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Best way to make a large poster with photoshop/illustrator without killing computer?
July 12, 2008 2:05 PM   Subscribe

What is the best workpath to use when making large poster with Photoshop + Illustrator?

I need to make a poster that is about 43 by 43 inches and 250-300 dpi. It has a lot of placed images (about 30), which all together are only about 20Megs.

My first approach was to begin the project in illustrator, placing the rasters, adding some additional vector graphics, then exporting this as a photoshop doc. However, I found out that this export is extremely taxing on the computer since illustrator isnt setup well to deal with scratch disks for exporting. My computer (2RAM, about 150Gigs of scratchdisk space), could only export a flattened version, not one with editable objects, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of setting it up in illustrator.

I am planning to start this poster again from within photoshop and was wondering if the following approach is the best:

I want to start of a document that is 43 by 43 inches with 72 dots per square inch, do all the composition, and place some illustrator files as well.

Next I want to change the dpi to 300, rasterize everything while keeping keep objects. Then do any effects i want to do, alas flatten everything, then finally export to pdf and print.

Is this the best way of doing things or am i missing some crutial information?

I've never had to deal with printing anything bigger than a legal sized paper, so any tips/rules of thumb would be greatly appreciated!
posted by figTree to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try downloading the rasterbator.
use the setting of 1mm dots. it makes good quality images, any size you want.
Maybe this will help you.
posted by PowerCat at 2:40 PM on July 12, 2008


What you really want is a dedicated page layout program that uses linked files and only "puts it all together" during printer output or PDF export. You should be able to buy license for older versions of InDesign or Quark Xpress on the cheap.

HOWEVER, If you're stuck with AI and PS, use Illustrator as a layout program. Use linked files in Illustrator (in the Place dialog box), not embedded ones - this will save you hell of scratch disk space - and when you're ready to take it to a printer, Save As PDF using the setting [Print Quality]. In Illustrator the placed docs will look gross but they will export to PDF just fine.

I can't think of a single reason why you'd prefer a flat, rasterized, huge-ass .PSD to a high-quality PDF. I have been in printing for a long time.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:09 PM on July 12, 2008


Why not just keep the whole thing in Illustrator?
posted by rhizome at 3:31 PM on July 12, 2008


Thanks for the comments,

Optimus: I have been using linked files, but to my knowledge, when you do a conversion from .ai to .psd, the links are lost, and any linked files are embedded into the psd. I'm not sure how different the internal workings of InDesign are? I thought the primary difference was the InDesign is used for Magazines while illustrator for one page things.

Optimus&rhizome: the reason i was trying to take it into photoshop was because i still wanted to do some effects to the rasters after the layout is done. Is there another way to do this type of thing? (Say i make some vector line that comes at a raster at some angle and then makes the actual raster look different when it is overlapping it - is there another way to deal with this other than importing the whole thing into photoshop, so that i can put effects on the raster + have a reference to where the vector is?

It would be ideal if i could open the raster file in photoshop and also somehow import how certain vectors are overlapping that image in my illustrator file...
posted by figTree at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2008


What versions of Photoshop and Illustrator are you using? If your using CS3, you can paste your Illustrator files as Smart Objects into Photoshop, which will maintain their resolution independent of the Photoshop file resolution. At 43x43 @ 300 dpi, you're going to be pushing the limits of your machine, I would upscale as late in the process as possible.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:23 PM on July 12, 2008


It would be ideal if i could open the raster file in photoshop and also somehow import how certain vectors are overlapping that image in my illustrator file...

If you do decide to layout everything in Illustrator and leave it there (which is what I would do), you could address this problem by just laying everything out in Illustrator, then exporting from Illustrator to a low-res jpg or tiff. Then you can open that jpg/tiff in Photoshop and bring it into all your raster images as a separate layer; make it a bit transparent so you can see where to apply your effects to your images. Then just delete/hide that layer, save, and make sure everything looks good back in Illustrator. If your file is too big to export from Illustrator even as a low-res jpg or tiff, you could even just take a screenshot of your layout to use as reference.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 4:38 PM on July 12, 2008


What kind of effects do you want to to apply to the vector part? Illustrator is surprisingly robust to the point of fault. (In our shop, we have files that take 30+ minutes to flatten when sent from a Mac Pro).
posted by nathan_teske at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2008


I thought the primary difference was the InDesign is used for Magazines while illustrator for one page things.

Illustrator is for vector illustration. InDesign is for page layout, whether it's one page or 100. Can you upload a sketch or preview somewhere? I just can't image why you'd need to do the whole thing in Photoshop. I see it all the time, and there's always a better way. If it's drop shadows you want, you can generate them in AI. If it's a vector changing the look of an underlying raster because of the layer mode, you can do that in AI as well. Or you could do individual bits in Photoshop and place them as separate linked files in Illustrator. Unless the whole thing is one huge graphic/illustration without any empty space, there's no reason to create a 12,900px x 12,900px image.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:45 PM on July 12, 2008


the reason i was trying to take it into photoshop was because i still wanted to do some effects to the rasters after the layout is done

If you're using linked files in Illustrator, just do the effects on raster stuff in PSD and when you switch back to Illustrator, the new rasters will be imported. Doing all of this in PSD sounds painful and unnecessary.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2008


Have you talked to your printer to get the specs they need to print your poster? Many companies use HP5000 or something similar to print short run posters now. Your file only needs to be built at 100dpi for a high quality print if this is the case. I work with large and grand format files everyday and there is no need to be at 300dpi for this type of printing. In fact the larger your size, the lower the dpi. (billboards are printed at 25dpi, car wraps between 50-72dpi)
Also, Illustrator is specifically a vector program. Bringing photos into Illustrator causes massive files sizes that are really unneeded. There is no reason why you couldn't create your file full size in Photoshop and then drag vector graphics from Illustrator into your Photoshop document to get the effects you want. I see this done quite frequently.
I had a coworker who would create a layout in illustrator and take a screen shot which he used in Photoshop as his guide to placement when it came to making the final version. This seems very time consuming to me, but if you are comfortable with your technique, more power to ya!
Definitely call your printer before starting any job to get the specs, I can't stress this enough. You could be suffering needlessly at this point!
posted by phytage at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2008


Bringing photos into Illustrator causes massive files sizes that are really unneeded.

You don't have to embed the images in Illustrator -- you can link to them just fine.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2008


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