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Where do I start?

  • We start with the location the sign is to be posted; exterior or interior, and whether long or short term use.
  • Then, what will it say? (and what message should it convey. eg. official, casual, sophisticated, modern, traditional)
  • Next comes the artwork.


Artwork/ design?
Artwork requirements are based on the process used:

  • Digital Printing 
  • Cut vinyl and routed lettering and graphics
  • Special processes


Digital printing file requirements?
Postcript format is preferred for large format work; .ai, .eps or .pdf. Please convert all fonts in file to outline form (Command-shift-O in illustrator) or provide the Type 1 or Truetype package along with your file.

Bitmap format is also supported; .ps, .tif, .jpg, .gif. We recommend an RGB format with an ICC profile, preferably "Adobe RGB (1998)". You may also send CMYK files, please use the "US Web Coated (SWOP) v2" ICC profile.

Bitmap resolution must be adequate for the level of enlargement. Guidelines for resolution are based on viewing distance:

Viewing distance/ Resolution at FULL FINISHED SIZE / File size (RGB, multiply file size by 1.33 if using CMYK format)

1' / 300 ppi / 37.0 Mb/sq. ft. RGB

3' / 200 ppi / 16.5

4' / 150 ppi / 9.3

13' / 100 ppi / 4.1

18' / 50 ppi / 1.0

30' / 20 ppi / .2

This applies only to the final size of the bitmap area in your design, not the entire size of the print. (Postscript-only print areas are independent of resolution concerns)

For example, a typical 24"x36" trade show poster viewed at 3' should be 200 ppi at full size, or a full uncompressed 99 megabyte RGB file. (6 sq ft * 16.5 = 99 Mb) The same poster viewed from 4' need only be 56 Mbs to achieve the same visual sharpness.


Have no artwork?

We can handle every aspect of the design process, or work from highly specified plans, usually it is somewhere in between. Please describe any graphical requirements and forward any supporting artwork you have available:

  • Sketch
  • Example/photograph
  • Digital file (most filetypes can be viewed)


What is the design process?
We can assess your exact need best with a full description of the condition. We discuss the scope and provide a quote based on the level of complexity. Simple informational signs may require basic typesetting, but for something more special, we may need more consultation, leading to one or more design ideas and revisions as part of the process.  Pricing starts at $18 for the basic typesetting, $200 for a single full color graphic design for a poster or sign, to many hundreds for original mural art, lettering art, a multi-part display, or a permanent architectural sign. Some projects require plans and permit paperwork which we can also help you with.


What is the lifespan?
We build our signs and graphics with the best available materials for the job required. For long term outdoor signs, color is the most vulnerable feature. Direct southern exposure to the sun will fade most colors in 3-5 years.
High performance vinyls will last 10 years and longer, though bright colors will fade as early as 3-5 years in heavy UV conditions.

We choose substrates and processes equal to the task you require. For signs needing to last 20 or more years, we also employ cut metals, debossing and engraving processes.


Do you match colors?
Color matching is one of our main focuses, we can match colors in every system to the limits of the gamut available. We maintain in-house color management for our digital workflow and visually check and tweak every job.

Colors in one system that need to match colors in another, PMS to CMYK for instance, may fall in areas that dont have exact translations in the other system. We can provide a proof for your approval whenever color is critical. 

Note that further color shifts happen to a sample of color under different light and reflectivity. If absolutely critical, view our proof under the actual or matching light.


Can i specify colors as RGB or CMYK?
These are known as "device-dependent" specifications and won't produce reliable color on different devices. You must use a Pantone for spot colors, usually as part of a logo, or for photographic images, an ICC color profile.
ICC profiles are generated by a device, such as a camera or scanner, or specified while in design programs, (as viewed on a ICC profiled moniter), and this is attached to the file and tells our devices what the "correct" colors are.


Color shift from monitor to desktop printer to final print?
If you are designing or color correcting a photo using a monitor as your color reference, we recommend that you do NOT adjust your original based on your desktop printer output. Modern equipment using ICC profiles tend to do a good job, but please look at the printed proof from our machine. Printing output by any device can't match the range of color available on a monitor. PMS spot colors are handled separately, so please set them in the file rather than as cmyk  or rgb values.


What are vector graphics?

Vector art, as opposed to a  bitmap, , is a description of an image using points and lines forming objects, and color (and bitmaps) filling them to form a picture. Also called "postscript" and often created with Adobe Illustrator, filetypes: .ai, .eps, .pdf, often contain the vector info needed for plotter cut graphics or large format printing.


What about fonts?

Vector based fonts should be converted to outlines within your file. In illustrator, select text object and press command-shift-o. We can also accept the full font package if necessary.  


Why are vector graphics required for shape cutting?

Plotters follow a path. That path is the outline of every part of your graphic. This means:

  • Text must be outlines
  • Stroked paths are outlined
  • Overlapping/intersecting paths are merged or resolved.
  • Multi-color cut vinyl require a strategy to minimize overlap ridges and chokes/spreads added as necessary.

Please run it by us for advice or just let us handle it. (quoted seperately)


What are the size limitations for vinyl lettering?

Most artwork can be reproduced. Cut vinyl shapes have a limitation on size, dots approx. 1/8" diameter, letters generally must be larger than  3/8" lowercase-x height and thin lines greater than 1/16" thickness. We can look at the file to let you know the minimum that will hold up. 

Digital printing or screenprinting can often handle the smaller sized graphics.