Step 1: What is the purpose for the message?
- Before you spend limited resources on any type of messaging it’s important to determine what you are trying to accomplish.
- Determining if the message is for brand identity, direction or wayfinding, safety, awareness, general or specific advertising of a specific event or sale etc. will then help point the way to the design and type of solution needed.
Once a purpose has been established we can assist with developing the message that you need communicated.
Step 2: Are there multiple elements required?
- Does the project need to be themed with existing branding/messaging? Or is the project a stand-alone one.
- Are there graphic, font, & color constraints or requirements?
- Is there more than one element needed to complete the project?
We will help create a new design or match a theme with your existing design and assist with determining the best location(s) to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.
Step 3: What are the important elements of the project?
- Are there budget constraints or is the outcome more important?
- Is the message for indoors or outdoors? on a vehicle?
- Does it need to be seen at night?
- Is the message required to be permanent or temporary? Does it need to be removable?
- Are the content/images simple or complex? Are your graphics/logo in a print friendly format*?
- Are there any special requirements (environmentally friendly materials)?
Once items like this have been determined we can make recommendations for suitable materials and sign types.
*File Format Note: Generally speaking, pdf files are the most commonly used file format. We can also use Adobe Illustrator .ai or .eps files, and we can use jpegs or tifs as well, but those need to be very high-resolution to work on most signs.
Step 4: What are the installation and project timeline requirements?
- Is the installation at ground-level? or is it “off-ground” requiring different installation equipment?
- Will the project require electrical work?
- When does the project need to be completed by?
- Are there outside constraints for installing the project (union rules, will installation be required outside normal work hours, etc.)?
Different materials and sign types will require different tools and equipment for installations. We have access to a wide variety of tools and equipment to ensure every installation is efficient and professional.
Step 5: What creates a successful project?
- Do you require a quote up front?
- Does your project require design up front?
- Does your project require a site visit?
- Are city permits required or special permissions from landlords or owners?
- Who will be signing off on any proofs required? Who holds approval over the project?
- What are your timeline expectations from initial design to completed installation?
We can assist with every aspect of a project. From design all the way through to installation. We build things like site visits and a proof approval process into every project to ensure accuracy and that you are getting exactly what you were after.
A substrate is simply the material that your message/graphic is applied to or printed on to.
Commonly referred to as Plexiglas, these substrates are very versatile and used for a large variety of applications. They are available in different colors, translucence levels and thicknesses. They are ideal for lobby displays, backlit signs, 3D lettering and many other applications.
An aluminum product offers a thin but very rigid and strong substrate. Usually aluminum is used for smaller signs and is typically used for traffic and parking lot applications. It can come in a variety of thicknesses.
Aluminum Composite Material
There are several types of these composite materials, Dibond and Alumalite are common brands. It is made of two sheets of thin aluminum with a solid polyethylene plastic core. This material is ideal for mid-to-long term outdoor signs since it is very durable and the outside elements will not affect it.
A fibre-based, rigid, recyclable alternative – a “Green” alternative to PVC, styrene and foamboards. 100% recyclable, with a smooth finish. For indoor use only. Comes in 48″ x 96″ sheets, in a range of thicknesses.
Corrugated Plastic (Coro)
Referred to as “Coro,” this material is typically used for temporary and promotional signage. Typical sign usages would include sales and contractor signs, directional signage, real estate signs, or site signs for new building projects. This substrate provides a light weight, low cost, high quality looking, easy to replace sign that is quick to produce.
Fiberboard (HDO – high density overlay)
Fiberglass Reinforced Plywood Fiberboard is a heavy, very rigid and strong substrate used for long term signs. Fiberboard is a gel coated fiberglass on one or both sides and can be fabricated to almost any size.
Foamcore, Gator Foam (Gator Plast)
FOAMCORE is a soft, inexpensive paper product with a wood-fiber veneer.
GATORPLAST (gator board) is an extruded, rigid, lightweight polystyrene foam board bonded between two layers of ultra-thin polystyrene veneer.
These products would be for medium length applications and typical usage would be point of purchase displays, exhibits, and custom shaped signs. Different thicknesses are available.
These substrates come in translucent white or clear for use in sign faces on backlit signs.
MDO Panel (medium density overlay)
MDO is made of plywood with a weather-resistant resin overlay bonded to the wood. It was originally made specifically for the sign industry because paint finishes last much longer on it than regular plywood. It’s available in different thickness and sizes up to 4’ x 8’ sheets.
Plywood is not used as often anymore thanks to more lightweight aluminum composite signs which have replaced it for many signs. However, plywood is still used from time to time for site signs or specific uses etc. Comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets, and varying thicknesses and finishes
Styrene has a smooth matte surface which is excellent for one or two sided printing. It comes in several thicknesses and can easily be contour cut. It is flexible, lightweight and can be rolled up for shipping. It is often used for point of purchase displays and other similar applications. It can be grommeted for a different mounting requirement.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
There are several common brands of PVC: Sintra, Kapbloc and Foamacell. This material is a “foam” that is lightweight, rigid and durable. It is used both indoors and outdoors. It’s commonly used for menu boards and point of purchase signs. It comes in a variety of thicknesses for different uses and has a smooth surface that print adheres well to. It is available in a good selection of different colors.
