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DanMaffle

Document Dimensions for Vectors

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Hi, I just purchased Affinity Designer after trying it out for a bit. Loving it so far. I have very little experience with vector work, most of my limited design work has been in Photoshop.

This is probably a more general vector best practices question than specific to Designer, but I haven't found the answer anywhere.

Say I am designing a very large poster, something like 5 feet x 20 feet. Assuming all the design will be vectors, what should I set the dimensions of my document to be? Does it matter if it's 5x20 feet or 5x20 mm? As long as the aspect ratio is the same and I export to the correct dimensions, what's the difference if vectors can be infinitely scaled?

Edited by DanMaffle

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And is there a reason not to use the right dimensions?

Theoretically it does not matter, the vector is a vector and can always be recalculated. But the conversion is always done with some accuracy, so there is unnecessary distortion.


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17 hours ago, DanMaffle said:

Does it matter if it's 5x20 feet or 5x20 mm?

For vector content the page dimensions aren't relevant because a resolution doesn't matter. So 5x20 mm will look and print in same quality as 5x20 feet or 5x20 miles.

For very large output size you have to consider a possible limit of the output file format. For instance a couple years ago PDF used to be limited to a maximal lengths of 5080 mm (200 inch), a later version was (is?) limited to 381 km.

However, with large formats it can be helpful to work in smaller dimension at a handy scale factor. For instance 1:10 is quite easy to handle (= to think) whereas 1:25 or 1:50 is tricky for designers but more common for architects. In a case you get input info in inch and want layout in cm then a scale of 1: 2.54 can be useful. Just choose the scale as it fits to your workflow.

17 hours ago, DanMaffle said:

export to the correct dimensions

For vector data you do not choose an export dimension; you will export in the size you layout. If the print size is different then you give with your exported file the information in what scale or percentage it should be printed. So if you layout in 1:10 then the output print must be 1000 % (the 'default/natural' 100 %  x  10  =  1000 %).

17 hours ago, DanMaffle said:

what's the difference if vectors can be infinitely scaled

Besides the technical aspects mentioned above there is the visual aspect. The layout and its details visibility depends on the distance it is seen (or read). Most printed matter is read from the same distance: hold with hands in about 30 cm. Another common distance are posters and billboards with about 3 m – 30 m. (–> 1:10 – 1:100) To layout for these two different groups you ideally do not simply scale a layout from small to large but respect the legibility in relation to the viewers distance. For instance a text block size in a book can be normal with 9 pt. On an exhibition wall it will not necessarily be 90 pt (1:10) but less, for instance 45 pt to be felt as similar size, but also can be much larger then 90 pt when read on a wall. Or whereas headlines in a book would be felt as normal in about 20 pt they may be much larger than 200 pt on a wall. So, size depends on the viewers distance.

One last aspect is the production technology. Especially for cutting plotters, minimum sizes (minimum line weights) are required in order to be producible or mountable. There the larger the output format, the more difficult it can be to realize small details.

 


macOS 10.12.6,  Macbook Pro 15" + Eizo 24"

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Thanks for the replies, @Pšenda and @thomaso

18 hours ago, thomaso said:

For very large output size you have to consider a possible limit of the output file format. For instance a couple years ago PDF used to be limited to a maximal lengths of 5080 mm (200 inch), a later version was (is?) limited to 381 km.

This is what raised the question for me - I exported a large dimension file to pdf, and got a warning in Acrobat when I opened it, something to the effect of it being larger than the maximum supported size. (although it was nowhere near 381 km...) It displayed fine, but it got me wondering if I'm doing it the "right" way.

I like the idea of designing at a scale factor. Thanks.

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18 minutes ago, DanMaffle said:

got a warning in Acrobat when I opened it, something to the effect of it being larger than the maximum supported size. (although it was nowhere near 381 km...)

We still can export to various older PDF versions (e.g. for compatibility reasons). So it can happen you run into the 5080 mm limit if you export as the according version (I guess it was PDF v1.5 / Acrobat 6).

18 minutes ago, DanMaffle said:

I like the idea of designing at a scale factor.

I do prefer for large layouts work in 1:10. That way I can still use the UI size value sliders/pop-up menus (e.g. stroke width or font size) without exceeding their prepared values. Also you have to type less in text fields (e.g. 15 instead 150).

 


macOS 10.12.6,  Macbook Pro 15" + Eizo 24"

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On 9/17/2019 at 10:25 AM, DanMaffle said:

Does it matter if it's 5x20 feet or 5x20 mm?

PDFs have a viewable dimension of 200" in the largest side. That can be overcome using what are called User Units, but as far as I know, no desktop software has this capability built-in. And while I can produce such a PDF that can both display in Acrobat/Adobe Reader and can be ripped by a reasonably current RIP based on Adobe's RIP, one needs to communicate and test the RIP before the print job is run.

So as mentioned, in general it is advisable that the total dimensions, including any printer's marks, be kept below 200", which means scale to design.

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On 17.9.2019 at 7:25 PM, DanMaffle said:

Does it matter if it's 5x20 feet or 5x20 mm?

If possible, always in the original size. But sometimes I also deviate from it: I always draw my hall plans for trade fairs 1:100.

If the poster contains a lot of font, it is easier to select font sizes (12-120 pt) from the menu than to enter large values. 1000 pt is unwieldy. 

In large dimensions, some effects that are calculated in pixels also fail.


This article has been written with the kind assistance of DeepL.

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21 hours ago, thomaso said:

maximal lengths of 5080 mm (200 inch), a later version was (is?) limited to 381 km

Are you sure ? It would mean ± the distance Paris to Nantes in France… a very large PDF :)

2019-09-18_222637.thumb.png.63a0c23df2e4cc2af592b5e03d0c15d3.png

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From 0.00508 km to 381 km… (237 miles to 1.502e+7 inch). I'm wondering how they decided this new mesurement :)

There's room to begin writing Pi, at least!

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1 hour ago, Wosven said:

From 0.00508 km to 381 km… (237 miles to 1.502e+7 inch). I'm wondering how they decided this new mesurement :)

Has to do with UserUnits (which itself is a scaling unit). From the PDF Reference manual, version 1.7:

Quote

In PDF versions earlier than PDF 1.6, the size of the default user space unit is fixed at 1 ⁄ 72 inch. In Acrobat viewers earlier than version 4.0, the minimum allowed page size is 72 by 72 units in default user space (1 by 1 inch); the maximum is 3240 by 3240 units (45 by 45 inches). In Acrobat versions 5.0 and later, the minimum allowed page size is 3 by 3 units (approximately 0.04 by 0.04 inch); the maximum is 14,400 by 14,400 units (200 by 200 inches).

Beginning with PDF 1.6, the size of the default user space unit may be set with the UserUnit entry of the page dictionary. Acrobat 7.0 supports a maximum UserUnit value of 75,000, which gives a maximum page dimension of 15,000,000 inches (14,400 * 75,000 * 1 ⁄ 72). The minimum UserUnit value is 1.0 (the default).

 

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So for fun, here's a PDF from AD that is 400" x 96" with 5" bleed.

Capture_000224.png.b6c4f9250654be79015b09ca8d60a979.png

Acrobat has/can have a special preset to distill a valid EPS or .ps file that sets the requisite UserUnits properly. But like I mentioned, there is no desktop application I am aware of that does this in-application. Not even CorelDraw, the king of large format print work.

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