Understanding the artwork template of the product you are designing for is extremely important to insure that you get the best results possible. Without paying attention to some crucial guidelines, you run the risk of some unintended consequences. This article serves as a guide for Large Format Print Templates as you take those first steps to ordering a banner, display or other signage. Keep in mind these are general guidelines and the examples used to illustrate some of these points may be different than the actual template you will be using, so make sure to double-check with your printer before starting out on your graphic design adventure.
I recommend using Adobe Photoshop to create your artwork. This is a combination of both preference and features that make the design process easier for building files that produce great results. That being said, everyone has their own personal preference. For some, they prefer Adobe Illustrator and for others, they use Adobe InDesign. Photoshop, however, has some features such as the ability to flatten the artwork and other convenient tools that are perfect for banner layouts. Even if you have your Logo or other artwork in a Vector Format, you can easily drop them into Photoshop to finalize your layout.
Also, remember that most of the templates that are used in Large Format Printing these days are already sized at 100%. This means that as you open the file in Photoshop or program of your choice, the artboard layout will be the full dimension of the banner that is ultimately printed. If you are doing a 10’ wide X 8’ tall Back Wall Display for your trade show booth, chances are the template will be that full size as you open it on your computer. Obviously, it will appear small on your computer screen, but as you zoom in it represents the entire print area. Since this is a big file and will have a lot of data on it especially as you drop in your art elements, you will need to make sure your computer is fast enough to handle the processing as you make changes and save it. Most current Quad Core processors will be fine, but it is something to consider as you begin the design phase.
To begin, the first step is to open the template in Photoshop. Templates can be a variety of different file types, but the most common one I use is the PDF file. As the template file begins to open you will notice a dialog box with settings such as resolution, color mode, etc. Click the screenshot on the right to get a better look.
Resolution– You will want the resolution to be generally between 125 to 150 dpi for Large Format Printing, but remember to check with your printer to find out the preferred resolution on their end.
Color Mode– The Color Mode should be set to CMYK and not RGB. CMYK is a 4-color print process used by digital printers. RGB mode is used for computer screens and monitors. This is a whole topic unto itself, but all you have to remember is that you want to use CMYK and not RGB.
Crop to– The Crop to setting should be set to ‘Media Box’. This is hard to explain, but essentially, the Media Box setting will open the full template size.
Once the Template is Open in Photoshop
The best way to design your layout is to actually build right on top of the template, while keeping the template layer separate from all the other design layers. This is because once you are all finished with the design, you will want to either hide or delete the template layer and just be left with your artwork.
Now that the template is open and you’re ready to get started, here are the areas to be aware of:
Bleed Area- This is found on some templates where there will be finishing that takes place after it comes off the printer. This area may be used for cutting, stitching, sewing, attaching, finishing, or a combination of all of these. The most important thing to note is that you will want to keep important information out of this space to prevent it from being cut off. Most of the time, you will want to extend the background color or design all the way into this space, just not the important parts.
Close to the Edge- Some templates will denote the space that is close to the edge. This is important since it allows you to create your layout without text, logos or other important elements sitting right up on the edge of a banner stand, sign, or trade show display. Having a little bit of a setback from the sides helps to avoid this common problem.
Wrap Around Sides- Some templates will also show areas where a display graphic wraps around the sides. Refer to the diagram to see this up close. This will really help as you lay out your text, photos, and logos so that you don’t end up with a sentence running off the page as it wraps around.
Safe Zones- Safe Zones are an area on the template that are ‘safe’ for text, logos and any other important information that isn’t too close to the edge, will run off the sides, or risk being too close to a bleed space. This is the centered area where important information should be placed.
As you finalize your design and get ready to save and send to pre-press, here are a few other considerations before you click that final ‘save’ button.
You may have already made the wise decision to confirm that the photos you used for your design were indeed in High Resolution. Before saving, I usually like to do one last check to make sure everything is still an acceptable resolution. If you need some tips on how to make sure everything checks out and is High Resolution, click here.
Crop Marks and Extra Bleed
When it comes to bleed and crop marks, only go by what is on the template provided by your supplier. Never add any of your own extra bleed or crop marks as this can totally change the layout and create problems during finishing.
Saving Your Artwork
This step definitely requires you to have the instructions from your supplier on how to properly save your artwork, but here is a sample of how I usually save completed artwork:
Step 1: Delete Template Layer
Step 2: Flatten Layers
Step 3: Save as a High Quality PDF
Step 4: Send off to Printer
Lastly, make sure you save a copy of the Layered file in case you need to make any changes now or in the future. This will really help you for any future projects as well. Hope this article explains a little about the process of getting your artwork ready using the template for Large Format Printing projects!