Setting Up Design Files for Large Format Printing

Tips to Avoid Blurry Images or Artwork

You need a poster, a banner, a schematic – and you’ve sent the design file to your large format printer, but you get an email back: “Your image must be 300 DPI or else it will be pixelated.” Sound familiar? If so, let’s break down what exactly your printer’s telling you –  and what you need to consider to get the absolute best quality from your large format prints.

Designing to Scale

First off, the printing process will be much smoother, and less at-risk for mistakes, if you set your file up at full size. That being said, every graphic design programs has a different size limit. InDesign’s maximum dimensions are 216 inches (18 feet); Illustrator’s are 227.5 inches (19 feet) and PowerPoint’s are 56 inches (4.5 feet). If the final output size is greater than the design program’s maximum dimensions, you’ll have to design your file at a percentage of the final print size – either 25%, 50% or 75%. The percentage you use depends on the final size. Your printer will scale the file proportionately larger to meet the final print size, so communicate your scale and print size with your printer to make sure you’re on the same page. Miscommunication and mistakes can cause quality to slip in the final print.


When you’re scaling, you want to make sure your scale doesn’t tamper with your image quality. There are two types of images – raster and vector. This is where that warning about pixelation comes into play. Raster images are composed of pixels, those tiny squares that appear when zooming in too far – think old arcade games – P for Pac-Man. Pixelation refers to the blurriness of a raster image when it is viewed at too high a magnification – like a large format print. When scaled up, raster images can blur depending on the resolution, especially if you are designing at a percentage of the final print piece. JPG, GIF and TIFF are examples of raster file formats. 

Vector images, such as EPS and AI are what we recommend for large format printing. Using mathematical calculations that form lines and shapes from one point to another, vector images don’t pixelate because the equation recalculates to accommodate zoom. Vector images can be scaled limitlessly, which makes them perfect for a large format.


Your printer warns about pixelation, but they also mention DPI. That’s resolution. Dots per Inch (DPI) are the number of individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of 1 inch. Pixels per Inch (PPI) is the same measurement but is used in reference to raster images. We recommended that all images be 300 DPI at the final size of the piece. While 150 DPI can work for some large format pieces, 300 DPI is the preferred image size. This doesn’t mean you cannot include images that are lower DPI. Just be sure to again let your printer know – that way, they can make recommendations to get you the best quality. Communication is the key.


Your scale, image type, and resolution are compatible to large scale printing, but you want your quality color too. When setting up color, make sure your images and other artwork are CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow Key) for print. Also make sure the links across all platforms are the same IE same Pantone color from Illustrator to Indesign. Setting up CC libraries can help make sure the color is the same across the board.


You also need to take margins into account; often times margins should be larger for large format printing. The standard margin for smaller pieces are ¼ inch. However, when scaled up for large format, this looks too cramped. You’ll typically want to increase your margin to 1.5-2 inches; within that range you can use your best judgment based on the size of your project and the look that you’re going for. Also – note that the standard bleed of ⅛ inch is sufficient for large format printing and does not need to be increased.

Working at a scaled percentage

Finally, you need to revisit the scale of your project. If the project you’re printing is going to end up larger than your design program’s maximum dimensions, you’ll have to work on a scaled down file.

The maximum dimension in InDesign is 216 inches in either direction. For Illustrator, maximum dimensions are a little larger, 227.5 inches in either width or height. In addition, there is a maximum file output increase of 400%, meaning you can’t scale anything down smaller than 25% of the final size.

While working on your images in Photoshop, make them half the scale and double the resolution, so a 120 x 80 inch photo at 100 ppi becomes a 60 x 40 inch photo at 200 ppi. When you link the images into your banner in InDesign or Illustrator, you will need this half-size image because your document is half the final size. 


