I need to design large banner, 40ft X 10ft, but Illustrator can't handle that size, so I create it at 1/3 size in Illustrator. Once done, I export a web image (JPEG), and set it to 100% quality. Then using Photoshop, I create a 40ft X 10ft size canvas but lower the resolution to 60 to create a pdf file.

Basically, I resize the JPEG to its real size using photoshop and save as pdf for printing.

The banner will be seen by anyone from 80 meters, something like that..

  1. In Illustrator, the canvas size is 1/3 from 40ft X 10ft
  2. Once I done my design, I saved it as web image, set it 100% quality
  3. Then, I create real size in Photoshop (40ft X 10ft) but lowered the resolution to 60ppi
  4. The image that I saved from Illustrator will be resized to its real size in Photoshop, and save as .PDF.

Is this the correct process?


4 Answers 4


I've designed billboard art (same basic size as your project) for several different vendors, and they mostly ask for 10th (1:10) scale artwork at 300ppi with some kind of pocket allowance. 100% scale is not generally necessary. All vendors are different and may have different requirements, though, so check their respective web sites for upload requirements.

  • Truth. Full size just won't be needed by the printer.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 21:09

If your printer doesn't require a real 100% size (usually they don't for this) then you can already skip the steps 3 and 4.

Printers who deal with large formats like this one usually provide a scale as you already used and you can send your file at that 1/3 size. But check with the printer if they have a "favorite" scale or mention the one you used to the printer.

Regarding the step #2, I think you shouldn't do it this way.

If I understood well... Instead of using the "save for web" as JPG, you could simply use the normal "save as..." PDF. This way you will retain the resolution, size and vectors you already have in your file. The "Save for web" will put everything at 72ppi and will also convert your image to RGB.

In other words, you don't need to do the steps 2-3-4. You can simply output your layout at 1/3 with a "save as..." and mention the scale you used to your printer!

If you really want to send full scale 100% (other option)

Another option is to "print" a postscript file (.ps) at 300% and use Acrobat Distiller to make it a PDF. There's a downside to this, you might need to rasterize some elements that use transparency.

It also depends what kind of printer/drivers you have. This might not work for you.

That's usually the technique printers use.

  • You mean, I dont have to make real size, right?Just Save my Illustrator and PDF in 1/3 size, and tell the printer that the real size is 40f X 10f?
    – neld
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:14
  • @neld Yes, you got it right. No need for full size!
    – go-junta
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 4:55

For that size I would use the following steps:

  1. Create 1:10 scale artwork
  2. If there are raster images in the artwork, use Photoshop to scale them to actual sizes before placing them in Illustrator.
  3. When done with your artwork, export it as a *.tif file @ 430ppi (with LZW compression algorithm)
  4. Open the *.tif file in Photoshop.
  5. Scale it to actual the size and reduce the resolution to 43ppi.
  6. Save your final file for print.

I have done tons of billboards using this method.


The problem

The problem with your workflow is, you're taking a minor abstract problem (the size your PDF thinks it is and announces itself as), and trying to fix it by making actual changes and compromises to the file contents and quality that could reduce print quality.

The image size in inches, mm, or whatever is basically "metadata". A 480 inch by 120 inch file at 300 pixels per inch (PPI) has exactly the same contents as a 240 inch by 60 inch file at 600 pixels per inch (half the size but double the quality), just with a different metadata label on the PDF "packaging".

I see what you're doing - working around an arbitrary limitation in Illustrator to create a PDF with a label that says "treat this as 480 inches by 120 inches". But your workflow is damaging the contents of your box:

  • Any vector elements, such as text and vector artwork, are losing quality because they're being rasterised
  • Your file size will be much higher than it needs to be
  • Save-for-web it converts CMYK colours to RGB - and then your printer will need to convert them back again. This reduces colour accuracy and risks problems like misregistration since there will be no control over the ink mix for blacks and dark shades.


As go-junta and 13ruce say, it's perfectly normal for printers to expect artwork in a PDF package that describes itself as being smaller than the actual size. They'll scale it up.

The printer usually will have a preference and a specifications document for this banner size; if not, the important thing is that you maintain the proportions and the ratio of size and quality as you scale down. If you want the printed artwork to be 480 inches by 120 inches at 60 PPI, you could do 4:1 scale of 120 x 30 at 240 PPI, or a 10:1 scale of 48 inches by 12 inches at 600 PPI... Quality increasing in proportion to the decrease in size.

Definitely don't scale up in Photoshop. Photoshop is designed for photo editing and pixel graphics, it doesn't handle vectors so well, might misrepresent some of your PDF's settings, and tends to balloon PDFs to massive file sizes.

In theory, you could scale the PDF using InDesign and File > Place. Unfortunately, InDesign is even more size-phobic than Illustrator.

In theory, you could scale the PDF in Adobe Acrobat. Unfortunately, Acrobat is horrible. I've tried doing this before, it simply can't do it. The closest you can do is use "Print to PDF" to scale (but only to preset paper sizes) or using the page crop tool (but it's completely unreliable).

But for the print people, scaling it up is easy. The exact banner sizes will be configured on their systems. So long as everything is in proportion, for them it's (almost) as simple as ticking the "Scale to fit" box.

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