Before referring to this article on how to supply Large Format artwork, please read our article on vector images.

If you are working with a large document such as a poster above A3, a banner, or any other piece of display material, there will come a point where a bitmap image will no longer do.

Your computer will only be able to cope with so many pixels, your original scans, photos and graphics will have been created at a maximum resolution, and sizing up beyond that point will not increase your resolution.

This is where desktop publishing software comes into play. DTP software such as Quark or InDesign takes bitmap pictures of varying resolutions and sizes, lines them up with text and vector imagery and allows you to output a PDF (portable document format) file with bitmap graphics overlayed with vector, and in some cases editable, text and line art.

Although the backgrounds in these files can’t scale infinitely; they are limited by their innate resolution, the fonts and vector artwork can. The end result is an optimised, efficient file that contains the best of both worlds.

Illustrator and Photoshop are able to reproduce this on a comparable level; Illustrator works almost natively with PDF files, and Photoshop PDFs are bulky & crude but do the same job in a pinch.

So when you are supplying large files to us, follow these guidelines and you won’t go wrong.

Guidelines on how to supply Large Format Artwork in some popular programs:

Photoshop

  • Start creating at 300dpi. As explained in our document on resolution, you can’t add back in resolution to old artwork.
  • Don’t forget to leave an area for bleed.
  • If you have vector images, place them within the document as Shape Layers rather than pasting as Pixels.
  • Once your artwork is created, leave it in layers and ensure all the text is editable text (shows a T in the layer).
  • Save it as a Photoshop PDF, deselect the box for layers (it will retain the vector text and Shape Layers) and choose High Quality Print in the next window, with PDF-X1a (2001) encoding.
  • Don’t add crop marks and registration marks.
  • If your document is getting too large for your computer, or for the saved file, you can reduce the file size to 200dpi for A3 – A2, or 144dpi for higher file sizes without affecting your final print too much.

Illustrator

  • Make sure your artboard is the correct size or even proportions. Don’t forget to leave an area for bleed. If you are using Illustrator bleed settings, you’ll need to add the bleed in the PDF export options.
  • Lay up your document using as much vector and editable text as possible.
  • Make sure when you Place bitmaps, they are at full size & resolution.
  • Save as a PDF file and choose High Quality Print in the next window.
  • Don’t add crop marks and registration marks.

InDesign/Quark

  • Don’t forget to check that the bitmaps you are using are decent resolution. InDesign will show you the effective print resolution in the Links panel.
  • Don’t forget to include a bleed.
  • Make sure all your linked images are CMYK.
  • Export as a PDF file and choose High Quality Print in the next window. Make sure you include your bleed in the print options.
  • Don’t add crop marks and registration marks.