One more thing! Before you save your final file for printing preparation, check your preflight channel to make sure all of your links and fonts are in order. If there is a red dot in the preflight panel, that means there is an error. Make sure there are no errors and the dot is green before saving and exporting your file. After that’s done and you’ve reviewed the rest of what we’ve covered, your file is ready to be sent to the printer for a quality final product – polished instead of pixelated.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

There are lots of old allegories and anecdotes about ignorance and wisdom.

“Plato’s Cave” is a particularly interesting one. In it, a group of people have spent their whole lives facing a wall in a cave, watching shadows on the wall cast by a fire and giving names to each of them. It’s all they know; the shadows are these people’s reality. 

It’s not until someone is freed from the cave and walks outside to see the depth of trees and animals and other people that they realize the shadows are just a projection of actual reality. It’s a little grim and archaic, admittedly — modern adaptations like The Matrix give it a fresher flare for sure. 

But, all of these stories are about being blindsided because we thought we knew something. When, really, you don’t know what you don’t know.

You don’t know what you don’t know” sounds…obvious. Right? 

Sure, it is. But it’s also critical. Keeping this mantra in mind as you work on a project will help you each step of the way — here’s three things that keeping this in mind will help you with:You’ll know what your client wants.

  1. You’ll know what your client wants.

You’re working on a project for a client. They’ve told you what they’re looking for, what the end product should look like, and you’re sketching out action items to get the job done.

When the time comes to present what you’ve got to the client, they cock their head, and say, “It’s missing something.” It’s a surprise requirement — something you didn’t even think to ask about. And while it’s easy to blame the client for the miscommunication, the relationship is two-sided. You need to know what you need to know to complete the project you’re working on. 

And you don’t know what you don’t know. So be prepared to ask! We’ve said before that communication is key to quality. Even if it seems like an odd question, it doesn’t hurt to ask if it means you’re getting the full picture and avoiding missing key details.

  1. Your client will know what they want.

That being said, asking questions and facilitating this kind of communication of course benefits the client as much as it does you. For example, you’re working on another project, and this time around, you ask: “Are there any colors you absolutely don’t want to be used?” The client cocks their head, but this time in a good way. 

They weren’t expecting the question, but “Come to think of it…” Turns out the color red wouldn’t have great associations for this project. Now, not only are you avoiding a mishap later on, but the client will appreciate that you’ve actually given them a clearer, more precise idea of what they’re looking for — just by communicating.

  1. You’ll give them the quality they deserve.

If you have a business, and you’re seeing clients, customers, or patrons, chances are you have impressive skills, experience, and wisdom in your field. We’re not denying that at all — those are your greatest assets!

The truth is, though, that no one knows everything. Here at CMW, we’ve been doing what we do for 30 years, and we’re still learning, accumulating new information and constantly trying to improve the way we help clients. It takes self-awareness and humility to admit that no experience will ever truly be enough to know everything that could possibly be thrown at you. And when you are blindsided by a new challenge, even in a type of project you’ve done a thousand times, it can come back to bite you in the final product.

Your top priority should be giving a client the highest quality you can give — if you’re not able to handle a request they give you, because of an incidental gap in knowledge or skill set, an open mind is essential to adapt to the situation, and find a solution. And an open mind is saying I don’t know what I don’t know.

Bottom line:

Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it doesn’t require attention. 

You don’t know what you don’t know” is one of our simplest but most effective tools in completing any project. Think about it:

  1. If you haven’t asked your client about a detail, it won’t be in the final product. 
  2. If your client hasn’t thought of something in their planning, it won’t be in the final product. 
  3. And if you think you know how to deal with a special request when you actually don’t, it won’t be in the final product. In any scenario, you’ll be presenting something that’s not the best work you can do — and isn’t what the client wants.

Communication, detail orientation, and self-awareness are all, in this case, essential to exceptional project results. Ask questions, check in, and check in again. 

Your client will appreciate your thoroughness, because it benefits you both. If there were a Matrix-style red pill that would illuminate everything, let you read your client’s mind, and give you an arsenal of every business skill in the book — that’s what we’d be blogging about. 

Yes, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s okay as long as you know it.

