Large Format Printing FAQ
If you’re looking to work with a large format printer, it’s likely you have some questions about large format printing services. Thankfully, we have some experience in that area. We’ve compiled a list of our Frequently Asked Questions list, including everything from banner design tips to file size and more.
Below we’ve separated the FAQ into two categories:
General FAQ covering everything from what large format printing is to how to work with a large format printer.
Design FAQ covering the design questions we see most frequently.
Large format printing, sometimes referred to as wide format printing, is exactly as it sounds: printing large format graphics. Generally, printers can only handle certain dimensions, typically no more than 24 inches wide. Anything outside of those dimensions would be considered large format. This includes everything from banners as small as a table and as large as a building, to wall wraps, window graphics, and more.
You may also hear the term “grand format printing”. Similar to large format printing, grand format printing exceeds certain dimensions. If the printing material is at least 70”x100” wide, then it would be considered grand format.
There are so many different projects large and small that large format printing is perfect for. A large format printer can provide high-quality visual marketing in the form of:
Dimensional construction lettering
Custom window films
Custom trade show displays
That is only some of what a large format printer can help with. Whether your project—or your budget—is big or small, there are large format printing services to fit your needs.
Wide format printing is a type of large format printing, through the terms are often used interchangeably. Wide format printers can handle larger than standard widths, typically between 18” and 168”.
There are many different types of advertising and marketing from digital to traditional. Large format graphics tend to provide a, pardon the pun, larger impact. They are often eye-catching and difficult to miss. Large format printers are also cost-effective and versatile offering a myriad of services to suit your needs in both design and budget.
Where else can you get a retractable banner for a trade show, three-dimensional lettering for your lobby, and a banner big enough to cover a multi-story building?
While there are options to choose from and each printer will have its own preference, vector files (.EPS or .AI) are the best option when working with a large format printer. Some designers will use a hybrid of vectors and bitmaps.
When preparing the images, we recommend using Illustrator. Unlike some other programs, Illustrator is excellent for working with vectors. Surprisingly, the resolution recommendations differ significantly from smaller format print jobs, which focus on 300 dpi. It is recommended that you use at least 150 dpi when designing for large format graphics with a close viewing distance (up to 10 feet) and at least 60 dpi when the viewing distance will be greater.
Generally speaking, the image size you submit should be at least the size of the print you are designing for, often referred to as 1/1 scale 100% sizing. The resolution, as mentioned above, should be at least 150 dpi for graphics intended to be viewed within 10 feet and at least 60 dpi if being viewed further.
If your large format print is going to be larger than 150” (about 12.5’), you would use 10% scale instead of 100% sizing. When doing this, you will likely need to adjust your dpi as well.
It is important that you are preparing your image for the size and viewing distance the print is intended for. So, the first step in preparing your images is to have clearly defined guidelines for yourself.
We have already discussed the best file format (vector) and the best program to use when designing (Illustrator). We have also discussed scaling and resolution recommendations based on viewing distance. So, in order to properly prepare your image for printing, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
How will my audience be viewing my large format graphic?
What size do I need my print to be?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can use the standard guidelines above to prepare your image for printing.
As with most things, the cost of your large format printing project will vary depending on the size, format, and complexity of your project. You’ll need to factor in the materials as well. Most companies that provide large format printing services will provide custom quotes for projects so you can get an understanding of exactly what you’ll be paying.
Color Reflections offers a wide variety of large format printing services. Indoor or outdoor, small or large, if our printers can handle it, we provide. We specialize in custom trade show displays including large banners, floor graphics, custom printed tents and tablecloths, and more. We also offer services in the retail industry, the construction industry, the amusement and entertainment industry, as well as the sports industry. If you can dream it, we can probably help make it happen.
Color Reflections currently operates in six different locations around the continental US. With our shipping and delivery service, we can make sure your project gets to you no matter where you are. You can find a Color Reflections location in:
Each Color Reflections location has a different preference for how clients should upload their image files to us. We use FTP, Dropbox, and WeTransfer. To see how your preferred location accepts large files, check out our uploads page.
We prefer the standard. Though we may work with a few different file formats, we prefer to work with vector files (.EPS or .AI) in 100% sizing for images less than 150” and 10% scale for images larger than 150”.
If you’re unsure about the file type and sizing, you can always ask questions during the custom quoting process. We want to make this as smooth as possible for both of us, so we are happy to chat about any questions you may have before you get to this point.
Some of the orders we print and ship are, how shall we put this…large. It comes with the territory for large format printers. So, we understand that not everyone has the ability to install the projects we complete for them. That’s why we offer professional installation services to our clients.
Your projects will be installed properly so you can ensure they’re done safely and last as long as you need them.
DE&I initiatives are more important than ever to both customers and employees. So, ensuring your designs are inclusive is an important step in the design process.
First, you can ensure that your designs are accessible and follow ADA standards. This can be made easier by working with a printer that has knowledge of ADA signage.
