An oft-forgotten part of the design process is deciding the right paper size for your next poster or flyer campaign. Imagine the scenario where you have everything designed and planned out for your next poster or flyer and it just doesn’t come out right on paper. Whether the design feels too busy or the font is illegible, it’s clear that, when it comes to poster printing, size matters.
Fortunately, bulk poster printing is cheap so if your sizing just doesn’t seem quite right, it’s usually not too costly to go back and do it again after fine tuning your specs. However, reprinting should be a last resort and emergency option only because once we know about different sizing options and the strengths of each size, we can visualize the finished product before sending our design to the printers. Designing to the advantages of each poster size can save you money in the long run and increase the effectiveness of any print media campaign.
Designers know that just because something looks great digitally doesn’t mean it will turn out that way once it’s printed on paper. Two of the most common questions we get from small businesses are “Will the poster look as good as it does on the computer?” -and- “which paper size should we use?” Therefore, we’ve put together some rules and guidelines to help small businesses pick out the best size for their posters and flyers ahead of time.
NOTE: We recommend that designers take into account the size of the poster before or during the design process because the sizing can have a huge effect on how the design will look like as a printed product; should the font be bigger or more predominant than the image? Should the image be downplayed and emphasis placed on the text? We made a brief guide below explaining some of the differences and advantages of each poster size.
File size and design quality
First, it’s important to remember that in digitally designed posters the quality of the image you have will ultimately affect what you can do with it on paper. A quick way to determine if your file can be printed large is to look at the size of the file itself. If you want to print a large poster, for example a 32×48 inch, the file size should be at least 10MB or even larger. The size of the file indicates the quality and attention to detail within the design. If you plan to print a large poster from a file that’s only one or two megabytes, the image will come out pixelated and often unreadable if there is a lot of text. The larger the poster you need, the bigger the file size should be.
Flyers are often handed out in the street or grouped together when hung up for repetition. Flyers are great because they are the size of normal pieces of paper and customers can take them with them. Your business is also able to get a lot of information on them and they are still personal enough to where a consumer will take the time to read it if an interesting offer catches their eye. Flyers are usually designed with one or two large images and a lot of text that communicates what your company is about or something where the customer would need to know a lot of information; think an expo or trade show where you want to advertise a lot of different products or services for your company. Flyers are also great tools to hand out to companies who can display them on their desks and help you with advertising. Think about a hotel or a restaurant where there is a stack of flyers on the desk or at the register advertising your small business. They’re inviting for customers and they’ll be encouraged to grab one. They’re also perfect to place on street poles or on bulletin boards in areas with a lot of foot traffic.
Notice in the flyer above that there is a main image taking up space as well as some text to grab the attention of the viewer. Below there is also text small enough explaining the event information but someone would need to have this close up to be able to read it.
Small posters (11×17)
These posters are slightly bigger than the 8.5×11’s and serve better in places with restricted spaces. The smaller flyers are more personal and can be handed out on the street while the 11×17 in different types of spaces. This type of poster works perfectly to hang in storefronts and to place in windows where people will be walking by. You’d be surprised how many stores will allow you to advertise your local event in their window if you just ask. It’s large enough for the passerby to read what’s on it and still not too big for the local vendor. These are the perfect size for when you have a large image and large text and bullet points that you want to get across to the viewer
Medium-sized posters (18×24)
These are the posters of your youth. Your favorite band or sports team hanging on your bedroom wall. They’re wildly popular with the younger generation right through the college years where you’ll find them hanging dorm room walls, in the doctor’s office or splayed across large bulletin boards. While more information can be showcased on the medium-sized poster, we recommend sticking with a minimalist design with little text.
Large posters (24×36)
Break out the big guns for big venues. These large posters are perfect for promoting events, showcasing your brand at tradeshows or advertising campaigns in well-traversed areas. With the larger size poster, you probably won’t get away with free displays in storefronts, but you will grab the attention of passerby and can get creative with large messages and fineprint details for those seeking more information.
Movie posters (32×48)
The largest standard size available before crossing the chasm into custom paper size is the movie poster, also referred to as the “bus stop” poster. This heavyweight paper size is usually reserved for big concert and movie promotion campaigns, often displayed on…wait for it….that’s right, a bus stop! The movie poster size is geared for people passing by at high speeds and need to ingest the main message in less than a second. High-quality design and close attention to detail are mandatory for these large posters that can be scanned at a distance and stand up to the scrutiny of up close inspection.
The bottom line when it comes to choosing the right paper size for your next poster or flyer is to begin with the end in mind. What will the finished product look like and how will the target audience interact with it? Is it a flyer easily foldable and placed in their pocket? Or is it a large attention-grabbing poster to be seen by people walking on the sidewalk? Answering these questions before beginning your design will dictate the right paper size for your next print marketing campaign.