The Newer, Better Scientific Poster

The Newer, Better Scientific Poster

We can help you create the perfect poster for your next scientific conference.

There, front and center, is the main “finding” of this blog post. Forgetting facts and figures, text blocks and tech specs, that’s what you need to take away. It’s a bit like the popping subject line of a good email, or the “tell me about yourself” of a winning job interview. Except when a scientific poster is concerned, it could be the difference between discovery and discouragement.

At least that’s the argument from Mike Morrison, who made a video on a topic that’s gaining a lot of traction in the scientific community: a complete redesign of the typical scientific poster. One that significantly reduces the amount of content — fearless in the face of negative space — to highlight a key takeaway, in order to maximize a viewer’s engagement with the poster by not drowning their eyes in dense, busy information.

“Every field in science uses the same, old, wall-of-text poster design,” Morrison writes. “If we can improve the knowledge transfer efficiency of that design by even a little bit, it could have massive ripple effects on all of science.”

It’s a compelling argument, and one that we at CMW, as expert designers with years of experience in this specific field, are paying attention to. It’s yet to be seen whether or not this new design will accomplish its goal. We think there may be a happy medium between stark minimalism and crowded chaos. And either way, we want to help you if you think this is an idea worth trying for your or your client’s next conference.

Scientific posters are one of the niche, specialized services we provide because we know the particular style and requirements of the project. So as leaders in scientific poster design who have been evolving along with the industry for decades, we’re qualified to apply these daunting new ideas to the work we provide. We’re qualified to do it for you.

Although this concept is about poster design, it’s driven by content. If you have your research, your information, and a central message to drive, we do the rest. We want to get as much of your pertinent information into these posters as we can while streamlining and economizing its actual presentation to hopefully create this newer, better poster design.

We at CMW are excited by developments like this in a field; it’s an opportunity to grow, to improve, to experiment. We also know that you and your clients are always looking for innovative ways to do what you’ve always done. If this new poster design is something you want to try, come to us. To many, the alien idea may seem risky and intimidating. But if you know what you’re doing, taking a chance can be taking a step in a bold, rewarding new direction. We have the talent to do it right. 

Your knowledge is worth sharing; let’s share it the best we can.

Mike Morrison – Michigan State University Graduate School

15 Tips for Managing Event/Meeting Collateral Production

15 Tips for Managing Event/Meeting Collateral Production

Managing multiple materials for a meeting can be chaotic. We have years of experience helping clients manage all different types of meetings. So, instead of having to figure it all out for yourself, we’ve put together a few tips we’ve learned over the years.  The kinds of things that may seem obvious – but we know get overlooked – resulting in late projects, expensive re-work, and overall grumpiness. 

Delivery timing is so important:

  1. Start with a real deadline.  Tell everyone involved what it is!
  2. Find out how long it will take to ship the materials to the meeting. If you aren’t familiar with FedEx’s timeframes, click here to download our tip sheet 
  3. Determine when you would like the materials to arrive on-site.
  4. Remember to build in the shipping time to create a REAL drop-dead ship date. 

What to do:

  1. Prepare a shared guide that includes the types of materials needed for your meeting. Here is an example of one
  2. Partnering up with a shop to do the design, layout, and printing of your pieces can reduce the amount of time you spend managing the project (hint: that’s what we do :)) 
  3. Need a bio? Only have a CV? Check to see if your graphics provider can write you a short bio.
  4. Having a proofreader or QC person really helps ensure all the materials are laid out correctly. 

Nitty gritty:

  1. If you’re going to be downloading participant names from a registration site, be sure they are all correct before going to layout. It is easier to change the excel or CSV file rather than each individual piece where the name appears.
  2. After approval of the invite, have your designer put together templates of each type of material before layout — it’s better to make any design tweaks before all of the pieces are laid out. Some of those materials can include, Invite, Signage, Letterhead, Eblast, Name Badge, Tent Card, PPT Template, etc. 
  3. If an attendee’s name is changed or removed be sure to globally change/remove it on all pieces (i.e., Name Badge, Tent Card, Attendee List, Bio, etc.)

