Designing and Preparing Artwork for Large Format Printing

There are times when a message needs to be shared and there’s only one good way to share it: Loudly, boldly and with high visibility. Maybe it’s the deal of a lifetime, the sale of a season or the announcement of a block party or basketball tournament. Regardless of the event, these are the times when a banner, sign or other medium of large-format printing is the hands-down best way to communicate.

Whenever you find yourself needing to communicate with a banner or sign, you know that U.S. Press is the best place to have one printed. But there are some rules to keep in mind when designing artwork or other components of your large format printed piece. U.S. Press is here to help in that regard, too. Read on to know the rules of designing for large scale printing. 

General Design Tips

To effectively design for large format, you must realize what it means to work with so much space. Your images and message will need to be large enough to properly use all of the available space. Additionally, messages from banners and signs aren’t viewed up close – they’re generally viewed from a distance. This means the message in your design should be large, clear and easy to read. Use clean, sans serif fonts that are readable from a distance, and keep your message limited to the most important information. Remember: no one can read long paragraphs of text from a distance, so stick to bold headlines and minimal text.

On that note, be careful about the quantity of images you place on your design. Too many images will appear cluttered and be hard to view from a distance. If possible, limit your images to one or two per large format design.

Image Quality and Resolution

For company logos and other similar images, it’s important to use vector files, as they can be stretched to any size and retain complete and total image quality. As a good rule of thumb, you should always keep vector files of your company’s main logos and artwork handy to use on any printing or other design job.

Raster image files (like photographed images) can be used, but must be a certain resolution after they’re stretched to size. For images like these, we recommend a resolution of at least 100 PPI at print size to ensure good quality. Generally, raster image files that have been taken off of social media feeds like a Facebook page will not meet this requirement. A photo taken directly from the camera that took the photo may meet this requirement, but not after it’s been uploaded to the internet. Any image file – raster or vector – that’s been compressed or had its format changed will no longer be a viable option for large-scale printing. All design elements should ideally be done in CMYK, to ensure the best quality result after printing.

Margins and Bleeds

When designing any printed piece, it’s important to consider margins and bleed. With smaller pieces, like postcards, bleeds and margins can be as narrow as 1/8th of an inch. But with large format designs, you need larger margins and bleeds. Allow for at least an inch of margin and an inch of bleed to make sure your designs retain integrity throughout the printing process. Also, lots of large format products have features like welds or grommets, depending on the material and function of the printed piece. A one-inch margin and one-inch bleed will make sure no welds or grommets interfere with the integrity of your design.

Keeping all of these ideas in mind when designing your large-scale printed piece will ensure your finished product is an effective, attractive piece that delivers your message perfectly. As always, your U.S. Press account manager is standing by to assist you with any step in the process.