Standard thick white cardstock used for trade-shows and to fit in standard mall-type sign-holders (typical 22″ x 28″ size)
Not unlike a refrigerator magnet this is a material, typically white, that can be applied to vehicles or any metallic surface that is magnetic. It can have any image or text applied to it.
A vinyl substrate that is flexible and durable. It comes in a variety of styles, weights and finishes. It is a cost-effective adaptable solution for displaying your message or branding.
Banner materials can be a heavy 13oz version (typical banners that you see stretched across roads or against building walls) – with hems and grommets and pigtail ropes as needed or they can be a Decolit banner which are used for trade-shows that fit into roll-up banner stands. The advantage of Decolit is that the edges don’t curl up. We can assist in determining what material is best once we have established the purpose of your project.
There are many varieties of decals. They can be designed in any shape or size. Some have “normal” adhesive, some have removable adhesive (so they can be removed from glass windows later on without leaving any glue residue behind), some have “super-sticky” adhesive for long-term permanence.
We also have decal material designed specifically for walls, concrete, carpet, and pavement.
Perforated vinyl is vinyl with small holes – so on one side you see the image, and on the other side, you can see out through the holes.
All printed signs can either be laminated with a protective finish, or left as is. Non-laminated materials are fine for short-term or indoor use. Signs that will be outside (unless very short-term) or signs that will be handled a lot (tossed into a car trunk after a trade show for example) should be laminated. The clear lamination (either gloss or matte) protects the print from scratches and dirt, and allows the sign to be cleaned and wiped off without possibly damaging the print itself.
Vinyl letters have been a sign-shop standby for the last 25 years and there are still times and specific kinds of jobs where vinyl lettering is still the optimal solution.. However, with the advent of digital printing, vinyl lettering has taken a much smaller role and is now mainly used for lettering that is going onto vehicles or boats.
Advice for non-graphic designers
What does “pixelation” mean and why do we want to avoid it?
When we use a small graphic (like a picture or graphic taken from the internet) and try to scale it up so that it prints as large as you want the finished project to be, it ends up appearing blurry and jagged. This is called pixelation, the file is too small, because of the small size of the original artwork file, it lacks an adequate amount of dots to give a good look when the image is blown up to a large sign-size.
Pixels are the tiny dots that make up pictures on a computer screen. Each pixel has 3 colored dots (red, green and blue. Web graphics are created at 72 DPI (dots per inch) while print ready graphics are made at 300 DPI or more.
In order to avoid pixelation of photographic images, we recommend setting your camera to a high resolution. The files will be larger, but that is what is required. The higher the resolution, the larger the image can be printed without distortion. We can always scale down (make the image smaller) but we can’t make a small image larger without making it blurry or jagged.
Yes, Photoshop will allow you to take a small image and make it bigger, but in order to accomplish this task it will compensate for missing data by replacing existing data. The end result is always a jagged blurry image. (please do not try this at home)
Logos and text created in Adobe Illustrator (not Photoshop) are ‘Vector Graphics”. Vector graphics are
NOT pixels, but are instead simply lines and curves. They can be printed beautifully and can be enlarged to any size without any loss of resolution. The usual file format contains a file extension of .AI or .EPS at the end. It is definitely worth your while to locate and send in .AI (Adobe Illustrator) or .EPS (Encapsulated Post Scrip File.) if at all possible. You may need to go to the graphic designer who created the logo and request it.
If you cannot locate either an .AI or .EPS file, see if you have a TIF file. Sometimes an EPS or AI file is exported into a TIF format for printing purposes.
If you cannot locate one of the above, we might be able to recreate the logo. It will take designer time but it is an investment that you need if you ever want to print your logo onto anything larger than a letterhead or business card. A properly formatted logo is necessary for any type of sign.
The same is true with text as with logos. We realize that there are many “desktop” software programs where you could theoretically design your own sign or banner. These programs are great for putting your ideas down on paper, but not so good for outputting vector graphics for large signs, banners and displays.
More technical information:
Our PREFERRED format is PDF (a pdf version of vector artwork).
Adobe Illustrator files – saved as an .eps or in its native .ai format. If you are creating your files in
CorelDraw convert all fonts to curves and export the file as .ai
Raster (where relevant) – 150 DPI at 100% Output Size
Adobe Photoshop – .tif format (or .jpeg or native Photoshop .psd file)
Explanation of File Types
There are two types of art files on the computer: Vector (also known as line art) and Raster (also known as bitmap art).
VECTOR: Vector art is made up of lines and curves defined by mathematical objects called vectors. Vector art is resolution independent; therefore, it can be scaled to any size without loss of quality.
IMPORTANT: Text should be converted to outlines, paths or curves.
This way, the font suitcase and printer fonts do not need to be sent in order for us to print the art.
RASTER: Raster art is created using a program such as Adobe Photoshop, or scanned art such as a photographic image. A raster image consists of a grid, or bitmap, of small squares known as pixels. Raster images are resolution dependent (set at a fixed resolution).
IMPORTANT: Raster art should be 150 dpi at 100% output size. Higher dpi is even better. 300dpi is about as high as you would want to go, though. While various programs can offer to save files in higher resolution (600 or 1200 dpi for example), the difference in quality is not worth it (for sign purposes).
Keep in mind:
The quality of the image on your desired output is directly related to the quality of image we receive from you. Don’t worry, we will tell you when an image doesn’t meet our standard.