One of my lengthy question was marked duplicated because there were too many confusions. I believe it was clearly not a duplicate. My doubt is totally different and it is not answered there. So I'm asking it again, but only the major doubt per question.

As you know, Illustrator becomes slow when you work on large JPEG/PNG photos and typography. I need to design a 3x4 feet (36x48 inches) standee. So I currently design at actual dimensions, (3x4 feet, 300 PPI). I put 300 PPI because I need to make sure photos look good even at 1 foot distance.

But this makes it little slow and lagging.

Now, what I can do is design at 12x16 inches and later scale it up.

Here are 2 concerns related to it:

a) I design at 12x16 inches, and import a high resolution image (say greater than 12000x12000 px) photo to Illustrator, which is much larger than artboard, scale it down and fit it to artboard.

NOTE: If I import the same image to 36x48 inches (300 ppi) artboard, it does completely cover up the artboard. So you get the idea of image.

Would scaling up the whole artwork at the end pixelate the photo? (Just like it happens in Photoshop, when you've not created a smart object of it, and unlike the vector objects in Illustrator which can be scaled up at any dimensions) Or doesn't Illustrator lose the information of photo when the photo is scaled down so you can scale it up at any time (obviously not exceeding the actual dimensions of the photo)?

b) If Illustrator conserves the quality of the imported photo, the only thing that remains to do is export at actual dimensions (36x48 inches). Is there any possible option in Illustrator to save the file as PDF at scaled up dimensions?

Given that all, which is a better way to design, at small dimensions or actual dimensions?

PS: Please comment if you don't understand the photo thing in a)


3 Answers 3


a) Illustrator does not care about your PPI setting. Once you scale it the pixels are just stretched to a smaller area. But then you get no gain either, the image is just as heavy for editing on all sizes.

b) No. But you dont actually gain anything either so it does not matter.

At the end of the day it does not matter. Unless you have some problem scaling your thinking or have a bad communication with your print house. But those are a problem regardless of your use case.

  • a) I understand it in terms of the image. The image is same for small and large artboards so it is heavy in both. Is it also true for Text? Doesn't same amount of text on a larger artboard make it slow? b) Okay, so we can't scale it up while saving as PDF. But you said 'it does not matter'. If I designed it small, how will I print it at big scale? Does PDF file or printer has options to scale it up during print?
    – Vikas
    May 4, 2019 at 11:10
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    a) yes and no same amount of data uses same resources. In illustrator theres no difference only a difference in photoshop b) tell your printer to scale it
    – joojaa
    May 4, 2019 at 11:11
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    Your image is large enough to be 300 ppi at 36 x 48 inches. If you create your document at 1/3 size, the resolution of the image will be 3 times larger - 900 ppi. A common mistake is to then export the pdf at the reduced size in 300 ppi. When the print shop scales your document 300% up to the correct size, the resolution of the image will only be 100 ppi. So you just need to make sure to not downscale the image to 300 ppi on export but leave it as it is.
    – Wolff
    May 4, 2019 at 15:47
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    No, I'll export as PDF only. I've always seen PDF is also vector. But you mean PDF loses the additional data of image once exported?
    – Vikas
    May 6, 2019 at 3:28
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    @VikasKumar You have to be careful with the settings thats all. Default templates will noty work for you.
    – joojaa
    May 6, 2019 at 4:29

Several points here.

  1. I put 300 PPI because I need to make sure photos look good even at 1 foot distance

100 PPI will look good at 1 foot. One normal FullHD monitor of 24 inches has around 100PPI and people use it around 1 foot. Ok. Use 150 PPI if you want.

  1. When you import, for example, a 24 Mpx image into a vector based program, it stays as 24Mpx, regardless of the physical size. Squish and squash it and it will be 24Mpx. So this is the right approach.

The 300 or 150 or whatever PPI settings are just for raster effects. If you are only using photos and vector shapes, like text, nothing will use the 300PPI setting.

On this case, setting a document at 1/2 the size on each dimension, or 1/3 is a good approach. You can simply export at 300PPI and get either 100PPI or 150PPI depending on the case. Or export the 1/2 document at 600PPI and get your "required" 300PPI.