Other tidbits:

  1. Ask for an MS-Word version of the letterhead, name badge, and tent card in case you need to use them on-site for any last minute needs. 
  2. Make sure the name badges are printed and fulfilled in ABC order.
  3. Consider using black text on your name badges and tent cards in case you need to print on site and you only have a black and white printer available.
  4. A bleed design will usually be more expensive to produce than a non-bleed design – so, make sure you need it and take the cost into account. 

Click here to download the tip sheet

Speaker Program Challenges, Speaking Tips

On Your Mark, Get Set, Present (Well!)

Speaker Program Challenges, Speaking Tips
There are a few challenges that speakers face when executing speaker programs.

Some strategies that can be applied to anyone preparing for a speaking engagement include improving the educational value of the session you are holding as well as performing as an effective speaker.

Here are some general tips that you can apply to improve your performance in front of a crowd.

Engaging the audience is done best with your body language and communication. PowerPoint slides should be used minimally for emphasis of key information and diagrams, and should not be overly packed with information. Asking questions of the audience can inspire participation, even if those questions are rhetorical.

Regardless of how comfortable you are on a topic, practice really does make perfect. It is the only surefire way to be sure you have your timing and material down pat. There are all sorts of takes on how long a person should spend getting comfortable with a slide, but a good frame of reference is to be able to speak to each slide for one minute. What it takes to do that may be up to an hour of practice per slide. Don’t be discouraged. If you’re speaking on a topic that you may revisit and speak to multiple times, this effort will be well worth your while.

Keep in mind, there are minor things that you can avoid that will keep your presentation on track. Transitions between slides are important. Having clever verbiage to get you from slide to slide will put you in an excellent position to continue with your deck without fail. Be ready for the audience’s mood. Having a strong comfort with your material should allow you to shift according to your audience’s response. This is important, while your deck may work in all instances, the way you work with it may need to be flexible. The better you know your material, the easier it will be to shift with your audience’s response.

The up front effort with your preparation goes a long way. Practice in front of your peers when you feel ready to present. See how your content flows by testing it in front of people who understand your topic and work through the feedback.

Try these tips before giving your next presentation. Pulling off an engaging and effective presentation doesn’t have to be difficult – we’ve all seen a performance that missed the mark, but simple steps to prepare your script and iron out your material and slides make all the difference. Break a leg!

Scientific Poster Production – Communicating With Your Designer

Have you ever found yourself sending a poster to your designer and they come back with questions? You know – the kind of questions that seemed obvious to you but needed answering before the project can even begin – delaying the production of your poster!

Communicating ALL the necessary specs for poster production is essential to receiving the right product the first time.

We’ve found that there are a few consistent questions that need to be answered to produce your poster the right way the first time. Save time and streamline communication with your graphic designer by downloading the tool here and make your production communication faster, smoother and more satisfying!

Click here to download the Scientific Posters Specifications Sheet.

Keys to Success: Large Format Printing Tips

Hey — CMW back again; today we want to share with you another tip sheet! Now, you’ll probably notice that a recurring theme throughout our advice is effective communication. There’s one primary reason for this, which is that during our years of experience, we have found that great communication is integral to quality control — and quality is our top priority at CMW. One place where communication could not be more important? Printing.

High-quality printing is expensive — especially for large formats like scientific posters and banners. Sure, on the old office printer, you can change out a couple of ink cartridges and load new paper, but for a job this big, you need to get it right the first time. This means a creative team with a firm, thoroughly reviewed vision, and a print vendor who is on the exact same fabric or laminated page. Faulty communication and unclear requirements lead to time-consuming and costly do-overs. What if you need a banner for a weekend conference, you get it on Friday — the colors are muted and the finish is wrong. What now? These stressful problems can be solved, if you know the right questions and considerations.

