Colorful Custom Floor Tarp

Custom Design Strategies for Floor Tarps

Custom Art Floor Tarps

Custom Art Floor Tarps

Custom Design Strategies for Floor Tarps

Designing artwork for your floor tarp is one of the most critical elements of your show. Other than the uniforms it is literally the first thing the audience (and the judges!) will see.  First impressions are important. At Winter Guard Tarps we have been printing large custom winter guard floor tarps, percussion tarps, drum line tarps . . . all kinds of tarps for a long time. Our expertise in printing very large graphics began in 1993 when we started printing billboards, so we thought we would share a few tips on how to get the most out of your floor tarps by designing great art from the get go.


You may have heard the phrase “GIGO” before. It is short for “Garbage in, garbage out”. The more vulgar way of saying it is “You can’t polish a turd”. Basically, what we are talking about here is that the elements you design your floor tarp from must be high quality.  The print process will not “fix” bad artwork. Keep in mind what you are seeing on your screen is not really a representation of what your artwork will look like once it is blown up to FIFTY feet by SEVENTY feet.


For example, you find a thumbnail photo image of something and right click on it to save it to your computer. Most likely you are now dealing with an image that is 10-15 kb in size. It is meant to be viewed on a computer at about one inch in size. That picture is made up of dozens to hundreds of individual “pixels”. Each pixel is a specific color (red green or blue for RGB format or cyan, magenta, yellow or black in CMYK format). The collection of pixels when viewed from a distance blends to give you the photo you see.

When you decide to enlarge that photo the computer simply enlarges the size of those pixels to a proportionate size. A low-resolution image very quickly devolves in a mass of what we call “pixelization”, which means you can literally begin to see the individual pixels in the image. Here’s a mild example:

Mild Pixelization

Mild Pixelization

Here’s a more extreme example . . . and remember, the difference between a file meant to be viewed sized 1″x1″ IS extreme compared to your 50’x70′ tarp:

Extreme Pixelization

Extreme Pixelization

High Resolution Art

So one very simple solution to this problem is to simply get the very highest resolution artwork that you can.  Winter Guard Tarps assists with this by offering complimentary images from Shutterstock, a stock photography site with literally thousands of high-quality, high-resolution images.  If you are taking you own photos, make sure your camera is set to the highest resolution setting.  If you are searching for it on the internet, be sure to “filter” the images you are searching for to be at least six to 8 Megapixels in size.  This won’t guarantee your artwork is great but is certainly going to weed out some of the worst images.

Vector Artwork

Vector Madonna Art

Vector Madonna Artwork

The best solution is to use vector artwork.  Vector art is computer designed art.  It resolves the issue of simply enlarging pixel sizes of an image by instead enlarging specific reference points of the image.  For example, the letter “L” is basically two lines, a horizontal line and a vertical line joined with a right angle.  The left vertical line is twice as long as the horizontal one.  In vector art that ratio will be the same regardless of whether it is 1″ tall or 100 feet tall.  So a vector letter “L” will look crisp and clean no matter what size it is.

Vector art can even calculate the size ratio of curves not just straight lines.   Nearly any art that is not photographic IS vector art or could BE vector art.  In fact, there is even software available that can take simple, non-vector art and CONVERT it to vector art, like a logo for example.  Again, at there are thousands of really great, often very complicated vector art samples to choose from.   Much of it can look near photographic in quality:

Here’s where is gets complicated.  The Madonna .jpg is not a vector file.  There is a version of this in vector format, but the .jpg file is not vector.  Think if it like someone has taken a photo of the vector art.  The photo is a low-resolution picture of high-quality art.  Vector art typically is found in .eps formats and sometimes pdf formats.

Black on Black

Black on Black

What You See May Not Be What You Get

More specifically, what you see on your COMPUTER SCREEN may not necessarily be what you get.  Pull up any picture on your computer and print it on your little inkjet color printer.  Put the paper next to the same image on your screen.  Does it look the same?  Sure in some ways . . . they are both obviously your cat “Mr. Freckles”, or whatever you printed out, but they are clearly not exactly the same.  The paper image does not have the brilliance and color depth of your computer screen.  There are subtle differences in color, the computer screen probably has more separation of colors.

What’s going on here?  Aren’t they the same?

Backlit Screens vs. Printed Vinyl

Well no.  Your computer screen is quite literally “backlit”.  Almost by definition your screen is going to show a lot more difference in colors than a printout will, especially between darker colors.  Dark on dark colors are fairly easy to see on your computer screen, but when printed out the difference in color might be more difficult to see.  This is one of the reasons we include a “mini” of your floor tarp printed right on the actual material we will produce the

This is one of the reasons we include a “mini” of your floor tarp printed right on the actual material we will produce the tarp when printed at full size.  We provide this complimentary as part of the process because we believe it is VERY important that you see EXACTLY what your tarp will look like once it is printed at full size.  Can you print very dark images and have them look great?  Of course, but it might require a little manipulation of the artwork to get the color contrasts on your vinyl tarp to look similar to what you are viewing on your backlit computer screen.

We Are Here To Help

The great news is that we are here to help!  Whether it is directing you on how to search for images on Shutterstock, or directing you to a designer who specializes in designing for very large graphics, or simply alerting you to potential problems with art you send us . . . our job is to ensure that your custom floor tarp looks AMAZING!

Email us at for assistance, or request more info here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *