PREPARING YOUR PRINT FILES – A TUTORIAL.
This is the famous FLUX CAPACITOR. Conceived in 1955 By Dr. Emmett Brown, the Flux Capacitor was first tested in 1985. When supplied with 1.21 jigowatts of electricity and propelled at a speed of 88 miles an hour, The Flux Capacitor enables its operator to journey forward or backward in time.
In theory the ability of time travel helps to change, prevent or otherwise alter negative events, creating a positive outcome with no conceivable loss of time.
In fact, there’s only one major problem with the Flux Capacitor …
IT! DOESNT! EXIST!
So it’s important that we get things right. The first time. And avoid results that don’t measure up …
No amount of jigowatts will erase that feeling when you pull that print out of the box and start to hang it and you realize it’s nothing like what you thought it would be. The color is wrong, the image is fuzzy, it’s just … off. You know it. Your client or director knows it …
And it’s too late or too expensive to do anything about it …
Big Image Systems Production Guru Casey Hallas has taken the time to lay out this tutorial for you. It walks you through the 7 fundamental steps of preparing your files for printing with Big Image Systems.
We believe in giving you all of the information you need to succeed, anytime you need it.
The simplest way to tell you how to set up your artwork for Big Image Systems is a single sentence …
“Please provide us with a clearly-named single page print-ready PDF for each file you’re printing with no printer marks and 2” of printed bleed per side in CMYK color mode converted using the Europe ISO Coated FORGRA29 profile with files embedded and fonts converted to curves” (Wait, just need a breath ),Upload a .zip archive of multiple files (a bunch of prints) up to 1.5G, or individual .zip files (one at a time) up to 1.5G directly to a shared folder with you on our Dropbox.
Got all that? Yeah, not many people could. But thats cool, this tutorial is our attempt to lay it all out for you, and get you up to speed in no time flat.
So about setting up those files, let’s get started …
You can save a PDF from every Adobe application after you’ve mastered these 7 principles to be a Big Image Art Guru :
You probably know by now that we like to give your project a name. Something to remember it by since we’ll be working together and it will help us all be on the same page. OK, now – start to make a new single-page document (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign) and give it a name.
When we send you a quote we want to give each piece an identity right from the start. Your file doesn’t need to have the sizes included in the name (but it doesn’t hurt either.) This is even more important if we’re printing multiple drops of different sizes.
For the purposes of this tutorial let’s say you are ordering two prints;
One at 13’ W x 8’ H
One at 50’ W x 30’ H.
Work in whatever software you like best – we’re going to focus on getting the resolution of photos you’re using to the right scale shortly – but let’s finish getting the document perfect, right from the start.
Now back to those 2 files. Like we said, we want to name them. So from here out we’ll call them;
Try not to leave spaces or symbols, periods or underscores, in the file – JUST MAKE SURE YOU TELL US WHAT IT’S CALLED AND THAT IT MATCHES THE SIZES ON YOUR QUOTE! Eventually these are going to end up as perfect PDF’s!
We like to write scale in ratios – if you were to make these pieces “to scale” it means at 100%, and the ratio would be 1:1. You can also just say your file is at 100%. For small files this is pretty easy to do. It all depends on what you’re used to and sometimes even limitations in the software, but let’s just set up some different scales to learn the process.
Here are two of the most common:
1:10 – Another way of describing this is 1″ = 10″ (1 inch = 10 inches)
1:12 – Another way of describing this is 1″ = 1′ (1 inch = 1 foot)
We are going to be converting your file to metric at our factory so 1:10 always makes it easier.
We’ll use 2 different scales for our files.
1:10 Scale is great for documents you have set up or specified in feet and inches, or only in inches – you’ll just get used to how to do the math.
In the US we use feet and inches using a ratio of 1:12.
Here’s the math:
13’ x 8’ in inches is: 13’ x 12” = 156” 8’ x 12” = 96”
So 13’ x 8’ is the same as 96” x 156” In 1:10 scale that’s – 9.6″ x 15.6″ In 1:12 scale that’s – 8″ x 13″
50′ x 30′ in inches is: 50′ x 12″ = 600″ 30′ x 12″ = 360″
So 50′ x 30′ is the same as 600″ x 360″ In 1:10 scale that is 9.6” x 15.6”
But WAIT! – we forgot to add … BLEED. Bleed is what we need on the outside edges of your print to finish it to your specifications, nothing more than 2”, nothing less than 2” – 2” is perfect every time.
Remember to add bleed every time from now on. If you add more, it will just get cropped and if you don’t someone else will need to add it for you so just do 2” of bleed on all sides no matter what.
