The process of creating a large format graphic, whether it be a vehicle or building wrap; banner, floor, or point of purchase graphic, includes the design. Intuitive features such as image enlargement, color management, three-dimensional (3D) prototyping, and the addition of crop marks lead the way in reinvented solutions.
Vendors savvy to the wants and needs of a large format designer identify with eliminating workflow complexities, from beginning to end. Leveraging what they know about all that goes into crafting the front end of a project, design software vendors have now translated similar features to be used in the back end, directly before print.
This is ideal for many print providers who may not design a graphic from scratch, but receive a finished graphic or multiple graphics through an advertising or design agency. Acknowledging the challenges of trying to fix an image or spending time returning it, design software updates cater to those searching for a complete workflow solution.
Updates on the Fly
We surveyed design software vendors on recent product updates and enhancements targeted toward the large format designer.
Adobe Systems Incorporated’s Illustrator CS5 recently added the ability to create art in perspective. Designers are able to build perspective grids and move objects onto them, or create new objects that automatically snap to the grid. This allows end users to mock up large scale print work and get a true idea of how it will appear in its final environment. The visualization of trade show displays, banners, building wraps, and retail are all a reality with this new feature.
CADlink Technology Corporation’s SignLab Version 9 is an all-inclusive design and RIP software package. The front end of the solution supports the design of bitmap and vector graphics and integration with the back end makes it compatible with a multitude of wide format printers. SignLab is ideal for the graphic arts because many of the features can be completed during or after the design stage—even close to pre-production. Key features include automatic cut lines with registration marks to simplify a printer’s workflow.
Corel Corporation’s CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 offers support for page sizes up to 150x150 feet and a new color management engine provides ideal color matching. Corel PowerTRACE is a bitmap to vector tracing engine useful in wide and grand format design. Also, CorelDRAW allows users to reset resolution in raster objects designed for large format output where high resolution isn’t a necessity. The tool allows file sizes to stay at a minimum.
EskoArtwork offers software that manages design to print to cut. ArtiosCAD structural design software is targeted toward display and package applications. Tools in the program offer structural design, product development, virtual prototyping, and manufacturing. A new feature, Tab & Slot, helps users quickly assemble point of purchase (POP) displays. EskoArtwork also offers the i-cut Suite, pre-production software that caters to preflighting PDFs, preparing graphics, and creating layouts.
SA International, Inc.’s Flex 10 FAMILY of design products offer five solutions for a range of designing professionals—FlexiSIGN-PRO, FlexiEXPERT, FlexiSIGN, FlexiLETTER, and FlexiDESIGNER. FlexiSIGN-PRO, the company’s flagship product, offers a complete set of RIP, design, cut, and print tools for maximum productivity. A new feature in this updated version of the Flexi portfolio includes contour cut nesting in Production Manager. This tool allows users to add jobs with multiple contour paths from third party applications to increase productivity and eliminate extra steps.
Quark Inc. released QuarkXPress 9 in April 2011. The newest version of the company’s desktop publishing software reaches out to multi-channel marketers looking to add eReader, tablet, and smartphone marketing to the print mix. The Blio eReader is a multi-platform application that presents eBooks to mirror printed versions. eBooks built with this tool can host interactive elements. Also, App Studio allows QuarkXPress designers to create content for Apple iPads.
Pitching the Product
Multiple design software options can be confusing. Each product promotes benefits catered to a specific user—carrying features that make it stand out from its competition.
“Designers working in wide and grand format recognize the advantages of working in vector over raster or image-based formats. Vector art produces clean, sharp lines to any size. With vector graphics, you can create a design for something as small as a postage stamp and then scale it up to a billboard without loss of quality,” explains Brenda Sutherland, Adobe Illustrator product manager, Adobe. For users focused on re-sizing to grand images, a vector-based program is ideal.
According to Michael Chramtchenko, director of marketing, CADlink, SignLab’s ability to support a print or print-and-cut workflow through the additional RIP makes it enticing for wide and grand format designers. “Other software products rely on a transfer of files—exporting—from the design package and importing the completed file into a third party RIP. This causes issues ranging from slight changes within the design element to possible color shifts,” he continues.
If real-life mock ups are a point of interest, EskoArtwork’s products are an important consideration. “3D projects offer a new world of possibilities for print buyers and help the print provider differentiate from competitors with creativity. The ability to produce unique, wide format projects offers higher margins,” says Bill Hartman, VP marketing, sign and display solutions, EskoArtwork.
Vendors listen to customers, constructing programs to fit their lifestyle. Over the years, software has evolved into multi-faceted solutions that offer much more than traditional layouts, fonts, and graphics.
For example, color management is a hot topic. To eliminate waste, it is essential that designers hit the desired color the first time. “With continued evolution in the design and output industries, expectations are higher in terms of color management. Digital printing has also put more importance on getting the colors right the first time,” shares John Falsetto, senior product manager, CorelDRAW, Corel.
Understanding the special nuances of designing for large format are also addressed. “The biggest change in design has been that artwork can no longer be created with a specific format or medium in mind. Whether a designer is creating artwork for brand identity or advertising, chances are high that the artwork will be outputted to various formats. With the growth in wide/grand format printing, the ability to scale designs for large format output is essential,” adds Sutherland.
Tying along with that is workflow, which CADlink is a large proponent of. “Understanding the inclusion of vector and bitmap design tools commonly used in wide format graphics alongside pre-production tools all in a single package has been the key driving factor in our product development,” shares Chramtchenko.