The quality of your printed materials reflect the quality of your company — that’s why it means so much to us. ​If you oversee the development of scientific posters, banners or other large format printing pieces, use this Large Format Printing Tip Sheet to maximize communication with ​your creative and print vendors.

Keys to Success: CMW’s Quick Guide to Meeting Theme Design

Hi! CMW here again. We have another bit of wisdom we want to share with you. As you probably know, we have been working in the design/production space for life sciences for a long time, and it goes without saying that throughout that time we have seen our fair share of logos. In fact, everyone has – we take for granted just how many we see every single day, on our products, on storefronts, in emails, on social media. That’s why today’s sheet is a questionnaire to consider when building a meeting theme logo.

Every logo is different for a hundred different reasons: coloring, symbolism, text, dimensions. Logos appeal to different demographics; they’re displayed in different places; they exist along a spectrum of aesthetics and moods. And a meeting theme logo is for an even more specific audience, for a particular purpose. While a graphic designer and their expertise will handle the technicalities, you need to be able to communicate just what you’re looking for to them, and all of the considerations can be difficult to keep track of. You can run into missed details, miscommunication, and costly do-overs. Asking all the right questions solves these problems, saving you time and money.

Create something striking, memorable, and, most importantly –representative of you as a company and a brand. If you’re developing a meeting theme logo, download this Meeting Theme Logo Questionnaire that you should review with your graphic designer.

The Power of Powerful Partnerships

I was having trouble the other day with a product I was using, so I called customer service. And as the phone conversation continued, I realized I was talking to somebody who didn’t actually work for the company that I was calling. After I’d gotten my issue resolved and hung up, I really got to thinking about it – it seems like everything these days is outsourced.

And that makes sense, right? Why not let a specialist handle the things they specialize in, while you focus on your own strengths? Hey, it’s why I called customer service in the first place. Nobody’s writing their own accounting software or developing their own CRM platform from scratch anymore. And whether it’s printing pamphlets or mass production, businesses find that it’s fitting to just let somebody else focus on a task they really want to do.

And yet – in many cases – outsourcing leaves you and your company exposed to greater risk. Who are these guys?  Do they care? Are they actually with the company they say they are – or is this 3 generations removed from someone responsible?

One of the things that we’ve done here at CMW that has helped us excel over the last 20+ years is a relentless commitment to being a True Partner. That is – when someone outsources a project to us – we treat it as OUR project. And when we have occasion to bring in an expert – we look for the same attitude and PARTNERING PROCESSES.

Let me share some thoughts about why this works for us, in the hopes that if you read something that resonates with you, it might just be worth trying for your own business.

  1. Communication. Communication is a lot smoother when everyone is in the same physical space. But Zoom meetings, conference calls can work too. Yes, the ability to walk to the next cubicle, ask a question, and get a swift response in real time, is a welcome breeze. But better, more efficient, and more frequent communication is a question of commitment. In a nutshell, sometimes it’s just good to walk down the hall and get something fixed. But, the really great thing is to know WHO to call and to know that they WILL fix the problem. That’s true whether they’re sharing a fridge with you are in an office 100 miles away.
  2. Quality. Quality is a central theme of our company, and it’s something that we can focus on a lot easier with in-house hiring. If you have strict standards and attention to detail that you adhere to for quality control, being able to oversee projects firsthand lets you make sure that nothing falls by the wayside.
  3. Intellectual Property and Company Data. Intellectual property and company data are precious. Keeping confidential material confidential is much easier to do when you can keep a closer eye on it. But more importantly, it’s really about working with people who know and respect the importance of your IP.
  4. Rates. Shopping for the most economical specialist is time-consuming and risky. The lowest cost provider isn’t necessarily the most economical – OVERALL-way to go. Pick a partner you trust and work well with together, and your work will get done on time, to-spec and to the delight of YOUR clients.
  5. Star power. Star power? Yes. Say you find the perfect specialist, a true professional, who excels at what they do…but they’re outside your company. But those stars, and your close, lasting relationship with them, can still help make your company distinct.