With bleed, Piecename1 is now 13’-4” x 8’-4” and Piecename2 is now 50’-4” x 30’-4” – that’s your print size with 2” bleed added all sides. We’re still setting up a document by establishing a document size via setting a scale for it.
With the factor of bleed, let’s take another look;
13’-4” x 8’-4” in inches is: 13’ x 12” + 4” = 160” (not bad) 8’ x 12” + 4” = 100” (what a great number!)
So 13’-4” x 8’-4” is the same as 160” x 100” in 1:10 scale that is 16” x 10” – nice, right! in 1:12 scale it would be 13.34” x 8.34”
50’-4” x 30.4” in inches is: 50’ x 12” + 4” = 604” And 30’ x 12” + 4” = 364”
So 50’-4” x 30’-4” is the same as 604” x 364” At 1:10 that’s 60.4” x 36.4”
but for our purposes let’s try 1:4 instead 151” x 91” – we divided full-size by 4
Because now we’re getting into fractions …
A word about fractions when working with Big Image Systems …
With fabric,(unlike vinyl), fractions are about as helpful as the Grinch at Christmas. Round your size up all the way to the next inch. Unlike hard print substrates fabric has some give to it. Calculating fractions of an inch into decimals and applying a scale after – the numbers start getting a little squonky.
When we open your PDF to review, the document size multiplied by the scale should be the equivalent of your finished piece (that means after it’s sewn) plus 2” each side.
Dimensions for the document Piecename1_13x8 at 1:10 scale are going to be 16” x 10”.
Dimensions for the document Piecename2_30x50 at 1:4 scale are going to be 151” x 91”.
One more quick thing before moving on. We like to set the size of the document right from the start in width x height. Backwards is OK but need to indicate W/ H, width/height – whatever you choose so we know. Here’s a quick lesson in writing up the description of a printed piece.
A piece for “My Fair Lady” you’d seen touring somewhere out in America – it once began in our shop as something that looked like this:
“No. 3 Leg – printed on Cloth 201 HzN @ 10’ W x 55’-6” H w/ WGT top, hemmed sides, 4” pipe hem bottom; Please match color samples sent to factory.”
There isn’t an exact way to describe a printed piece but you may start to notice the not-so-glamorous indicators of what your printed piece looks like in spec long before you ever see it before your eyes. That of course is the magic moment – taking words all the way to colorful reality.
Translight Magic Backdrop – Double-Sided effects print on Cloth 201 HzN
By now you should know the difference between vector and raster files – but here’s a quick review …
Vector images are made up of lines and fills – stuff like logos – and photos.
For vector art resolution doesn’t factor in, you just scale it to whatever size you want and it’s reproduced exactly as it was when it was tiny. Vector elements in Illustrator or Photoshop, Indesign – doesn’t matter, it’s vector. Just place your file, leave it as a vector object.
Raster images are made up of pixels, those tiny little squares that nobody seems to notice unless a yucky file slips by.
With raster images we’re talking about photographic resolutions and scan depths, that’s the driving factor in our industry. There are not so many consumer digital cameras out there to photograph at resolutions for printing at our scale. Fabric is a softer and more forgiving than paper and you still have to create files that you can process with standard computing. The highest level cameras you can shoot with are $50,000 + and to date image sites are designed for printing applications normally below our scale.
So, here are some tips before getting into the nitty-gritty …
TIP 1: You can seek out a top-level digital photographer – go local – and say to the camera-person, ”Make it as big as you can.” There are other important qualities to photography – you’re getting a lot through a professional. The megapixels of a photograph – if you’re shopping for that – says more about the camera than the photographer. Find a photographer you like to work with who you can ask to help you get your files ready for what you’re about to learn.
A photographer will know about lighting, for example, and perhaps even color correction. Most are shooting in RAW format so there’s plenty of data available to tweak in the studio. It comes down to what you’re seeing in real life becoming as close to possible as what is printing – which is what this guide is all about! Find a professional photographer, they’d love a gig like this!
TIP 2: If you’re buying a photograph from an image site that’s used for print, buy the largest possible image you can – that is probably the most economical route someone outside of advertising or a creative field can take. Photoshop is a great tool for processing images for the layperson and even for a lot of photographers. You can try filters or plugins that add resolution – or – you can just use Photoshop’s algorithm to add resolution. If you’re adding it, don’t go beyond the recommended range, you’re not making your file better , you’re just making it bigger.
TIP 3: Before you start changing resolution place photos into documents (if you have a layout instead of a single image) and look at the image on-screen at 100%. Stand back about as far as you’ll be away from the real image and decide if you like it or not.
