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The Devil’s In the Details | Setting Up Your Files for Large-Format

Today’s tradeshow tips are real behind-the-scenes stuff, just for the graphic designers and production artists. It’s all about creating the best possible files for large-format printers. Most people manning the booths don’t think about how the graphic panels are produced. But those sharp, full-color, seamless banners and graphics have to come from someplace. They are printed on large-format printers — in general, those that print on large paper or other media, which can range from two to more than 15 feet in width*. The technology includes ink-jet, solvent, UV, aqueous and dye sublimation. The graphic designer must prepare the files correctly in order to have those crisp images in the finished prints.


Square overhead banner.


Resolution (the non-New Year’s kind)–Most large-format printers require a file size of 100 to 150 dpi (dots per inch) at output size. Translated, this means that a nine-foot banner is 100 dpi, so the designer can create the file three feet at 300 dpi. The print technician then enlarges the file 300% to achieve the desired size. If you have any doubts, ask your contact at the printer.


Color–Even if you have a Pantone logo (for instance), everything needs to be converted to CMYK for large-format output. Be sure to tell the print tech the original Pantone color(s) so the final product is within your standards and expectations. It is for this reason (among others) that Tradeshows And Displays includes proofs in all estimates. Oh, and forget RGB colors! Save those for your monitor.


Size Matters–See the product description in the literature or on your estimate for the live area. Templates are available for many products; see our template page. If in doubt, your printer can verify which template you need. The templates should include the required bleed, and indicate visible versus non-visible areas.


Software and File Extensions–Most printers can accommodate files created in the accepted graphic design programs, such as Illustrator, PhotoShop, InDesign, and even high-resolution PDF files. Read our File Requirements page for more.


Support Files–Be sure to set all fonts to outline, and include all support files and fonts. However, you should remove any extraneous elements that you may have saved outside the live area as you were designing.

20-foot serpentine pop-up.


This information is somewhat technical for the layperson. However, these are the basics all designers need to know for the technical aspects of large-format file set-up. Also, visit our Tradeshow 101 pages, where you’ll learn some of the more aesthetic nuances. For starters, don’t think “brochure”; think “BILLBOARD”!



Helping Exhibitors With Tradeshow Preparedness One Booth At a Time!



* According to PC Magazine.




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