How to Design Retractable Banners and Trade Show Graphic. Tips for your artwork design.

Here are Some Banner Design Tips For You. Expect Good Results? Then your Large Images Require a Special Treatment. This page will give to you relevant topics to consider and tips to create your artwork.

Retractable Banners

Retractable Banners - Image Sizes and Specs

Always! Design in real size Always!

  1. Standard Banner: 33.5"x80" - 48"x79" is also available
  2. Can I design with bleed?: Yes. Learn more about bleed by clicking here
  3. Suggested minimum margins from edge to text:
    • Left / Right: 2 inches
    • Top: 2.5 to 3.5 inches
    • Bottom: 3 to 4 inches
  4. Position of the main title: 66 inches from bottom
  5. Size of fonts: See next section below
  6. For Images Only: a resolution of 150 dpi is usually good. Please contain the temptation of copying an image out of a website and enlarge it.
    • Enlarged Images always loose quality, and here is why: When you stretch a small image to a larger size, the enlargment process must fill in the additional area available. The enlargment software is only capable to fill in the blank area. High quality software such as Photoshop produce more acceptable results than low-end solutions. In short the quality gets worse.
      Image > Image Size > Click "Constrain Proportions" and "Resample Image" > Select "Bicubic Smoother (best for enlargment) - Change units of Width Height to Percentage and increase 10% at a time
    • Shrinking Images: If you have images that are 300 dpi or more (digital cameras can now produce such detail) you might want to downgrade your image to 150 to 180 dpi.
      Image > Image Size > Click "Constrain Proportions" and "Resample Image" ;> Select "Bicubic Sharper (best for reductions) - Change units of Width Height to Percentage and reduce 10% at a time
  7. For Images and a Logo that Reads the Name of Your Company:
    • Create the background images first as described above but do that at 300 dpi other than 150
    • Bring the logo in with the "Place" option (Logo files should be vector files (eps / ai) for optimal results)
    • File > Place > Select the file to import
    • Make sure that the logo was created at a much higher resolution: 300 or 450 dpi
  8. Rasterized Images: If you need to rasterize a file, do so at 300 or 450 dpi. to get smooth conversion of vector fonts with minimal pixelation. Once your design is ready, you'll be able to bring the overall resolution to 150 and you'll still get a great result. But if you rasterize at 150 dpi just from the start, your outcome will most likely be unsatisfactory
  9. For Text Only: Use vector editing software such as Illustrator. If you only have access to image design software, set the resolution to 300dpi or more to secure sharpness.
  10. Color Space to work in: CMYK. (not RGB!) Colors look different on a computer monitor than they look printed on paper. CMYK will reflect the colors in your design as they print, and are more limited than RGB. RGB colors frequently have intensities that cannot be attained in printing. If you cannot do the transformation from RGB to CMYK yourself, we will do it for you but you'll need to understand that some portions of your artwork might not look as you expected
  11. Tips to transform RGB into CMYK:
    • In Photoshop: to to your Image Menu
      Image > Mode > CMYK
      When starting a new file select CMYK for the mode before clicking OK
    • In InDesign: Go to:
      Window > Swatches > Color
      Double click the color that you want to change in the Swatches. Change color mode to CMYK and color type to Process. InDesing allows for both CMYK and RGB to be in the file. Use Soft Proof to view the printing colors in CMYK. Choose:
      View > Proof Colors

Perspectives: Important Considerations That Come With Image Size

Who is watching? How close is the observer to the object? What are you showing?

The sketch on the left shows something that we know intuitively. The closer we are to an object that is being observed, the larger it looks and the more details can be seen.

Retractable Banners and posters are usually observed from distances that range from 3ft to 20 ft (about 1 to 6 meters)

Billboards are seen from longer distances so the details are less relevant. The same billboard looked from a short distance would scare you for the poor image quality. From afar, it looks great

What do we learn from this?

  1. Each piece that you design has different requirements: The design for a brochure for example, is different to the design of a retractable banner. Why: The level of detail required in the brochure is higher than that of a banner. A pixelated artwork will look really bad if looked from a close distance, but might give a decent impression if looked from a reasonable distance.
  2. Font Size: The size of fonts required in both cases is different: Arial 12pts will work well in the brochure but will hardly be readable in a retractable banner.
    • Titles: 150 to 300 point fonts, or 2 to 3 inch letters (will read from 10' to 20')
    • Copy: Never less than 36 point fonts. When there is extensive copy, use a minimum of 72 point fonts and increase the line separation.
  3. Best font types: Look for clear and simple fonts. The following are suggestions based on our experience but a case-by-case evaluation might result in exceptions
    • YES: Arial and other non-serif fonts
    • NO: Times New Roman and other serif fonts
    • NO: Italic and serif fonts are very difficult to read
  4. Best file formats: Vector files created in Illustrator and saving in certain formats allow resizing without loss of quality (files with the follwing extensions: eps - ai).
    It is usually enlargements that create visual problems. Raster images (images created with Photoshop, Paint and other drawing software) do not scale well. Raster images almost always look pixelated if you get close enough. Sometimes pixelation is evident even seen from a distance.
    • PDF is a great format, especially for files that have been created in Illustrator or InDesign
    • TIFF is a geat format as long as it has been created at a higher resolution (150 dpi for images - at 300 dpi for text).
    • JPG is not a bad format in itself. It is just that lower qualities in that format can look really bad. Some desktop publishing software (such as Powerpoint, Word, and many others) create JPG files that have a very low resolution. The format in itself shows some pixelation, but a lower quality of the format will produce heavily distorted images, especially when fonts are involved.
      JPG files are compressed files and what that means is that every time you save your jpg files, they get compressed a little bit more,so the quality of the image gets compromised (that's why many call it a "lossy" format)
    • GIF is a format that limits the number of colors, creating stepped images. Not recommended for print.


    We'll look at sharpness.
    The following two documents show how the same text looks in two different formats: gif and pdf
    • GIF: You can probably see that the fonts do not look as sharp as possible. In fact, if you zoom on your screen (CONTROL +) you'll see this phenomenom in detail

So, how do you decide what to do?

  1. Set clear objectives for your designed piece. In other words, what should your banner show to be effective? Who is the audience? How close will people get to the banner, etc. These questions will give you a hint on image and font sizes, topics to present and much more.
  2. You should know which software you have access to and plan based on that fact. If copy is significant you might prefer to use InDesign, Publisher or Illustrator to set up your banner. If it is all about photos, Photoshop might be a good way to go. Never use images that have been downloaded from websites. They are usually under copy rights, and their quality will be sub par.

Always: Design in real size. We do not want to enlarge your images since there is always a risk of loosing quality with enlaregments as described above.

If you are planing to use any of the listed software, there are some valuable tips.

  • Photoshop, make sure to create a file that is 300 dpi. The images to be inserted should be at least 150 dpi. but text will hold better.
  • Illustrator, the fonts will come up very crisp and clear. You'll save your file as a PDF, and make sure that you embedd the fonts (view PDF creation tips) If you are importing images in your Illustrator file, those images should have 150 dpi.
  • InDesign: Place images that are at least 150 dpi. Take advantage of all of the editing capabilities. You'll create original native content and place artwork created in Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • Publisher: use the "Publish to PDF" option in your File Menu.
  • Word: Don't do it. You will not be able to do real size. You won't have control of your fonts or images. Images will be downgraded automatically.
  • Power Point: Don't do it. Power Point documents are very low resolution and intended to be viewed on a screen.

ALERT: Your file might look different when seen in different computers depending on which resources that computer has available. There is not too much control of that.