Beyond those guidelines, there are design choices you can make to keep your designs more inclusive and accessible. Here are some tips:
Increase color contrast
Use fonts that are easy to read
Keep font size larger and spacing consistent
Larger graphics can help with visibility
The most important step here is designing for everyone. So, keep that in mind as you begin the design process.
Branding is about much more than a logo. There should be a consistency to the way you represent yourself as a brand. When someone looks at one of your designs, they should know it came from your company without having to search for the logo hidden in the image.
The first step is setting branding guidelines. What colors and fonts do you want to use? Is there a style of image you prefer, one that fits your brand’s overall tone?
To keep consistency when designing your assets, you want to ensure you’re sticking to the same colors and fonts that you use throughout your brand—from your website to your marketing campaigns. If there are certain images or graphics that you use often, be consistent with those as well. Your goal here is for your audience to immediately recognize your brand through your graphics.
This can be a tricky ask. Your brand guidelines will set the tone for your color choices. That said, you want to ensure that your color combinations don’t clash. They should be complementary and attention-grabbing. Black and white. Yellow and blue. Navy and teal. Pink and green.
Whatever you choose, there should be enough contrast between the colors and shades you use that your graphics are clear and easy to read.
As mentioned above, vector files are the best when it comes to large format printing. Raster graphics are also used often when it comes to this type of design, but they don’t offer the same benefits as vectors.
Vectors offer smaller file sizes and scale much easier than raster graphics thanks to the lack of pixelation. If you have the option, we recommend vector graphics.
We know. Your font can make or break your design. Whether you’re designing a large format graphic or a small business card, the font is an important piece of the whole. There are so many great fonts out there, we don’t want to claim that one is better than another—though we certainly don’t recommend using something like Papyrus.
You want to choose fonts that are easy to read and go well together. Here are some tips for choosing your fonts:
Combine serifs with sans serifs
If using a script font, pair it with a non-script font
If using the same font, consider using mixed weights
If using finer fonts, use bolder colors to contrast and make them easier to read
A roll-up banner sometimes referred to as a pull-up banner or retractable banner, is a type of banner display that can stand on its own and be broken down by rolling it up. These are excellent for portability.
If you run pop-up shops or trade shows, then roll-up banners are a must-have for your business. They are simple to install and travel. They’re durable and simple to customize. And, they’re cost-effective.
A banner stand is a type of portable banner display. These can be retractable, expandable, or a simple x-style. If you’re exhibiting at a trade show, presenting at a conference, setting up a pop-up at an outdoor event, or just looking to set up signage outside your store, banner stands come in handy.
When it comes to your large banner design, there is no one size fits all answer. The dimensions you choose for your banner will depend greatly on the project you’re completing. If you’re looking for a skyscraper-sized banner, for instance, the dimensions of the building will play a role in the dimensions of your design.
It is, actually. With traditional banner design, your dimensions and resolution will depend on the size of the banner you’re choosing to work with. While many banners are designed for close-up viewing, the majority tend to be viewed from further away, which plays a role in the design choices you make.
With retractable banner design, your dimensions are pretty standard. Most commonly, you’ll find them at 33” x 78”, but their sizing can vary some. They will almost always be a vertically displayed rectangle, though with a thinner width and longer length. Since they are meant to be viewed at a close range, your resolution as well as your font sizing and color choices will vary compared to more traditional banner design.
When it comes to trade shows, first impressions are everything. Your trade show booth is just one exhibit amongst many. You need to stand out in a good way and draw in visitors that want to engage with your brand.
Custom trade show displays can be that difference for you. You can set your brand apart while staying true to your branding and grabbing the attention of the attendees. More foot traffic means more leads and more potential customers. Custom trade show displays can actually increase your ROI.
With booth designs for trade shows, you want to keep your branding consistent while leaving a lasting impression on the attendees. Use your space creatively and try to make the experience interactive. The more memorable your booth, the more likely a lead turns into a customer.
Things you want to include in your trade show booth include:
Trade show banners
Trade show flooring
Trade show signs
Trade show tablecloths
Trade show tents for outdoor events
All of those items allow for customization to suit your brand and your needs. They are all portable and easy to install and break down to simplify what can be an unnecessarily complicated process.
You want a stand-out booth that’s interactive, memorable, and brings you as many leads as possible. The desire to be different can be enticing and overwhelming. It can also make you want to stray from your branding. Don’t. One of the most important parts of your event booth design is keeping the branding consistent—not just throughout the design for your booth, but consistent with your everyday brand.
Make sure you’re creating the right atmosphere for your audience and giving them a reason to come to your booth. It’s not just about the overall design, but how you use it.
Though it can be tempting, try your best to keep your booth design and graphics simple. Too much can overwhelm your audience and leave them unsure what to focus on. You may be memorable, but not in a good way.
And, let your booth breathe. Keep your booth open so that foot traffic flows easily and no one feels cramped. Help keep the flow of foot traffic natural with trade show flooring.
Didn’t see your question answered? Don’t worry. We’re always here to help. Contact us today! Let us know about your project and what you need.