The decision to outsource or pull from in-house is an incredibly important one, and, because of that, a very difficult one. There are pros and cons of each that you should examine given how your own company runs – your strengths and limitations, your values. But in an increasingly outsourced world, we at CMW have found that a Partnering Mindset is key when our clients trust us to get the job done. And we’re proud of that!

This is a Great Subject Line: Latest Email Marketing Trends

It’s nothing new that the world is pretty much fully digital.

That’s obvious everywhere you look. But that doesn’t mean it’s something to take for granted. One thing that we (and pretty much every business in the world these days) have found increasingly effective for us is leveraging email to communicate with our clients, prospects, and other interested parties. So I just wanted to reflect on five of the trends that we see going on in email marketing today. If you need to communicate with your clients, prospects, etc. – these can help you reach and engage with your audience in a way that gets results.

  1. Quality > Frequency. Hopefully (just like I’m hoping for this one!) your emails are worth reading. If they’re not, it doesn’t matter how often you’re churning them out. A really solid, informative read once a week sticks out more than a half-baked blurb every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, even if that feels like you’re reaching your audience more. Now, don’t be afraid of frequency if you really have something to say — but having something to say comes first. How do you monitor this? That scary little “opt-out” link. You shouldn’t take all opt-outs personally. A reader may no longer be interested not because you’re not interesting, but because things have changed for them. Or, maybe their inbox is just too cluttered — we’ve all been there. But opt-outs are still essential to monitor. Get too many and there may be something to improve on your end.
  2. Consistency: Frequency’s second cousin. So if you’ve got quality emails worth opening, hopefully people start opening them. That’s when consistency comes into play — if you gather a following, they should come to expect your posts on a reliable, consistent basis. If you have a Wednesday blog, post on Wednesday. Even if you’re unsure of the kind of following you have — post like you have a devoted one! Chances are it’ll help you get there.
  3. How much content? You’ve got some strong posts that you’re sending out every Wednesday at 9 AM that your followers know to expect. But one day, you’re drafting up a new email, and you find yourself having a lot more to talk about then you previously thought. You’re paragraphs and paragraphs deep. It’s all kind of related though, right? That’s up to you. It’s important, though, to examine every post and see if it’s worthy of 1 piece of content, or 2 or 3 pieces of content…what’s going to keep your audience engaged? In a fast-paced, mobile world, you don’t want to lose people with posts too dense and verbose, but you also want to say what you have to say. Be sure you’re breaking up your content in a way that remains dynamic and economical for a reader.
  4. Mobile-friendly design. Alright, perfect: you’ve got a high-quality post. You’re sending it out every Wednesday. It’s Part 1 of a 3-part arc that your readers can avidly follow. It’s in a clean, engaging, eye-catching email, with a photo or graphic, important links. Somebody on your email list is checking their email on their phone, they see it, open it up…and it’s white squares, chopped up text that’s too small to read, and files that didn’t load. Of course the one thing that does load, front and center among the mess, is your logo. People don’t check their emails when they get into work anymore, they check their emails on their phone on the bus to work. So you want to be prepared by having a design compatible with both a clicking mouse and a scrolling thumb.
  5. The final test. No matter how much time you spend mapping out your posts, tracking your followers, developing friendly design — the truth is, nobody can tell you what works better than who you’re actually selling to. That’s why an increasing number of companies are sending out A/B emails. Email A is flashy, colorful, funny. Maybe the subject line is “Help! We Couldn’t Think of a Subject Line!” Okay…I’ll leave the jokes to you. Email B is a couple paragraphs of texts, minimalist design, strictly professional. Email A goes to half of your email list, Email B goes to the other. You keep track of what gets the best response, and you design future marketing accordingly.

We see engaging with clients and customers effectively and consistently as key in growing your business, and paying attention to your email marketing is a huge part of that. In today’s world, email lists can reach an unparalleled number of eyes, and you need to make sure those eyes are hooked. Now can somebody help me come up with a subject line for when I send out this blog?

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