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Choosing the Right Image Resolution for Large Format Printing

Jacques Jourdain
06/02/2021
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If you visit any of the Gordon Flesch Company demo rooms, the first thing you will see is a giant photograph of the local downtown area, blown up to cover an entire wall. It’s an arresting image, and we believe it’s the kind of thing more businesses should do to impress visitors to an office, store or event.


The most impactful and eye-catching creative content is being produced with large format printers. The result is sleek, bold and eye-catching imagery that will have an impact for any business. Here are some tips and tricks we have picked up over the years to make large format printing work.

RESOLUTION REVOLUTION

Depending on the venue and nature of a large-format image, audiences will view images from different distances. Viewing distance is an important consideration for large-format graphics since understandably, larger viewing distances will also require larger images. But as images are enlarged, their resolution decreases.

However, the larger the viewing distance, the lower an image’s effective resolution can be. A photo that’s 300 dots per inch (dpi) in a magazine would only be 14 dpi when stretched across a 15-foot banner. That’s because while a photo may appear pixelated close-up, it looks perfectly fine when viewed across a room – and in order to enlarge the photo, the number of pixels per inch will decrease.

GETTING STARTED

When creating a large format image, we generally recommend designers work with at least 300 dpi. Unfortunately, most design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign cannot display images that large, so you may have to work at half or quarter scale. We find it is possible to work at quarter or half scale if your resolution remains high. Of course, while you may have to scale the image down for editing, make sure to scale it back to full size before printing. If you forget, you will have a small image printed on a giant background.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

When printing large format images, look out for pixelated edges and noise – areas of random variation of brightness or color. When printing a photograph, even high-resolution images, there are some colors or tones that will produce noise. For example, pale blue skies when printed at large scale may look splotchy. An experienced graphic artist can zoom in on the file and slowly blur out noise to reduce this effect.

The file format you work in can help reduce bad effects. The best files types to create an image from are vector files (.EPS or .SVG). No matter how much you increase a vector image, it will create a perfect line with no pixels. However, when working from photographs, there will always be pixels, depending on how high the resolution the picture was taken. You may find that some photographs simply will not work for large format printing because of the resolution.

WHICH FILE FORMAT SHOULD I USE?

Choosing the right file format can be important delivering the image to your printer. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most practical formats available:

Graphic designers will work in a vector file format like SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) because it will eliminate pixelated edges. When it comes to file preparation for large format printing, it is always better if you work with vector graphics wherever practical and output as PDF, AI or EPS.

So, how do you make sure your masterpiece will still look its best when it’s hot off the press?

  • Use JPEG for general image sharing since it is supported by most applications.
  • When printing or publishing commercial or professional work, use TIFF.
  • For designs that require the use of photos that require transparency, PNG is recommended.
  • For web designers and graphics artists who work with responsive websites, SVG is the preferred format.

Whether you’re looking to build your brand identity, upgrade your customer experience or achieve countless other business goals with large-scale visuals, our experts can guide toward the best outcome possible. By creating, printing and installing custom-made large-format graphics, the print experts at GFC can help you accomplish your unique business objectives. Contact us today

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