Here’s How to Prepare Files for Large Format Printing in 5 Easy Steps

When it comes to preparing files for large format printing, you need to start thinking differently. After all, a large format printed product is much larger than say, a leaflet, so any errors you make will be much more obvious.

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The steps we’ll be discussing are:

Optimise Images for the Viewing Distance

The first thing you need to do when you start preparing your files for large format printing is to consider the viewing distance and optimise your images for that. What do you want the viewing distance to be? Or in other words, how far away do you want people to see your product?

Regular printing techniques, such as when you’re printing a magazine or a poster, will have you working at 300 dots per inch (DPI), but there are more factors to consider when you’re working with large format printing. It’s not enough to just have one huge file at a high resolution because you need to consider the distance and height that you want people to see your image.

Let’s break this down.

Picture this: you’re driving down the motorway and you see a huge banner hanging from a bridge. From a distance, the images look really crisp and sharp, but if you stood really close to the banner, you’d just see a collection of scattered dots. The image might even appear a little blurry.

This is because images are made up of a collection of dots which combine to make that sharp image and its clarity depends on the human visual system. The sharper you want your image to be viewed at a greater distance, the more resolution or DPI you’ll need to make the image appear sharper. Plus, the further away your audience is, the bigger the dots need to be.

You also need to consider the setup and location. For example, a building wrap is placed much higher than a promotional light box in a shop window, which would be viewed at eye level. If you want them to both appear sharp, you’ll have to consider height as well as distance.

Calibrate Your Screens

Now that you understand the importance of viewing distance, it’s time to focus on the equipment side of file preparation. For instance, you and the printing company need to be sure that what you see on your computer screen is going to be accurately reproduced when printed. You don’t want the colours to be off, fonts to be missing or graphics to be cut off as you’d risk wasting time, material and ink.

The way to avoid this series of unfortunate chain events is to properly calibrate and profile your computer monitors. This means setting it to specific industry standards for brightness, contrast, gamma and colour. Then, you need to recalibrate the screen to these values every 30 days or so.

The accepted standards are:

  • 0.4 for black
  • 95 for brightness of white
  • 2.2 gamma
  • 6500K for the colour temperature of white

As well as this, you need to ensure that your screens and the printing company’s screens are calibrated to the same values. Every monitor is different and applications like Photoshop need to know how a monitor should see colour so it can transfer this over and make sure that what you’re looking will be identical to what the printer will be looking at. Avoid colour differences by ensuring that you’ve converted every file, including spot (Pantone) colours and RGB graphics, to CMYK.

Use Photoshop’s Soft-Proofing Feature

Photoshop’s soft-proofing feature adjusts the on-screen appearance of an image to match how it will look when it’s printed, without changing the image’s pixel values. Usually, images on calibrated monitors appear with more contrast and a wider colour range than they actually would. With the soft-proofing feature, you can literally see how your printed product will appear, which reduces the risk of disappointment when everything’s been printed.

Convert Fonts to Vectors

If your product is going to feature text, ensure that you convert all of it to vector artwork before you export the file and send it to the printer. This is because the printer might not have the exact typography that you’ve used and it could be converted to a default font, which could ruin your layout and overall aesthetic.

As well as this, vector artwork scales seamlessly and helps to create small, easy-to-transfer files. That’s why it’s good practice to always outline any fonts you’ve used in your document by converting them to vector artwork.

Save the File as an Appropriate Type

Typically, the preferred file formats are EPS and TIFF, and it’s best to save two copies – one for you and one for your printer. Make sure that you keep an editable version for yourself because you don’t want to have to sit there and redesign everything from scratch.

It’s advisable to talk to your printer and find out what their recommended file specifications are first. The best printing companies offer more than just printing capabilities. They will also offer tips and advice on the best solutions for their customers, from the visual products to file preparation, and will have some in-house design capabilities to help keep design file tweaks efficient.

For example, at Dominion Print, we don’t just provide large and super-large visual solutions. We also strive to provide our customers with the best possible printing service overall. That includes having expert teams of designers, installers and operators to guide you through your large format printing project from the brainstorming-of-ideas phase to the setup and installation. We will always be transparent to help you get the best results from your visual project.

Want to Read More on Large Format Printing?

If you’ve found our blog on how to prepare files for large format printing helpful, perhaps you’d like to read more about the printing technique overall. Head over to our one-stop resource page for all of the information you’ll ever need about large format printing, from what it is and the types of visual solutions you can produce to how to choose the perfect printing company for your business needs.