One problem Adobe programs have is the totally useless export window of doom. Where you are limited on the export sizes-resolution. On Corel Draw, you can choose any arbitrary scale, and on the export dialog, reassign physical size and resolution. But on Illustrator you just need to live with what you have.

But, yes, a 1/3 or 1/2 size artboard is a good option.

If you are leaving vectors on the export, for example for texts, the PDF will be at scale, so remember to rescale the PDF when printing it.

Also, remember either to deactivate the checkbox "resample images to 300PPI" or change its values on the PDF export settings.

If you change them from 300PPI to 600PPI you can generate your PDF at 1/2 and, again, when printed at 200% the images will go from 600PPI to 300PPI.

  • Firstly, by 1/3 and 1/2 you mean the artboard size? For example, if actual print size would be 36x48 inches at 300 PPI, I can design at either 12x16 inches at 100 PPI or 18x24 inches at 150 PPI.
    – Vikas
    May 4, 2019 at 9:09
  • "If you are only using photos and vector shapes, like text, nothing will use the 300PPI setting." Then what's PPI for?
    – Vikas
    May 4, 2019 at 11:30

This answer is more or less obsolete since the OP clarified the question. I had assumed the OP wanted to use a lower resolution image and then enlarge it, but after clarifying this isn't the case. I'll leave it here for reference anyway.

It sounds like the question you really want answered is this: If I enlarge a smaller 300PPI image, will the image quality reduce? And the answer is yes.

The print won't pixelate, but the image will be slightly fuzzy, and the closer you view the print the more obvious it will be. There is no way round the simple physical reality that raster images always degrade in quality if you enlarge them, and the closer you view a raster print, the more you will notice that degradation in quality. Illustrator can't enlarge raster images any better than raster image editing software.

Now, the other part of your question seems to be this: will it be noticeable? And the answer to that is probably no, for most people. Viewing a poster at 1 foot distance might be something you want to do, but not something many others (including me) would want to do. For instance, I'd need to put on my reading glasses to be able to focus on it, or use a magnifying glass. Also when I view a poster, I generally want to see the whole poster in my field of vision, and so I don't usually go round sticking my nose up against posters, and neither do most people.

I have frequently printed large format posters at 150dpi, and even larger banners at 72dpi, and the quality is perfectly adequate. So far, none of my clients have ever complained. 300dpi is the resolution often recommended for print publications, such as in books/magazines, or A4 size photo prints - not for large format prints. It's excessive for large format prints, and also some large format printers might not even be able to print at that resolution. Ultimately you'd need to check that with your printer.

Also I note that you use the term "HD", when that actually only applies to video resolutions such as Ultra HD, 4K, 1080p, 720p. It's not used in still photography. In photography, HD would actually be quite low resolution in comparison to the resolutions available with modern professional digital cameras - these days typically from around 20 to 50 megapixels.

  • 1
    @VikasKumar Didn't your question say you wanted to work with a lower resolution image in Illustrator at a smaller size, then enlarge it when printing? Sorry, you need to clarify your question, because now what you are saying makes no sense to me.
    – Billy Kerr
    May 4, 2019 at 10:37
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    @VikasKumar the problem with your question is that you are lumping Photoshop with illustrator. If you enlarge illustrator content nothing much happens but then the entire PPI setting is moot.
    – joojaa
    May 4, 2019 at 10:58
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    @VikasKumar I think you have enough time in GD.SE to understand the comments are for minimum clarifications regarding the question and answers. You use the comments as a step by step tutorial, which in a certain way is a lack of respect for the person who has dedicated their time to answer you. Your last comments are broad new questions: Any idea? What's PPI? Please reply? Read and think the answers well and come to your own conclusions.
    – user120647
    May 4, 2019 at 15:27
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    @VikasKumar - sorry, I was away for the rest of the day. Yes I think joojaa has answered this for me. You seem to be mixing up changing the size of an image in Photoshop (called resampling) with simply scaling an image smaller in Illustrator. Doing so in Illustrator will change nothing about the image, so you should be safe doing that. Illustrator doesn't care about ppi/dpi settings.
    – Billy Kerr
    May 4, 2019 at 17:30
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    @VikasKumar My print work is not available publicly. Sorry about that.
    – Billy Kerr
    May 4, 2019 at 18:03

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