3 Common Mistakes in Large-Format Printing (and How to Avoid Them)
By Bestype Printing & Imaging on April 20, 2020
When you decide to go big and turn your idea into a wide format project, you must take risks. Large format printing NYC-style means that whatever you’re hanging, it must stand out. Scaling something small into something big doesn’t necessarily mean that your tasteful branding concept will lose any of its character and class. Still, your designs normally viewed online or as smaller print pieces need a bit of reworking before they become large signs, screens, and banners.
Designers often stumble into common design traps when transferring small ideas to bigger formats. This article will explore what large format printing is and how to avoid the three most common mistakes. Once you refresh your ability to identify where good signs go wrong, you can avoid these problems altogether.
Understanding Large Format Printing
Large format printing uses digital printers to transfer designs onto very large pieces of material. Most people think that large format digital printers produce paper and card signs. Our machines also transfer graphics to other materials that can accept digital ink. Bestype’s wide feed digital machines can print to fabrics and vinyl, leather, and more — our widest machine accepts sizes up to 100 inches wide.
Now, can you think big and create designs up to 100 inches wide? You can, using a few tips and vector-graphic-friendly design software. Before we discuss design tips, especially considering how our large format printing NYC customers use our services, we should mention what we need at Bestype before printing.
Choosing Tools for Vector-Graphic-Friendly Design
Bestype’s printing technicians are experts at scaling your design for large format printing, but we need your files in a format we can use. The images need to be exported from your design application as vector-graphic images. These file formats are .SVG, .EPS, .PDF, and .AI.
We feel that .EPS and .AI files are the easiest to work with, but we know that the .AI format is exclusive to Adobe Illustrator’s export function. We also know and share your collective pain from paying Adobe’s high access price to work with their application.
There are alternatives to designing in Adobe’s Creative Cloud platform. If you prefer to create using another application, we can still help you! Maybe you like using the old-school workhorse CorelDraw. Or, maybe you’re a fan of the newer contender, Serif Affinity Designer. Either way, we will transform your small vector designs into large format printing projects. If you can export into one of the vector-graphic formats we mentioned above, we can use your file.
What Not to Do: 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Large-Format Design
Once you’ve chosen your design application, create your file for us. Please keep these three common errors in mind while designing for large format printing.
Problem No. 1. Not Considering Perspective
Sometimes, there’s too much of a good thing happening in your wide format design. When designing your large format printing project, you don’t want to include too much information because there’s no way people can take it all in, no matter if they stand in front of or underneath your project.
Don’t Give In to the TMI Temptation – Less is More
We get it, we get it. And we sympathize! You want to get your entire point across in one cohesive piece. You want to include every bit of information you can squeeze onto your sign, banner, or wrap surface. We’re here to point out that signs and banners are usually different from flyers, brochures, and catalogs. Large format printing draws eyes to your brand and a single point (or maybe two) about your offer. It then sends the viewer somewhere else to get more information. Your project moves your viewer further along the decision-making process. They are directed to another printed project that contains everything you want to tell them. Or your design sends them directly to you or another member of your frontline team to provide more information or to close a sale.
In dreaming up your designs, think bullet points and not essays. When you design your large format printing project, NYC examples are everywhere. Look up and around. What do you see right in front of you that makes you think about buying a product, or visiting a place, or participating in an event? How many points does each sign make? The examples you see give you helpful roadmaps to follow as you’re getting your design ideas together.
Stand in Your Viewer’s Shoes
When you’re observing how other designers use large format printing, think about where your viewer will be standing, sitting, or approaching from. Perspective asks: can the person 100 feet away from your sign get the same information as the person standing right in front of it? Designers call this vantage point the sweet spot. Here is where the text in your sign isn’t too big to be read within a reasonable distance, and people can still clearly view it while approaching it from far away.
Problem No. 2. Making Less Than Ideal Color Choices
Color is a huge part of any large format printing piece. Still, you need to be extra careful to use color correctly.
Use a Color Wheel to Select Your Palette
When you’re not using your branding or logo colors, you’re free to explore and have fun. You may choose to use colors that complement your official colors, but you can choose other colors that help your design pop. Here are some design considerations to remember in large format printing, especially when projects are designed for distance-viewing.
Parts of your design may appear elegant and sophisticated at eye level. Blow them up to jumbo size, and they will fade into the background or become nearly invisible when viewed from an elevated angle or a distance. Using bright colors on light backgrounds isn’t ideal in a large format printing design. Using two dark colors layered on top of each other also does not work. For example, your dark aubergine and black text on a wine-colored background looks amazing on your wine shop’s business cards and flyers. However, when you create a jumbo satin banner to hang over a trade show booth with the same idea, it won’t work. It won’t draw the attention of someone trying to find your booth from down the aisle at the Javits Center — the dark font color on your banner will blur into the dark background when viewed from far away.
Use a color wheel to find inspiration for your large format printing sign or banner. Using an online or old-fashioned manual color wheel, select contrasting, complementary colors that will make your message pop off of the banner. Lighten up your burgundy background to something further up the purple family wedge of the color wheel, but keep your borders burgundy. You can keep your black or aubergine-eggplant text and still stay in line with your branding.
Choose CYMK or Pantone Color Matching instead of Relying on RGB
Your graphic design application helps calibrate the colors you choose in your design. But, check your settings to make sure you are working from a CMYK or Pantone palette and not RGB.
RGB colors in your design application are intended for the web and other graphics that people will mainly view on-screen. These are colors built from combinations of red, green, and blue.
CMYK colors are what digital printing designs are made of — these are colors layered with dots in cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (key is usually black). Most digital printing projects rely on your choice of CMYK color matching to recreate your graphics onto your large format project.
When to Use Pantone
Pantone color matching works best when using predominantly one or two colors in your project, for example, if you need a background that agrees with your branding colors exactly. It would be best if you had a careful printing technician to print that color meticulously. With Pantone Color Matching, printing technicians monitor pigment levels and calibrate inks so that color distributes evenly in your project. Color doesn’t fade. The viewer does not see weird spots that appear lighter or darker across the product.
Problem No. 3. Using Low Resolution Images Saved as the Wrong File Type
It happens all the time. The perfect image for your brand or message isn’t always the perfect imaging for large format printing. To get a clear, quality print, you’ll want to use a high-resolution image. These images can be stretched to fit a large space without compromising the quality of the photo. That is, your art needs to be saved as a vector image instead of a raster image. As discussed at the top of this post, raster file JPGs and GIFs become distorted when stretched.
That’s not to say that we can’t use raster images in GIF and JPG formats, but their uses are limited. When images saved in these formats are stretched to the sizes used for wide-format graphic display, the images become distorted. Suppose you are going to include raster images. In that case, they work as backgrounds where distortion and blur help create a focus for the vector images in the foreground.
Get Started On Your Next Large Format Printing Project With Bestype
When designing a piece, there are many things to consider, but we hope these tips for large format design will help you get started. Large format printing is an effective way to get any message out there, and we want you to be prepared to do so!
Are you ready to print your next banner, sign, and next big thing? When you contact Bestype for your complimentary project quote, our friendly technicians will walk you through everything you need to know. We’re experts in large format printing, NYC-style. We’re local to you, steps away from the Canal Street Subway Station using either the A,C,E or the N, Q, and R Lines. We’ve served New York businesses, schools, and community organizations who need large format printing since 1978. We never outsource any project — no client or their project is too small. All printing happens on-site, and we keep a wide and creative inventory of substrate material so that we can print your project fast. Now that you know how large format printing design works let’s work together to produce your next project. Contact us today.
Image Credit: Piqsels @ Creative Commons