Design for better printing: Optimal resolution

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 in Custom Display, Design, nSights, Show Services
Design for better printing: Optimal resolution

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 second 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. If raster artwork is the best format for the artwork you are creating (take a look at the first post in our design for large format print series to find out more about vector vs raster artwork), how do you ensure it is of suitable resolution for printing on your exhibit?

Resolution of raster images is measured in pixels per inch (PPI). Small format printing applications, such as magazines or flyers, consider print quality resolution to be 300ppi. In this industry, printing is usually much larger and the graphics are viewed from much further away, so you can get by with a much lower PPI. Our standard is a maximum of 150ppi for a graphic that will be viewed up close and needs to have sharp edges.

Often times you are working with graphics that are 10ft or 20ft on the longest dimension, and you usually will not be able to find an image that will be 150ppi at that size. That’s no cause to fret, though, as we can often get by with resolutions lower than the 150ppi benchmark if you are mindful of a few critical factors:

  • Size of your display – The larger your display is, the more visitors’ eyes will travel around the display, and the less time they will stay in one spot to notice resolution issues.
  • Viewing distance – The further a viewer is away from your display, the crisper your artwork will appear. If most viewers will be 10ft or further away, you’ll be okay with approximately half the resolution you’d need if they were 5ft away.
  • Crispness of the image – If your image is soft overall due to a creative use of blur, or a lack of edges on the subject, you can get away with a lower resolution as there will not be as many edges to turn jagged.
  • Importance of the image – If the image is largely for use as a texture or background and does not contain critical information, it can typically be lower resolution than if it is the focal point of your display.
  • Combination with vector elements – If your image is overlaid with vector elements like text, logos, or a crisp graphic element, you can typically use a softer image as the viewer’s eyes will notice the sharp edges of the vectors.
  • Material – Fabrics are typically more forgiving of lower resolution images. The weave can help minimize some resolution issues that would be more prominent if you were printing to a solid material like vinyl or paper.

Here are a few examples of an exhibit with the printed size and the native ppi of their primary image:


EXAMPLE A: The sample image above shows a 100% crop. The image resolution was greater than 150 ppi. Since these images will be viewed quite closely due to their small size and proximity to the meeting table they need to be high-resolution in order to maintain effectiveness and appear crisp and clear.


EXAMPLE B: This image is 100% crop from the panel on the far right. The image resolution was 35 ppi. Because the images of the hats are so large and will be viewed from further away, we are able to get away with much a much lower resolution. The crisp and bold typography on the right (in the white area) also adds an overall feeling of sharpness to the panel.

When it comes to ensuring your artwork looks its best, our graphic arts experts are here to help make sure you get the right advice, and your files are the right resolution. When you’re ready to design your next trade show display, contact us at

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

Team Nichols

PPI is usually a good guideline for image quality, but in our next post we’ll cover a number of factors that can render an image of suitable PPI unusable.