Setting Up Design Files for Large-Format Printing

Creating the best possible files for large-format printing requires a few basic rules that are a little different from traditional and digital printing. 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. Here are some things to consider when preparing files for large-format printing:


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.


All large-format printing graphics need to be converted to a CMYK color profile for large-format output, even if you have a Pantone color in your logo (for example). Be sure to tell your printer any original Pantone color(s) so the final printed product is within your standards and expectations. Make sure to see a proof before going to production to ensure you’re happy with the color results. 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 printable area. Templates are available for many products – make sure to comply. 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 additional detail.

Support Files

Be sure to outline all fonts in your graphic design files, and include all support files and images.  Make sure to remove any extraneous elements that you may have saved outside the live area as you were designing, or anything that does not get printed in the final graphics.


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.

* According to PC Magazine.

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