Image sizing for billboards

EEK it’s my first time designing a billboard, I have chatted to production who say I should make it at 25% in Photoshop as an open file which they will blow up. the billboard is around 8000 x 1900 mm

My question is: should my photo be at 25% too? or should the photo link be bigger in size and how big?
Obviously 300 ppi but anything else to look out for?14%20PM



The 300 ppi rule-of-thumb is a dumbed down catch-all propagated years ago in blanket fashion by a trade in which more and more participants were under trained or not trained at all. 300 ppi is almost never actually required. Images for billboards can (and should) be one-tenth that resolution at final size. Ask the output provider what is the minimum, and what is optimal.

In the US, the general rule for billboards is to build them at 1:10 @ 300ppi, which makes them 30ppi at final size. Not sure of your location, but the ppi is probably similar.

So at 1/4 scale you’d be looking at more like 120ppi in your layout file.

If you don’t know what those are, ASK THE PRINTER.

Okay great thanks

Thank you,
Yes have included bleed in the canvas size. Are safeties like “type area” in print design: leaving space around the edges of the artwork?

Billboard size prints are not an exact science. They could be off +/- inches in the feed direction of the print thru the machine. I usually guess +/- 1" per 10ft of print on billboard vinyl, then add a little more to be safe.

You need to account for that so important elements don’t wrap off the billboard frame. So yes, leaving space around the edges of the artwork.

got it,

so your saying 30 ppi? That seems really small!
Will check with printers, thanks for the advice.

Yes, in concurrence with PrintDriver:

Actually, it’s really big. Each pixel will be a whopping 1/30" x 1/30"

Billboards are not viewed at arms length, so they don’t need to look razor sharp from that distance. Instead, they’re viewed from relatively long distances, so the 300ppi rule of thumb that helps ensure sharpness at arms length does not apply.

Instead, a resolution that ensures that the billboard will look sharp to a viewer seeing it from, for example, the highway is more appropriate. That resolution is much, much lower.

100% agree with the other members here. 30PPI seems low - but it’s correct for billboard sizes for all the reasons these knowledgeable people have, I agree wholeheartedly.

Hi. Some additional thoughts here.

Let’s start from scratch. I know Ps is the favorite program of Graphic designers who are starting doing stuff. But sometimes is not the right program to do all things.

I always recommend using a vector based program to make a billboard. And that is for two main reasons.

A. The images will keep the native resolution, there is no need to resample them when importing them inside your composition.

If you import a photo of let’s say 24Mpx the photo has 24 Mpx, regardless of the size. You can shrink it, expand it, squish it or squash it and will stay the same. When you prepare the final file, you can squeeze as many pixels as your workflow allows it.

B. A low resolution is more noticeable on text than on a photo. The text will remain sharp whatever the final resolution is.

So, the full workflow should be:

  1. Make any adjustments on your photos on Ps, cut the hair of a model, paint over it, etc. Use the native resolution of your photo.

  2. Import your images into a Vector based program, Illustrator, Corel Draw or Affinity Designer. You can also use a DPS like Indesign. Add texts, Vector-based Logos, and some other stuff.

  3. Export the final image.

Yes, you still need to keep an eye on dimensions.

As already mentioned, you can make a file 1/10 but sometimes this can be soo tiny that can be a bit annoying. A 1x2m banner is not that big, and making it 1/10 makes you have a 10x20 cm file…

I normally just make a file of a comfortable size, around an A3 or Tabloid sized paper, with the final proportion. On the previous example, it would be a 20x40 cm file (Plus a tiny bleed, probably 21x41cm).

The objective of this workflow is that you can send a PDF file with the text as vectors, and the Raster images at a good resolution, you can resample them on the PDF or not. Even if you need to actually export to a JPG, you can push the final export resolution. On this example of 2m at 1/5 to let’s say 500PPI which will give you a final resolution of 100PPI at real size, Making the texts sharp. (A 2 m banner is probably meant to be viewed at close range)

As this post is getting too long, I just add that your final exported image almost never, ever need to be more than 12,000px on the long side. 6,000px is more than enough in most cases! But that is a topic for another time!

We are talking about billboards here. Not banners.
If it fits on your artboard, any large format piece should be built at 100%. Not to scale.
The only time you scale is when it doesn’t fit on the artboard or doesn’t fit within the 200" limit of a pdf.

Another thing, check with your large format vendor. Most do not want PDFs for various assorted reasons.

Third, Illustrator is not always the best option when you are dealing with large placed imagery. I use a stripped down production machine with the Ram cranked and a lot of scratch and still Illustrator with an image over 300mb and lots of effects will slow it to a crawl (I hate seeing that Gaussian blur popup in Illustrator. May as well go get a cup of coffee.) Indesign is actually the better choice.

Photoshop is actually a good program for large format prints if you know how to use it. You can keep vectors vector as smart objects. You can keep type sharp if the font is left live and not flattened. Besides at billboard viewing distances, sharp is a relative term. You can’t barely see 1/30" at arms length. It’ll look fine at 300 yards.

1:10 is used so you don’t waste time doing math. You just move the decimal point. If you want to do scaling math for 1/2, 1/4, 1/5, or whatever fits on an 11x17, have at it. Time = money.

You don’t import images and you don’t embed images when using a layout program. You Place them. And send the links. You DO NOT EXPORT AS AN IMAGE. What’s the point of using the vector program if you are going to do that. Certainly not jpg. If you are going to export, you need to go to .psd.

For a 2m banner, I’d recommend 75-150 ppi created at actual size. Don’t ever scale anything if you don’t have to. Too many dumb things can happen in rip when scaling. Not to mention Illustrator has some limitations on what the effects can do when scaling.

Don’t forget your bleeds.

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