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Thread: What are the best settings to use in Photoshop for a big map?

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    Guild Novice MushroomKingdom's Avatar
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    Post What are the best settings to use in Photoshop for a big map?

    I'm going for an absolutely massive map with lots of little details (my end goal is to get it printed at Kinkos and have it be around 3 ft. long). I'm working exclusively in Photoshop Cs6 and was wondering what is the best possible combination of Width, Height, Resolution, Color mode, bit size, etc. to use?

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    in my experience (i worked at kinko's, a photolab, and an ad agency for many years), most large format printers will be fine at 150dpi. any lower than that and you start to lose detail. prints done on smaller printers (letter or tabloid) will usually look better at 300 dpi.

    basically, your resolution should be double the line screen of the printer. the line screen is how many lines per inch the printer can handle. don't count on your average kinko's employee knowing that information though.

    another consideration is that a 300dpi image at 3 feet by even a foot is going to be a huge file. if you like the amount of control you have over pixels at 300 dpi, i would suggest building your file at half size, ie 1.5 feet by .5 feet at 300 dpi and then when it is finished, you can bump it up to 3 feet by 1 foot at 150 dpi and have no loss of quality.

    my only other suggestion is that if the file size becomes to cumbersome, you can always slice up the image into separate pieces, for example once you have the ocean set, break it up by continent into smaller separate files. continuity between the pieces becomes an issue, but as long as you have your style well in hand, it shouldn't be an issue.

    my only other advice is when it comes time for printing, ask to see a test strip first. it will save you a lot of hassle if for some reason the colors are not what you wanted. most places charge by the sq ft of paper used, so you want them to get it right the first time. its amazing what adding or subtracting a little cyan or magenta will do to a print. my guess is you'll be building the map in RGB, but printers use CMYK which has a smaller color gamut. stay away from super saturated colors, especially blues and greens.

    hope that helps and good luck!

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    Guild Adept Gracious Donor lostatsea's Avatar
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    Wow That is HUGE ! You will probably have to do this in sections and then assemble them using a poster print software. I say this because even on a Monster of a computer all that detail over multiple layers really adds up to HUGE file sizes and really long render times and quite possibly program and / or system crashes ! Yes that is a run on sentence !! I would suggest leaving all the details and Textures ETC until last and concentrate on the general layout first. Cut it into slice as if for a web page. Then detail one section at a Time.
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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    It's not that big. 3 feet wide is 36 inches, which is a largish poster print, but not outside the realm of what many people here produce. If I recall correctly, my Randland map ultimately printed at 24" x 36". It was a little unwieldy to get a PNG that size for Gamerprinter, but it was definitely doable. The hardest part was persuading Illustrator to export at that size.

    Width and height are completely your call, but make sure your printing service can handle the size you've selected.

    A lot of Photoshop's functions are unavailable in CMYK mode, but you should be aware that the gamut for CMYK is significantly smaller than that of RGB. It's up to you whether the added flexibility is worth the probability that your colors will not print correctly. You should make frequent use of the gamut warning feature.

    Unless you have a need for a higher bit-depth, stick to 8-bit. If you find out you need the extra precision from 16-bit or float, you can always convert later on, but you're going to have to be in 8-bit for Kinko's to print it, anyway, so you might as well start there to save yourself hassles.

    DPI is the sticky wicket. It's going to depend on your eventual viewing circumstances. 300 is good for anything that will be viewed at about arm's length. Most poster prints do not get seen that closely, though, so you can frequently go down to 200, or even all the way to 150, depending on the material. Obviously, the finer your details and the smaller your type, the higher the resolution you'll want. If you're planning on laying the map out on the table for a roleplaying group to reference, then stick to 300. If it's going to hang on the wall in your home, I'd say 200. If it's going into a fine art gallery (unlikely if you're printing at Kinko's!), then 600, and that would be a gigantic file.

    As a point of reference, a 36" by 24" image at 300 dpi is 10,800 x 7200 pixels, which is 77.7 megapixels in area. With 24 channels of noise, the Photoshop file will be 5.3 GB, which requires the Large Document Format (PSB).
    Last edited by Midgardsormr; 04-16-2013 at 05:31 PM. Reason: typo
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    Guild Novice MushroomKingdom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgardsormr View Post

    As a point of reference, a 36" by 24" image at 300 dpi is 10,800 x 7200 pixels, which is 77.7 megapixels in area. With 24 channels of noise, the Photoshop file will be 5.3 GB, which requires the Large Document Format (PSB).
    Thanks man I'll definitely be keeping this in mind

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    Honestly, while PSD is better, I almost always recommend to convert files as JPG, as file size becomes an issue especially trying to transfer the file online. I deal with 300 ppi, large format maps all the time - I print and ship these worldwide, through my Gamer Printshop business.
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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    Oh, absolutely. For sending to the printer, sending a PS document may cause problems. File size (in terms of both transfer and RAM necessary to open the file), program version, font and plug-in availability, and possibly some other things may all cause problems. Follow your service provider's guidance for submission, but where there's doubt, a simple raster file like jpg or png is safest. I'd avoid tiff as well, since it's not completely standardized.

    Never use jpg as a working file format because each save iteration degrades the image's quality.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
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