TIP 4: Sigma makes the most affordable consumer-level digital camera that we know about in the Quattro series. This is what we use for the basis of scenic work. The camera cost is minimized because it has an LCD screen requiring less parts than a DSLR. For non-professionals this is a lot like the phone screen you’re used to taking pictures with now. Check out something like the Sigma DP2 Quattro Compact Digital Camera.
If you REALLY want to know what your photo will look like printed by Big Image Systems there are two (2) ways we can provide you with physical proofs so you know what you’ll be getting.
PAPER PROOF – you can order a paper print from our proofer here in the US. A paper proof can arrive very quickly – overnight if you want.
FABRIC PROOF – We can provide you with a proof printed on the material of your choosing. This proof process takes up to one week and will come with a nominal cost, so be aware of the time when considering a fabric proof, it adds time to your turnaround.
In the meantime, what you’re going to learn about color later will get you closer than you’ve ever been to seeing images on your own screen.
Now let’s talk about how you will calculate the resolution of your photos using scale …
Say you want your printed photo to be around 100 dpi – that’s pretty good, actually. Even though the printer can run at a much higher resolution you’re probably not going to be able to capture a photograph at 1200 dpi.
To achieve 100 dpi at 100% – the printed piece at size – determine the resolution of the file you are creating by multiplying target resolution by scale . We’ll set 100 dpi as the target resolution for Piecename1_13x8 and we’ll set 50dpi as our target resolution for Piecename2_50x30.
The document Piecename1_13x8 set up at 1:10 scale would print at 100dpi with a resolution of 1000 dpi. The document Piecename1_13x8 set up to a resolution of 1200 dpi at the scale of 1:12 would also print at 100dpi
Final Resolution x Scale = File Resolution
16’ and under at 100% Target: 75-150 dpi Minimum: 40dpi
16’ + at 100% Maximum: 50 Minimum: 30
Do Not Downsample When You’re Creating a PDF!!!
And here are some rules of thumb …
THUMB #1 – No matter which machine is going to be used for printing, anything from 75-150 dpi in scale at 1:1 will work well. Don’t add unnecessary pixels – it will only increase the file size.
THUMB #2 – If the resolution is already in the file and you’re not having issues uploading it then there’s no reason to make it smaller. Maintain the best quality of your file as long as you’re not having issues uploading it.
THUMB #3 – View the file at the final print size without adding resolution – that’s more or less what it’s going to look like. Add the resolution to get it to our specs, but you may want to try running a filter on it to clean up the gritty edges afterward or to fix what you don’t like – like crunchy photos from the internet – rasterization is what that’s called.
Select your text and convert to outlines…that means double-check your copy, spell check, review all the details so nothing needs to be changed in your print-ready PDF.
If your text or logos need specific placement within the file be sure to include a document that shows the proper placement on the overall file.
This is the most challenging topic to discuss. How do we and you see the same thing on-screen for printing? How do you communicate this clearly for you/us to be “on the same page,” literally?
For starters – monitors vary. Your monitor does not match our monitors unless you use a handy piece of technology that will allow us to be calibrated together. To match your screen to ours use DATACOLOR SPYDER HARDWARE. Set up a monitor profile using their hardware/software and use the profile while designing.
You also need to design using CMYK. RGB is for monitors & TV’s, not print. No matter how much you may want these colors to be printable, they aren’t ; RBG colors work for light, not ink. Our materials have a range of colors that are reachable (called a gamut) and we’d like you to convert your files to CMYK and color correct before uploading them. For situations where we will be printing specific colors such as corporate color, being on the same page with regards to color is critical.
To best see our color gamut – apply the Europe ISO Coated FOGRA39 profile when you create your file and design accordingly. If you don’t like what you see, fix it. You’re rendering in the correct color environment to know what’s right . Brighten things up, fix hues, etc. after you’ve converted.
You may also choose to leave the file as-is. We’ll do the conversion for you and fix colors as part of our service but if we notice a big difference between RBG and the converted file it may be a cause for alarm and require a printed proof. Your file may need tweaking and if that happens on your end, you’ll have the control.
GOOD JOB!! – you made it through! Let’s review:
Your files should reference your job name of follow a logic that helps identify piece names within your quote to speed our setup.
Use a scale that works for you, just be clear about it when submitting the file – either include it in the filename, in email or a separate text document.
2” per side, no more, no less.
The size of your file, including bleed, set up ready for print.
The number of pixels, per inch, of your file so that, once enlarged, it prints in our recommended range of max and min.
Always convert to outlines/curves.
Convert to CMYK using the correct profile, correct on-screen. Request/send proofs as needed and specify Pantones from the Solid/Uncoated library.
Have more questions? Click below to reach our Production Guru Casey Hallas.