Five Tips for Designing Trade Show Graphics

As the spring trade-show seasons approaches, it’s time to review some basic principles for designing trade show graphics.

Use Images with Correct Resolution

Big, colorful images attract attention on the trade-show floor. They can also create a strong positive impression about your company’s brand, products, or services.

But enlarging your images can also reveal defects in your image that weren’t apparent when the image was smaller. If your enlarged images look fuzzy or pixelated, it can create an impression that your brand doesn’t pay attention to details.

Images are “bitmap” or “raster” graphics. Without special software (such as Alien Skin BlowUp or OnOne Perfect Resize) they cannot be enlarged beyond their established resolution without losing quality.

To make sure the images you choose for your graphic will have enough resolution, consider the final size of the output and the distance from which the graphic will be viewed.

If the graphic will be viewed from more than five feet away (e.g. a hanging sign or backdrop), your image resolution should be at least 100 dpi x your final output size in inches. (150 dpi is recommended). This can result in some big file sizes. For example, an image to cover a 10 ft. wide by 88 in. high pop-up display needs a resolution of about 15,400 x 8800 pixels.

If the graphic will be viewed from a distance closer than five feet (e.g. a banner-stand graphic or informational poster), your image resolution should be at least 150 dpi x your final output size (in inches(. Use 300 dpi x final output size (in inches) if the enlarged image is likely to be viewed from 3 feet or less.

Use TIFF files to prepare your graphics instead of JPEG files. The JPEG file format that compresses the image data. Even if you save the JPEG for maximum quality, you will still be losing image data that can affect the print quality.

One quick way to check whether you are starting with a high-quality image file is to view the image at 100% or 150% on your screen. You can immediately see the types of image artifacts will be visible when the photo is enlarged for printing.

If you have used special up-sizing software to increase the resolution, view the up-sized image file at 50% of your full output size before you print it. You may need to do some additional sharpening or noise correction before you printing it. Your up-sizing software will include tools and tutorials for doing this.

Trade Show Banner Stands - Vectors

Vector illustrations such as this one make good backgrounds because they don’t lose resolution when¬†enlarged. (Photo:

Consider Using Vector Graphics and/or Smaller Images

Vector graphics can be up-sized without losing quality because they are not composed of pixels. Vector graphics rely on mathematical equations to represent graphic components. Most stock photo agencies offer a wide selection of vector graphics.

Or, you can create a design that incorporated poster-sized images instead of full-bleed images. For example, a backwall design that includes 15 in. x 15 in. images will require images with resolutions as low as 1500 x 1500.

Choose and Use Your Fonts With Care

Trade-show aisles are packed with eye-catching messages competing for the attendees’ attention. Your graphic should graphics should convey a clear and concise message that can be understood in just a few seconds.

Keep text simple, so you can use a font that is big enough to read from a distance. And never use more than two fonts in a design space. Using a lot of different fonts looks like visual chatter and confuses the viewer.

Choose a font that reflects “voice” of your company. With a carefully chosen font, your main graphics won’t look like you are “yelling” at your customers (VISIT US NOW!). A contemporary, more casual-looking font can make it seem as if you are inviting the viewer to chat with the warm and friendly experts who are staffing the trade show booth.

Choose Effective Colors

To ensure that colors are readable, choose text color that sharply contrasts with the background color.

Colors that complement your brand colors can help support brand recognition. Colors that contrast with your brand colors can help call attention to special promotions new products.

Choose the Right Inkjet Printing Material

If the graphic will be displayed on a freestanding banner stand, choose an inkjet-printable display film with a high level of opacity. You don’t want the shadow of the banner-stand hardware to distract from the appearance of your graphic.

If the graphic will be mounted and displayed under bright lights, choose a printing material with a low-glare or matte surface finish. While glossy materials do a great job reproducing photographs, they can create glare that make your well-designed graphics difficult to read.

Dozens of different inkjet printing materials are available to help your organization or clients make a big impression.

If you need help choosing the right inkjet printing material for your trade-show graphics, chat with us online at or call us at 866-310-3335. To make the right recommendation, we will need details such as:

  • how the graphic will be displayed
  • where it will be displayed (indoor or outdoors)
  • what type of printer you use
  • how many times the graphic will be used at various shows

Freedom Paper offers a wide selection of trade-show graphic materials from leading brands such as HP, Sihl, Magic, and Kodak. We also offer our own Freedom Paper-brand of sign and display materials for inkjet printers that use aqueous, latex, or UV-curable inks.

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