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Quickly export large-format print files using Adobe Illustrator

How to Export Large-Format Print Files? How to Resize a Large Format Print File Without Losing Quality? Which DPI Is Best for Printing a Large-Scale Format? These are the questions that I am most often asked in the comment section of “Exporting Large-Scale Print Files” on my YouTube Channel. The video addresses these questions in the simplest way possible, in my opinion.

This is my second attempt to answer these questions. In this blog post, I will provide you with the resources to help you with the resources for calculations.

What Is a Large Format Print Document?

If you are a new or even a moderately experienced designer dealing with print files. This might be a slight learning curve for you. A large-format print document is a type of print file that designers use on a large scale, ranging from 10 feet, 15 feet, 20 feet, 45 feet, to 60 feet. These sizes are humongous compared to the commonly used document sizes you might be familiar with. For perspective, an A4 size document is 8.27 inches x 11.69 inches (W x H), while the smallest size among the large format print documents is 240 inches x 120 inches (W x H) or 20 feet x 10 feet.

Why Do We Print in Large Format?

Regardless of your level of design experience, at some point in your career. You must have encountered a need to design something for marketing purposes. Large-format printing is usually carried out for Non-Intrusive Marketing for businesses or brands. It involves printing Billboards, Hoardings, Signages, or Streamers.

What is Non-Intrusive Marketing? Let me explain with an example. Imagine you are walking on the street, minding your own business. The weather is pleasant and sunny with a light breeze blowing. Suddenly, you are slapped with a poster of a famous shoe brand. The poster is selling its latest, most beautiful, and comfortable pair of shoes at a discounted price. Sounds familiar? This is what Intrusive Marketing looks like.

In contrast, Non-Intrusive Marketing usually includes printing and installing marketing messages and designs on larger scales in public walkways, driveways, or crowded places like shopping malls, driveway roundabouts, underground subways, airport corridors, etc.

I think now that is enough talking and explaining the concept and whatnot. Let’s jump into to “step-by-step” part of this article.

So, what is the easiest way to Export Large-Format Print Files?

Exporting large format files for printing is an easy task if you understand the required steps and necessary calculations. As I am from Pakistan, I have been working in the marketing industry for over 7 years (as of the publishing of this blog post) and I certainly have the required experience to guide you through the process. I assume you are familiar with what “Streamers,” “Hoardings,” “Signages,” and “Billboards” are.

I will use one of them as an example to explain the process, which can be applied to other formats as well. Commonly used billboard sizes in Pakistan are 20 x 10 feet (W x H), 45 x 15 feet (W x H), and 60 x 20 feet (W x H). For Streamers, we use 2.5 x 5 feet (W x H) and 3 x 6 feet (W x H) as standards. Hoardings and Signages vary based on available space.

Document Setup.

The method I use to export a large print file starts with Planning. The first thing you want to keep in mind is the final size that you want to export. In this case, we will be using 20 x 10 feet as the final export size.

Start by creating a document in any vector-based graphic application like Adobe Illustrator. Using this simple formula: “Actual Size in feet” = “Assumed Size in inches.” For example, if you want to create a file that produces 20 x 10 feet of print, assume a size of 20 x 10 inches while creating the document and set the resolution to 300 PPI. Since you are using a vector-based software application, the resolution for this document does not matter at this stage, and you can change it later.

Exporting Preset.

Once you are done designing the layout in Adobe Illustrator or any other vector-based application. The next step is exporting it. You can export a lower-resolution JPEG to get it approved by the client. Once approved, export it at a much higher resolution for up scaling to the actual size. The reason for exporting it to a higher resolution is that you created this document on a significantly smaller size compared to what you are required to produce for print.

Here’s what you need to do to export large-format print files: Open the design in Adobe Illustrator. Go to “File,” then “Export,” and then “Export As.” In the next browse window, navigate to the location where you want your file exported. Select “JPEG” as the save as type, or you can choose PNG, TIFF, or PSD. Check the “Use Artboard” checkbox, then click “Save.” Pay close attention to the next window that appears; set the image quality for the export to “Maximum” (10) and resolution somewhere between 350 to 600 PPI, and click “Ok”.

In my opinion, this is the best resolution for large prints that we will be upscaling in the next step. The exported JPEG file will be oversized, and that’s perfectly okay.

Scaling Images for Large Format Printing.

This is the step where we up scale the design to the actual size in feet. Here, it’s essential to understand the calculations for image resizing. For example, if we have an image of 20 x 10 inches with a resolution of 350 PPI. And we want to resize it to 20 x 10 feet. We just have to multiply it by 12 (to change the unit from inches to feet) and reduce the resolution to 80 PPI. Yes, 80 PPI is a very low resolution for print. But the whole point of a large-scale print is to view it from a distance of at least 25 – 30 feet. So, low resolution is not an issue here.

To help you with this seemingly difficult calculation, I have made a calculator that you can have for free.

Open the JPEG we exported from Illustrator in Adobe Photoshop. Go to “Images,” then “Image Size.” Enter the values 240 x 120 inches with a resolution of 80 PPI, and then click “Ok.” This will take a fair bit of time depending on your computer’s hardware. Once done, you should have a file ready for print at actual size. Save it as JPEG, PNG, or TIFF and send it to the printer for printing.

In conclusion, the process by which we export large-format print files requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this blog post, you can efficiently set up your document, choose the right export presets, and resize your images without losing quality. Understanding the purpose of large-format printing and its significance in non-intrusive marketing can help you deliver impressive marketing materials for businesses. Remember to use the calculator provided to simplify image resizing calculations and achieve the desired results. With this knowledge and practical approach, you can confidently produce high-quality large-format prints that make a lasting impact.

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