Graphics for Large Format Printing: a Guide and Checklist

Large Format Printing Checklist Image: Print technician in workshop

When dealing with a large format printing company, it is always good to have a checklist and ensure you send your images and branding media in the correct format to avoid common large format printing mistakes and hence delays and unnecessary hold-ups.

It can sometimes be poorly understood, but large format printing, also known as large-scale or wide-format printing, could bring a number of benefits to your branding strategy.

These days, printing in a bigger size in no way means having to compromise on efficiency or quality. Indeed, the process is similar to standard printing and just as quick, plus you get exactly the same levels of colour and detail.

Equally, the end results are just as able to withstand the worst of the British weather or the harshest sunlight and will last just as long as conventionally printed products.

Whatever you need from your branding graphics, large format printing combines quality, durability and an extended display area so your message is portrayed in an eye-catching way with the visibility you need to make it stand out from a distance.

What Exactly is Large Format Printing?

Wide-format printing machines typically support rolls for printing of between 18 and 100 inches, with a maximum width typically of not much more than 60 inches. Some companies also offer super-wide format printing, which is typically 5m wide.

As you’d expect, every individual part of a design is expanded dramatically to create a size much greater than would normally be used for brochures, business cards, magazines and the like.

It’s a hugely versatile technique, which you can use for hoarding signage, window graphics, banners or retail settings, vehicle wraps or floor or ceiling graphics. What’s more, anything from aluminium to vinyl can be a potential printing surface for large format graphics.

The equipment used for this work is typically either a flatbed or a roll-to-roll printer or a combination of both. With a flatbed printer, a substrate is placed on the bed, and this acts as a carrier propelling the material through the printer. They’re good options for printing straight on to less traditional or thicker substrates.

Meanwhile, a roll-to-roll printer is often used to print things like banners on flexible materials which usually come in rolls.

Working With Your Large Format Print Company on Wide-Format Designs

While large-scale printing is a straightforward business, as with any process, you should work closely with your printer on these projects. That’s important when you consider the additional scale and cost involved in working in a larger format – it’s vital to get things right the first time, every time.

Here are some top tips:

#1 Talk to your printer early on

While very tight turnarounds are entirely possible, clarify your requirements as soon as you know what you need and when you need it by.

Once you have chosen a large format print company, talk to your printer about what equipment they use, deadlines and how you will send over your files for printing. Ensure you know the required file formats, sizes and ensure they are CMYK if going to print! Do check these details even if you’ve worked with the company previously.

#2 File preparation pre-printing

Have your print files in vector format, so the size can be blown up as big as you like without affecting definition or clarity. Vector (or .eps and .ai) files are created in Illustrator and use maths algorithms to increase images in scale, rather than limiting them to a particular resolution. This retains the quality and resolution of your graphics, allowing them to be resized as large as required without causing the image to look pixelated. This makes large-scale printing more straightforward and allows for last-minute changes without a potential ‘domino effect’ of problems.

Your design team will probably want to discuss software programs with you. Illustrator is a good, versatile choice that’s user-friendly and allows the creation and opening of vector files. What’s more, Adobe Illustrator files are typically smaller than Photoshop ones, so it’s easy to transfer and download them. Equally, you can import raster files from Photoshop if necessary.

When creating files, keep lines clear and crisply defined, with consistent colour. Appreciate the importance of resolution, expressed as pixels or dots per inch – PPI or DPI, especially where non-vector files are involved. Aim for a resolution that’s as high as possible.

#3 Getting colour spot-on

Ensure designs are done in CMYK colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) and not RGB (red, green, blue). The former is used for printing and RGB for digital displays and devices, so the colours in each can look slightly off if the wrong one is used. Bear in mind that any perfections will be magnified in a larger format. Create and save work as CMYK from the outset.

Again, talk to your printer – colour may need to be adjusted for certain substrates.

#4 If in doubt, shout!

If you’re uncertain about any aspect of the printing or design procedure, talk to your printing firm as early on as possible. Chat through the brief thoroughly to deliver an end product that accurately reflects your branding and the time and effort you’ve put into creating it.

Large Format Printing: It’s What We Do

Given its benefits, it’s hardly surprising that large format printing is increasingly popular. At Rocket Graphics, we’ve specialised and consistently invested in this area of printing where, frankly, our competitors haven’t always done. Our inventory of bang-up-to-date printing equipment includes a Vutek machine capable of printing up to 5m-wide prints. So, whether you need stadium signage, large window decals or building wraps, we’ve literally got it covered!

We also have the latest large format Zund digital cutting technology, to produce large format graphics in the shape or texture our clients need, and completed to a super-high quality.

As just a couple of examples, we’ve supplied large format work for Stevenage Football Club’s ground and for Infosecurity, Europe’s leading cybersecurity event. We could help you, too. Get in touch for a detailed, expert and no-obligation chat about your business’s large format printing needs.