Design for better printing: 6 Image quality issues

Posted on Mar 18, 2016 in Custom Display, Design, nSights, Show Services
Design for better printing: 6 Image quality issues

When working with large format print, there are a number of design considerations that can make your project easier, and create a much better looking result.

This is the third in a series of posts that will explore some of these considerations from an expert perspective. We hope these posts will help you gain an understanding of ways to make your future trade show booth even more eye-catching.

So, you’ve considered the application and selected an image that is of suitable resolution (in pixels per inch) for your display. You’re all good to go, right? Not necessarily. There are many other factors than your image’s pixel density that can affect whether it will be suitable for your display.

Upsampling and compression -composite_LR-2


Upsampling is a fairly commonplace practice of changing the size of an image to make it appear to be higher resolution than it originally was. This may reduce pixilation to make the image seem less jagged, but at the expense of causing it to look softer overall. The more an image has been upsampled, the more issues it can cause (see left side in image above).


 Though your image may have always been large, if it was ever saved down into a lower-quality JPEG (or other compressed format) it may have caused irreparable damage. Saving down is a common way to make an image easier to email, but may make it unsuitable to print.




Images initially captured in low light conditions or with older cameras may suffer from a textural pattern of “noise” or “grain” throughout the image. When the image is enlarged for your exhibit, this noise may distract enough to render it unsuitable. Thankfully, there are many tools to perform a noise reduction that may help salvage your image (before and after shown in the image above).



If an image is converted between color modes or heavily edited, the color information in the file may be damaged. The most noticeable of these errors is “posterization,” a harsh jump in tone or value where there should be a smooth transition. This damage is very difficult to repair, so to avoid it you should edit images in native color mode, save in uncompressed formats, and use non-destructive editing techniques where possible until final image export (before and after shown in the image above).

dirty subject-composite-2


Retouchers and designers will often work to make an image look great at screen size. For your exhibit, however, the image may need to be enlarged to many times that size. Overlooked details, rough edges, or other imperfections may become much more apparent at a much larger size. It is therefore important to always review your images at full size, even if you have used them on a smaller scale (see left side above for “before” the image was retouched and the right side image for “after” perfect retouching).


A photo’s subject may hold you back from printing in a large format. For example, if you photograph a 3” high product, and intend to use it at 12’ high, resolution may be limited. This means you may need to apply logos or other graphic elements digitally to maintain legibility.

Our graphic arts experts are here to help make sure your files look their best. If any of these issues arise in your files, we offer a full range of design services in-house, and can help troubleshoot and repair your files. We are also happy to work together with your designer or agency to communicate any problems and find a suitable solution to creating artwork that will yield the best possible finished product.

When you need graphic assistance for your next trade show display, contact us at

We’re with you, every step of the way.

Team Nichols