A billboard on the side of the road. A banner outside your building. A point of sale display. These are all large format graphics. But despite their overall size, they only have a small amount of time to make an impression as people walk, run or drive past them.
So how do you turn people’s fleeting attention into a meaningful connection? A huge part is the design of your graphics. Below we share the top tips for large format graphic design.
1. Keep it Simple
When it comes to large format graphics, a clean, simple design can help you achieve simply good results.
You would think that bigger graphics should have more content and design elements. After all, you wouldn’t want all that space to go to waste, right? But the truth is, the larger the graphic, the greater the need to keep messaging and design simple.
There’s a limit to how much the human eye can take in at a given time. If someone is holding a piece of collateral in their hands, it’s easy for their eyes to roam over the entire brochure before finding the focal point.
But with large format graphics, it’s harder for eyes to traverse the space.
If the graphic has too much busyness, a person’s gaze is likely to bounce around from element to element. Without a clear visual anchor, people may walk away before getting to key messages, your call to action (CTA) and other good stuff.
Even though you have a lot of space, it’s best to focus on one key message and keep the call to action as simple as possible. People need to know where to look. Using a QR code for your CTA is a great way to free up space on your graphics and engage passersby.
2. Consider Your Angle
When graphics are larger, it becomes much more difficult for your audience to see the whole picture at a glance. People may need to move their head, or entire body, as they gaze up at a billboard, look down at a floor graphic, or walk around a tradeshow booth.
So when designing a large format graphic, consider where a person will be when viewing it. Will they be able to see the entire image at once? Will they need to walk around a structure to see the whole thing? Will they need to crane their head up or down just to read the most important pieces? Consider the viewing experience for the audience and place the essential elements where they’re most likely to be seen.
3. Stay Away from Fancy Fonts and Tiny Text
Simple, solid fonts are usually best for large graphics. Beautiful, intricate fonts are great on collateral, but all those frills can make fonts look fuzzy when viewed from a distance. You’ll also want to ensure that you have sufficient tracking and leading (space between letters and lines of text).
Font size is also super important. But how do you know what size to use? When looking at a 100-point font on your screen, it’s easy to think that it’s more than big enough. But it might not be.
Most large format graphics are seen from a distance — across a conference hall, the mall or a street. While the exact length will vary, you can assume that some people may see your graphics from at least 25 feet away. A general guideline is to make text at least one inch (or 72 points) tall for every 10 feet of viewing distance. So if a graphic will be 25 feet away, you’d want your text to be 2.5 inches (or 180 points) tall.
But even with appropriate sizing, sans-serif fonts, and optimal spacing, some letters look different from a distance. So it’s valuable to proof from a distance.
4. Choose Imagery and Image Types Wisely
A word of advice? Don’t sweat the small stuff on large format graphics — skip it. In most cases, small details and subtle backgrounds don’t make large graphics better.
The use of imagery should complement, not overpower or distract from the content. Complex design elements that add interest to marketing materials — such as using a monotone of your products as a background — may not play well in larger formats.
When choosing image types for your large format graphics, vector images (.eps or .ai) are usually better than raster images. Vectors include paths based on mathematical equations and can shrink or scale without pixelation. Raster images, such as JPEGs, have a set number of pixels and can get blurry when scaled to large sizes. Still, it’s common to use both types in one graphic — for example, you may use a JPEG as a background image and a vector image for crisp details and text.
5. Lock in the Best Resolution
A common question is, “What resolution do you need for large format printing?”
There’s no simple answer since the resolution you need for large format graphics depends on how close your audience is to the graphic. The closer someone is to the graphic, the higher the resolution you’ll need.
If you typically create brochures, direct mail pieces or different types of collateral, you likely use images with no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch) because anything else can look pixelated when viewed up close.
In some situations, people may be as close to a large format graphic as they are to a brochure — if that’s the case, you’ll also want to target 300 dpi. But as the viewing distance grows, the resolution requirements shrink. For a 10-foot viewing distance, a resolution of 150 dpi should be sufficient. Graphics viewed from an even greater distance — such as a billboard — may be fine at 60 dpi.
6. Go Bold with Color — and Use Pantone When Possible
One way to make your message clear even from a distance? Contrast. One sound strategy is choosing darker, bolder colors for the background and much lighter colors for the text.
You’ll also want to ensure the colors you get are the colors you want. Using Pantone colors is a great way to find colors that perfectly match your design concept, but they’ll need to change to CMYK before printing. If unsure what the color breakdown is for a chosen CMYK color, use an online tool to convert Pantone colors to CMYK. Of course, if your design includes RGB or Pantone colors, it’s no big deal. We’ll convert them to CMYK before printing.
7. Scale it Down
Our large format printers can create graphics up to 64 inches tall and 12 feet wide (or wider, if you tile them). Creating a graphic with vast physical dimensions in design software can be an extreme challenge. No one’s computer monitor is that big. To make it easier on yourself, you can design your graphics at a fraction of the final size — somewhere between 15-25% can be a good target.
But you need to ensure there will be sufficient resolution when a graphic is scaled up to the actual size. So if you’re targeting a resolution of 150 dpi, a graphic set up at 20% size should have a resolution of 750 dpi.
8. Understand Graphic Options
Large format graphics can be printed on various materials — and each type of large format graphics has different benefits. For example, vinyl is durable and waterproof, making it an excellent choice for outdoor graphics. But, if you want your graphics to have a subtler appearance, fabric graphics are literally softer and look that way too. Other considerations include transparency, cost, flexibility and rigidity.
Ideally, your design should play into the strengths of the material you’re using. Contact us if you’d like suggestions about what would work best for your project.
9. Prepare For Success
Once the file is designed, take a few minutes to make sure your files are in order before sending them off. Here are some best practices to ensure that your printed graphics look just how you expect:
- Proof from a distance. For best results simulate the viewing experience with your computer or by printing out hard copies and viewing from a distance.
- Convert fonts to vector images — this can help ensure that your fonts look exactly the way you want
- Collect all images.
- Convert colors to CMYK.
- Send design files and PDFs to the printer. Sending the design files, a high-resolution PDF, and a low-resolution PDF can help ensure that we’re able to address printing issues on the fly.
- Work with a large format printer with the expertise to make you look great.
Designs on Making the Best Large Format Graphics?
Designing large format graphics is a little different than creating other marketing materials. But you don’t need to go it alone. Point B Solutions has extensive experience in large format graphic printing — and we want to help you achieve HUGE success.