How would you feel if you’re at your show after spending thousands of dollars to attend, you’re talking to a potential lead and behind you stands an atrociously pixelated display? Embarrassing, right? Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation with large format printing! By nature, there is always the risk of pixelation when expanding a photo to fit a 10ft display. Here at Trade Show Booth, we have all the tricks and tips to help you find awesome photos for your trade show display! 

Downloading Images from Websites

One of the biggest slip ups we see is when clients download images direct from websites, perhaps even your own. The issue with this is that images are compressed and saved for web so that load times will be faster. So what you’re downloading is a low resolution version of the original image. This also goes for downloading photos from Google images, there is no way to guarantee the image you’re saving is going to high resolution. Unfortunately, there is not an accurate way to tell if an image will be good quality based off of the specs too. You could have a 300 dpi image that’s 20” x 20” but the original was 75dpi sized 1” x 3” and it’s just been expanded and manipulated. If the original is pixelated and low res, it will always be pixelated and low res. 

How to Tell the Image Quality

The safest way to guarantee the highest quality is to source the original image taken by the camera. If it is a company photo that you’d like to use, do some digging to find the original instead of downloading from your website. If you have an image that you must use, it’s from the internet and you’re unsure whether it is the original high res version, the only way to find out is to drop it in your art file and see. You can usually tell pretty quickly if you’re working with a low res image as it will usually be very small, just a couple of inches. Expand the image to the size you would like it in the design and then save the file. Now, the most accurate way to tell how an image will print out is to then open the file in Photoshop at 125dpi and zoom in at 100%. Have a look around to see how pixelated, if at all, the image is. A little pixelation is perfectly normal when printing a photo on a 10ft display, this is just in the nature of large format printing. The thing to keep in mind is that though the image may be pixelated, it will only be visible when viewing the display up close. Once you take a couple of steps back the pixelation won’t be noticeable to the eye. If the image is highly pixelated it’s probably best that you find an alternative, no one wants to be standing in front of a highly pixelated display at a show!

Getting Creative

There are a couple of tricks to help smooth out pixelation/fuzziness in an image, by no means are these perfect fixes though! One trick that can help is by adding a tiny bit of Gaussian Blur to the photo. This will blur and smooth out any harsh jaggedness caused by pixelation. You should be careful though, if you apply too much blur to the image you lose clarity. We recommend doing this in Photoshop rather than Illustrator as the results are usually better. You’ll find there is a preview button when toggling the blur percentage so this will help you find the right balance of subduing the jaggedness without losing too much clarity. Remember to only apply blur to the image before putting it into the design. You do not want to apply blur to your entire art file otherwise you will be blurring all other elements like logos and text! Some other Photoshop tricks:

  • Smooth edges by clicking Filter, Noise and then Despeckle. 
  • Then sharpen by hitting Filter, Styleize, Diffuse and select the Anisotropic option.
  • Enhance by selecting Filter, Sharpen, Unsharp Mask.
  • If you do need to resize, change the image resolution to 200 or 300dpi and change the final dropdown option on the image resize pop up from Bicubic Automatic to Bicubic Smoother.

Go Safe, Buy Stock Photos

If you don’t have original images to use, then it’s best to go safe. There are many stock imagery websites online like iStock, ShutterStock, Adobe Stock. You’ll find a wide variety of options by searching keywords and we’d recommend purchasing the largest size available. With that said, if you’re on a budget the medium size images will often work well for print too! There are also a few free stock imagery websites, there’s usually a lot less options but you can sometimes get lucky with what you can find. Check out these websites:

And if you don’t have your own graphic designer to put these photos on your display, our team of talented designers can take care of that for you! Check out the Design Services we offer from one of our fantastically creative in-house designers HERE.