Tips for Large Format Graphic Design


Tips for Large Format Graphic Design


Large format graphic design is the key to standing out from the crowd at an exhibition.  You want to create something that is eye-catching to visitors and draws them in from the moment they enter the show.  To achieve this you will need high resolution graphics and a clear message. Designing graphics for billboards or exhibition stands are very different to standard graphic design work.  Working on a larger scale affects everything from how the design must be formatted to how it will be perceived by your customers.

Here’s a few tips to help you:


1. Design


The best large format graphics are simple in nature - limit the number of graphics, ideally to 1 and the amount of text.  You want it to be readable from a distance.  Too much information will clutter the design, and no-one will read it anyway.  You should stick to the rule of keeping at least one third of the design blank space, limiting your graphics and text to two thirds of the overall area. Keep your theme simple – perhaps only two or three colours, which will make a better impact and enhance your brand identity well. 

Also consider the space where it will be used, you don’t want to find that an important part of your message is hidden behind a desk. 

Tailor your messaging to suit the audience, think about the goals of the visitors to the show and use your messaging to guide them to action.  Choose an easily readable font – script or sans serif fonts may look good from a design point of view but will be more difficult to read from across a hall. Keep to one of the basic fonts and avoid using all bold lettering, it can make your design appear loud or aggressive.Check your design from a distance, it may be helpful to stand back a few metres from your computer to see what it looks like from there.




2. Software


InDesign is ideal to compose large format graphics, it allows you to pull in images created in photoshop and vectors in illustrator as links. It references the Photoshop or illustrator file rather than embedding it making it much faster. Keeping the files small makes them easier to share with each other for feedback, and means that when you are happy with the end result you’ll be able to send the artwork easily.

Photoshop is strictly raster-based and mainly used for photo/image editing. Because the images are composed of pixels, raster graphics scale down with no loss of quality but enlarging will cause pixilation. When using Photoshop, make sure your images are high resolution enough to fit the large print space. If you are creating design elements like shapes or blocks of colour, Illustrator is best as it can an create vector-based images that can be scaled up without losing clarity. We’d always suggest using InDesign to pull it all together.  


3. Image type


Vector graphics are formed digitally, by joining points created using mathematical equations. Raster graphics are created using lots of dots of colour that form an image. In large format printing, you should aim to create all of your elements, other than photography, using vectors as they can be scaled up dramatically without losing any quality. Enlarging raster graphics like Bitmaps will often make them blurry or pixelated. If you do need to use Bitmaps make sure they are high resolution - keep pixels per inch about 72, this might sound easy but when you’re blowing images up to this scale, you will be amazed how quickly the DPI drops. normally 72 DPI would be considered low res, but at this scale your images will still look pin sharp. Be aware that higher dpi resolutions can result in very large file sizes.


4. Use Pantone for the perfect colour 


If you’re hoping to match your large-scale graphics with other graphics, your logo or promotional items, Pantone colours with the PMS extension can help you do that. Using them within your design will ensure cohesion across the board when your graphic goes to print. The Pantone Matching System takes highly precise mixtures of ink to create an exact colour match. Despite most printers using CMYK, they should be able to match pantones closely.

CMYK is the most common colour model used for image depiction in this type of file format. It provides a great range with deep contrast. CMYK is also the format generally used by printers. This means that using CMYK will result in a more accurate depiction of colour for your graphics.



5. Scale your design down


When you are working on large format graphics there is no need to work at full scale. The file sizes will be huge, difficult to share and even harder to proof. We use a ¼ scale to remove these problems.  All you have to do is divide your dimensions by four, then work to 300 DPI (this will result in DPI of 75 when scaled up). Large format printers already have the necessary software to scale up your artwork. If you want to check what the finished project will look like, export your graphic as a PDF and zoom in to 400%. This will give you a good overall idea.


It is also a good idea to print out a scaled down version before you go to the final print. Large scale graphic printing is expensive so you don’t want to do it multiple times. You can get a good idea of what it will look like printing  your quarter size files.

Large format graphic design has different requirements to ordinary graphic design.  You need to consider file types, software, design and colour palette.  If you would like us to deal with all this for you just call 0800 019 2141 or email




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