Wide format printing has come a long way in the last decade. It is now more efficient, sleek and affordable. Wide format printing lets us print on any surface, in any size, and it’s all around us. On your journey to work this morning you probably saw it in action on advertising billboards, banners in shop windows and movie posters at the bus stop. The reason it’s so popular is that it can perform high speed printing jobs that a normal size printer can’t do, and the quality of the graphics is exceptional. With normal office printers the text can often get scrambled whereas wide format printers can distinguish between text and images. However, wide format printing is not just printing on a really big printer; there are certain things to be aware of when printing on that scale.
Where is it going to go?
You need to think about how your image is going to be used. If it’s going to be used outside you need to think how long for and in what conditions, then you can decide on the best material to print on. For example, do you need an adhesive vinyl or a thick board? Will the image be against a flat surface or between two poles? Will it be fixed or be taken down and put up again somewhere else? Is it going to be in direct sunlight or in the shade?
What kind of ink?
The type of ink you use is also dependant on how the image is going to be displayed. Solvent inks last longer and are better suited to outside banners. And talking of ink, did you know that black isn’t always black? There’s often a difference between the screen image and the printed image as flat colours are interpreted differently by different software, if you want a specific pantone you might need to compromise. Colour is one of the main limitations of wide format printing.
Saving your files.
You need to think about what files you use too, as not all of them will work. Good quality images have so many dots of colour per inch and once you blow an image up, it’s all about the pixels, so while you need to think of your image blown up and from a distance, you also need to imagine it up close. You should also think about saving your files as a PDF. These files are more reliable and allow you to view it at 100%, making any problems more obvious. You also need to take into account the non-printable area of the material and allow for margins. It’s a good idea to print off a small version first so that any errors can be spotted and some people suggest designing your image in panels so that if there is something that needs to be changed, you don’t have to re-print the whole image.
Wide format printing enables you to print high quality images at high speeds that normal sized printers can’t. It’s more economical than screen printing and takes away the expense of outsourcing. We’ve only just scratched the surface of this kind of printing but you can find out more at the FESPA 2014 Digital Printing Exhibition in May where you can see some in action and learn about the latest innovations.