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Benjamin Russell

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Giant-Sized Wall Hangings

For NaNoWriMo, I knew I wanted a large, wordy explanation of the event, and I knew that handouts were not going to cut it. Handouts and fliers are nice, but part of my display space in the library is a large blank wall, and I aim to add color or texture to that zone every month. A flier wasn't going to put much of a dent in that enormous beige space.

So I set about making a large, wordy poster for the area. And because it was pretty successful, I'm here to share my hack with the world, so that you too can come up with displays for your library, domicile, classroom, cubicle, etc.

1. The Image. The image should be a goodly size. I went with 25" by 45" to center nicely in the wall. I whipped it up in Adobe Photoshop where I was able to control the resolution, the size, and the filetype. Most importantly, I was able to use the considerably powers of the Text tool to arrange the words on the page to my satisfaction. I was going for varying text sizes, sort of like the punchy prose in that most terrifying of publications, Bad as I wanna be. Gimp, despite its varied accolades, apparently won't let me do that, so I have to break out the major licensed payware for the task at hand.

All in all, I ended up with a 788KB PNG with a 150dpi resolution. I would have preferred a higher resolution, but I needed to keep the image under 1MB in size because of...

2. The Software. The key element behind this whole brainstorm was a line-item I read somewhere online about a piece of software that takes your giant image and chops it up into printable 8.5" x 11" segments. This allows one to print the whole image in chunks, assemble it together, and have a marvelous giant poster. It took me three days to track down the program, as I had mistakenly remembered that it was software for a Mac platform. Not so. Remember that when it comes to reference interviews, profs and plebs. If you remember four key things about the something-or-other that your trying to track down, there's an excellent, excellent chance that one or more of those key details is totally inaccurate.

The program is the unfortunately named Rasterbator. And because I couldn't install their downloadable version onto my computer, I was using their online version. The online version is very handy, very useful, but can't accept image files greater than 1MB in size. Hence the earlier limitation.

Rasterbator allows one to shink and enlarge the image, controlling the output amount of sheets of paper, and I ended up with a version that was 45 sheets large, roughtly 88" x 42" in size. the 45-page document was exported as a PDF file (2.2MB), which was duly printed and assembled.

3. The Assembly. The individual pages were surreal, with the rasterized dots scarcely resembling letters, so much as mathematic values represented in some odd geometry. When cut, taped, laid-out, and hung, however, the final project quickly took on a pointillist quality. When looked at from a distance, it was perfectly legible, and as one walked closer it grew progressively more abstract. However, once one had read the text, the words failed to lose cohesion, even up close.

The cutting and taping took a significant amount of time, and that shouldn't be underestimated. However, as an alternative to owning a massive and expensive poster printer, this is a brilliant tool, and I expect to use it again. And should I find a display that I'd like to keep for future use, using Rasterbater to keep the dimensions of the final product to a size that would fit in the laminator will add to the structural integrity of the mosaic original.

I defintely plan on using this again for future endeavors. Rasterbator thinks of this as a tool to enlarge images, but an image file can contain wildly anything you want in it... and a judicious application of design and tools should allow you to make creative, catchy, and large posters for display in your space.

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