Large Scale Graphic Design: When Megapixels Matter

graphic design megapixels
Six vertical panels, each four feet wide and ten feet tall with a six inch gap in between, have been the bulk of my creative focus in the past few weeks. When it came upon me to develop the design for these panels I was extremely excited. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated. I have never produced such an enormous design, and had to be aware of small details that are often overlooked. When the reality hits that the artwork on your computer screen is a fraction of its actual size, perfectionism becomes a necessity.

In conceptualizing any large scale design, you should always have a few things in mind. Cleanliness is the key; cleanliness, clarity and simplicity. The end product will be blown up so large that small imperfections will become readily visible, so it’s important to keep your design tidy. My first thought, being a huge advocate to Adobe Illustrator, was to stick with vector art. It would look sharp, modern, and print extremely well. I began creating mock-ups and eventually received a good amount feedback.

While vector art does have a refreshing, modern feel, photos can often illicit stronger emotions. The original idea had me aiming to incorporate one design into all six panels, strictly using vector art. It wasn’t until a new idea came that I completely switched gears. The idea involved using a photography-based approach featuring captivating imagery. Treating each panel as its own became the focus, and my next goal was to find a camera capable of taking extremely high resolution photos. Luckily, I came across an 18 megapixel Canon EOS 60D DSLR Camera that a fellow co-worker let me borrow, and was able to snap the photos that I needed at an incredible level of quality.

Do megapixels really matter when printing large scale graphics? The answer is absolutely. Megapixels really do matter when you’re printing extremely large designs, but they are virtually indistinguishable when comparing smaller prints. Since these panels were portrait-oriented I made sure each photo was taken in a similar fashion. That way, when it came time for cropping, I would get the most out of my pixels.

Having a background in photography proved to be very advantageous in this endeavor, and after all the mock-ups, trials and brainstorming sessions we came upon a solution that everyone was happy with. While stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a shot at something beyond my experience level was be nerve racking at first, the lessons learned are well worth it!

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