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I've designed some popup banners (output dimensions 840mm x 2000mm @ 300dpi) and used vectors throughout with the exception of some stock photography for their backgrounds. I've been Linking all rasters as usual, and only when I reviewed my first export at 100% in Acrobat did I notice that Illy doesn't antialias the raster graphics.

Even at the largest resolution available - £70 worth of stock photography per time - the images still required some upscaling to be incorporated into the banner artwork, so regrettably this was unavoidable.

Annoyingly Illustrator doesn't seem to either want to / be able to antialias these raster graphics on PDF, EPS or raster export, with upscaled raster graphics simply having their PPI reduced (not 'upscaled' in the manner Photoshop would resample) - am I missing some buried config option? The images are so large attempting to use the Rasterization feature that Illy complains about being out of memory (on a fairly meaty 4GB quad core box) and in Acrobat Pro when reviewing the exported PDF, the pixelisation is clearly viewable.

I'm hoping that if I design at quarter resolution the printer will be able to uprez the raster graphic using whatever RIP software they're using, but I have very little experience in this area; previously all my graphics have been 100% vector in Illy or it's been practical to use rasters at 100% resolution because I've been designing 1:1 with smaller output dimensions. I've tried all the workarounds I can think - uprezzing to PSD then linking - failed, 600MB PSD wasn't liked by Illustrator! - and saving out a 30,000 pixel wide JPEG and trying to Link in Illy - again, import engine failed with memory error. I've tried embedding the image, which worked when I disabled the pixel preview, but Illustrator still wouldn't antialiase the raster graphic.

I have the space of this evening to either figure out how to get round this problem before I have to submit artwork for tomorrow AM, or failing that just bite the bullet and hope the pixelisation isn't too bad when printed. Am I missing anything blindingly obvious in Illustrator that might be preventing the desired antialiasing on export?

Cheers in advance...

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Can you please better define "popup banners"? "popup banners" implies this is for the web, but the file sizes you cite are more for print, and even then they are way overkill. –  Philip Regan Feb 22 '11 at 19:17
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I'll second @Philip. It sounds like you're designing much bigger than what you need. What is your final output and where is it going to appear? –  Lauren Ipsum Feb 22 '11 at 19:29
    
The final output is printed screens for popup banners, 200cm high and 85cm wide. The printer is a new supplier for us, a company called Print Designs so have no prior experience and regrettably the turnaround was so short I didn't have time to enquire at length with them about specific requirements. I delivered 300dpi CMYK PDFs via FTP and they haven't complained / rejected them, so hopefully they print ok. I always prefer designing with pure vectors when I can (and most of my design work is just 100% vector as I design for CD packaging in my job) - large format's always an awkward novelty. –  Christopher Woods Feb 24 '11 at 12:36
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If you are faced with a short turnaround and you are working with a new printer, then you really can't afford not to pick up the phone and have a quick chat with them. In all my time of doing this, I've never seen anyone get in trouble in the graphic design industry for over-communication, especially with the printer. It is your responsibility (and yours alone) as the designer to ensure the job gets done on time, to spec, and is printable. There should never be any guesswork or finger-crossing when submitting files to the printer, especially on a rush job. –  Philip Regan Feb 24 '11 at 14:13
    
Closely related question - see my answer there: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/487/… (Sorry, not sure how you add a link to text in a comment). But you're probably worrying too much about the raster images; you don't look at a banner as closely as you do a printed page. –  e100 Feb 24 '11 at 19:18
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2 Answers 2

I'm going to try and answer this question based on the given information regardless of format but under the assumption that these are large-format banners going by the hard dimensions given...

If you are combining large elements like this, I would highly recommend that you move your layout work out of Illustrator and into InDesign or Quark, then output to PDF from there. Illustrator is a vector-drawing tool first, and has only minimal image-handling capabilities. A proper page layout application is better equipped for this type of work. I've seen Illustrator "choke" on large art as well, and by your account, you've gone beyond what I can make it choke on.

You should also speak with your printer about how well their RIPs are going to handle what you're sending and for best specs in dealing with raster art. Your printer is there to help you get your job out as quickly as possible. I would never send a 600 MB PSD file to a printer; it would be flattened first, resized to the proper resolution, and then placed in the layout. My experience is also that 300 dpi is more than sufficient for most images being used in banners provided it hasn't been scaled up too much. Most large-format RIPs do a handy job making the art look good from a distance.

Finally, you need to be working with TIF and EPS files, never JPGs. JPGs aren't designed for this type of work.

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I'd suggest JPG, actually...it'll compress much better than the others (plus, most stock photography comes in JPG format anyways) –  DA01 Feb 22 '11 at 20:20
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TIFF has the ability to use lossless compression whereas all JPG compression is lossy. Stock photography sites store their photos in JPEG simply because they are smaller even at minimal compression, but print has been based around the TIF standard for decades. JPGs have no place in print production workflows. –  Philip Regan Feb 22 '11 at 20:22
    
If we're talking critical offset color calibration, sure, but I'm assuming these are dye-sub or ink jet banners, in which case JPGs should be fine. Then again, as always, ask the printer. –  DA01 Feb 22 '11 at 22:38
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@Christopher: Converting JPG to TIF is as simple a task as can be; batch conversions are dead simple in Photoshop. I would suggest finding a class at an art school or trade organization that teaches proper pre-press practices. JPGs are a lossy format no matter how good the initial quality and will degrade over time as you save and resave. Also, please use the proper names for the applications—InDesign and Illustrator. I've never heard anyone use "Indy" (which is a movie character and a car race here in America) or Illy until your use of it. –  Philip Regan Feb 24 '11 at 14:02
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I'd convert your JPEGs to TIFFs. You've got to convert them from RGB to CMYK and resave anyway, so you might as well switch to a lossless format during that process. –  e100 Feb 24 '11 at 19:12
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If it's existing photography, then there's nothing to anti-alias. It sounds like perhaps you are scaling your raster images up and simply noticing the pixels more at the larger sizes.

Increasing the resolution of a raster image means the software has to make up the missing pixels. That usually results in a less-than ideal result, but sometimes it's necessary. Some of the blurriness can be remedied through sharpening. Better yet, find software that does fractal enlarging. (Best option = get a high resolution source image).

Also, pixels aren't all that bad. If these are banners, most people aren't going to be looking at them from 10cm away. If they're looking at this from several meters, it may look just fine at your current resolution.

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What I was hoping for was that Illy would be able to interpolate the image as I upscaled - as Photoshop does - or as Irfanview can do, I've found its Lanczos filter to look alright on some old graphics I've had to upscale in the past. Regrettably I had to commit and send to print with the blocky image, hopefully it doesn't come out too badly (these are popup banners, 2metres high and 85cm wide) - I may take a photo to show how they came out. As most of my design work is quite small, 1:1 being only 30cm wide, I still find it awkward designing so large. And to think I once only used PS! –  Christopher Woods Feb 24 '11 at 12:34
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