vector files are infinitely scalable without sacrificing image quality. Obviously this isn't always possible, so if your design requires the use of images here are some resolution guidelines.

Vehicle Wraps, Building Graphics and Window Perf

Most laminated large format applications require the least amount of pixels. Start your design by taking accurate measurements for your project. Add at least five inches of bleed to all sides. (Your printer can mask some of the bleed out if it's not needed. It's always best to provide too much bleed than none at all.) Now take your total size with bleed and divide by four. This gives you a working file size at quarter scale. The resolution needed at this file size for this application is 150 dpi. Make sure to let your printer know the scale factor of your file so they can scale it at the RIP. The image quality will be excellent as long as you started with good quality images.

Example

40 foot trailer side graphic
trailer side measures at 370" x 89"
add bleed for a final print size of 380" x 99"
quarter scale file size is 95" x 24.75"
resolution 150 dpi

Laying out your design

Create a new photoshop document at the quarter scale size with a resolution of 150 dpi. Open any images used in your design. Drag each image into your new document. You will know right away if the image resolution is big enough. Combine all of your images and effects to your new Photoshop document. The completed photoshop design can then be linked to illustrator where you can set type and place logos or other vector art elements.

Guidelines for other large format applications.

Dye-sub to fabric - over 8 feet
25% print file size
200 dpi

Dye-sub to fabric - smaller sizes
100% Print file size
150dpi

Direct digital print to fabric
25% print file size
200 dpi

Direct Digital to Vinyl Banner Material - over 8 feet
25% print file size
200 dpi

Dye-sub to fabric - smaller sizes
100% Print file size
150dpi

Working with too much file resolution is just as costly as having too little resolution. Large files slow your work down, take longer to transfer or burn to disk and slow your printer down as well. Sometimes really large files will fail at the RIP, costing everyone time and money. Follow these resolution guidelines for excellent output results and managble working file sizes.

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