Optimize Your Artwork For Large Format Printing

Large format printing is notorious for highlighting even the smallest errors in design. Whether a banner, a poster, or another type of trade show graphic, large-scale artwork has the unique challenge of being viewed both up close and far away. In order to ensure the quality of your final graphics from all distances, you have to start with the best formatting. Below are several tips that will help ensure you get the best graphic outcome possible.

File Type

When it comes to images and graphics, there are two basic types: raster-based or vector-based.

Raster-based graphics are composed of smaller pixels, each with an assigned location. The quality, or resolution, of the graphic is often measured in dpi (dots per inch). While raster graphics scale down with no loss of quality, enlarging these images risks pixelation – causing a jagged, blocky look. Adobe Photoshop is an example of a program that provides raster-based editing.

Vector-based graphics are composed of lines and geometrical shapes defined by mathematical equations. The mathematical basis of the graphic means that it can be enlarged without a loss of clarity or sharpness. Adobe Illustrator is an example of a program that provides vector-based editing.

Due to its infinite scalability, a vector graphic would be the best solution. However, if your artwork is going to include a photo element, you will have to ensure that the photo has a high enough resolution to avoid a loss of quality. The best practice is to have a dpi between 100-300 to ensure it looks crisp from any distance. When saving the file, EPS is an ideal file type for vector graphics and PDF avoids image compression issues that are common with JPEGs.


Your design software most likely has color setting that allow you to choose between RBG, CMYK, and Pantone. RGB works well for digital pieces like your website because it works with the primary colors of light. However, CMYK works better for printed materials because it works with the primary colors of pigmentation. CMYK ensure that you’ll have a more accurate color rendition when you make the large scale print.

However, if you are hoping to match your large-scale graphics with other graphics, your logo, or promotional items, Pantone colors can help ensure a cohesive design across the board. With a color sample, we can help you match the right Pantone color.


Bleed is a printing term used to describe when a document’s image or color goes right to the edge of the paper. By including a bleed in your document, you give the printer a margin of error to work with, and ensure that your text and graphics are not accidentally cut off. To create a bleed in your document, simply extend the part of the graphic that hits the physical printed edge past the artboard edge. Best practice is to include a 1” bleed.


Fonts & Graphic Features

Most likely, your artwork will be seen from several dozen feet away at first. Therefore, readability and legibility are key issues to be wary of. You’ll want to ensure that distinct images and text are well spaced. You’ll also want to choose a typeface that is easy to read, and keep the copy on the artwork to a minimum. High contrasting colors between background and overlaying imagery or text can help maintain visibility. Finally, don’t focus too much on tiny details, but instead focus on how the design functions as a whole.


Print A Small Scale Test Copy

Large format printing can be costly and takes time for proper preparation. Therefore, it is better to catch changes that need to be made before you print at full size. The easiest way to do this is to print a small scale test copy on 11”x17” format paper that is perfectly scaled to match the larger version. View the test copy from multiple angles and distances to make sure everything properly aligns, that the design is legible, and the text is readable.

Work With Our Graphic Artists

Whether you would prefer for us to manage the whole design process or just to help you prepare your artwork for print, our graphic artists are experts at designing for large format printing. We can also provide proofs – like the small scale test copies mentioned above – for you to approve the final design before the full size printing. Contact us today for your large format printing needs.

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