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File Preparation


General Info | Vector File Preparation | Raster File Preparation | File Formats
Applications Supported | Sending Your File | Media Supported | Scanning



GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT PREPARING GRAPHICS FILES


While it is possible to utilize your existing Logo or Graphics files some preparation is generally required to ensure the file can be used successfully.


Computer graphic files are generated in one of two ways. Vector Files are made from line segments connecting defined points. These vectors (lines) between the points can be straight or curved. Vector Files are fully scalable from small to large with little or no loss of image quality. Bit mapped or Raster Files are created with a series of dots to form the image. When the image is enlarged the image quality quickly deteriorates--the larger the image gets the poorer the image quality.


Both Vector and Raster Files can be used for signage. The file type determines the type of production methods used and the resultant costs associated with the final product. Vector files are typically used for signage with simple to moderate graphics and text. Vector files are the choice when only spot colors are used in the design. Raster Files would be used for more complicated images that require four color process, gradations, pattern fills, or blends. Typically the costs associated with producing signage using Raster Files is much greater because of the complexity of the image and the production techniques needed to achieve the end result.


Vector files are used to drive plotters, routers, engravers and laser cutters. Raster files are used for wide format digital printing.


FILE PREPARATION     [Top]


Because the file types and their uses are different, the requirements for importing the files into our computer system varies. Both Raster & Vector file types are discussed below.


SUGGESTED METHOD FOR PREPARING VECTOR FILES     [Top]


Most signage uses a different process than printing, and in most cases the computer files are different. In printing, ink is put on the paper to fill in the image (or text) area. In signage we cut colored vinyl films using an XY plotter or, using a computer controlled router or laser, create letters and graphics from dimensional material. The file formats to do printing and control computerized sign making equipment are different. Gradations, Pattern Fills, Half Tones, and Color Overlays are not generally possible when using colored vinyl films. Other processes are required to produce these effects such as silk screening (requires large quantities to be cost effective) or digital imaging. These processes typical use Raster Based Files and additional costs and production times are required.


Most sign making software is CAD (Computer Aided Design) based and runs on IBM PC type computers. We use a high-end sign making application software from Scanvec Amiable. The files we work with are vector based rather than bit mapped or raster based. If your artwork was scanned and has not been vectorized, it is probably a bit mapped or raster graphic. You must have artwork that can be point/vector edited in Adobe Illustrator®, Corel Draw® or similar programs--files created in these or similar programs are most likely vector graphics. Graphic images that you import into these programs are usually bit mapped graphics. Graphics from programs like PageMaker®, PowerPoint®, and Microsoft Word®, etc. generally will not work. The file formats these programs create are not compatible or the resultant file is unusable. If you have an image in one of these programs see Scanning Your Image.


Listed below are our suggestions for file preparation. We have a good success rate using files that have been properly prepared. After you have prepared the file, bring or send it to us, and we will evaluate it and let you know the results.


1. Make a working copy of your vector file so that you will not destroy your original.

2. Eliminate all shading, half-tones, gradients or fills, layering, overprints and transparencies.

3. Make sure that all graphic images are vector graphics (many programs have functions or utilities to convert bit mapped images to vector based graphics).

4. Convert all fonts (text) to vector graphics. Your software should have a function called "Text To Curves" or "Make Outlines" or a similar command. Check your applications documentation or the applications help file for more assistance. By converting the text to vectors we will have your text in the correct font without needing to have the font itself.

5. Print out two copies of the image at the best resolution possible (at least a 300 dpi resolution). Indicate the colors desired on one copy and leave the other copy as printed. If all else fails we may need this second copy for scanning.

6. You are now ready to export your file. Because every application program does things differently, we strongly encourage you to output the file in several different formats. It is important to note that Exporting is not always the same thing as Saving a file. It depends on the Application program being used.

7. If you are working on a PC system and have one of the applications we support, also provide a copy of your original file from that application.


SUGGESTED METHOD FOR PREPARING RASTER FILES     [Top]


Resolution of the output image needs to be kept in mind when designing and saving your graphics files. A 300 DPI (dots per inch) file that is 3" x 5" in your program will be less than 40 DPI when printed at 24" x 40" on a moderate size sign. To achieve good image quality your DPI should be a minimum of 100 DPI at the final output size.


Avoid graphic files created for web page use. These files are of low resolution and are designed to be viewed on a CRT monitor in a small size and to load quickly. If you expect to use these files for anything larger than they were intended you will be disappointed with the quality of the output. In general, we can make your file bigger, we can't make it better. Listed below are our suggestions for file preparation. We have a good success rate using files that have been properly prepared. After you have prepared the file, bring or send it to us, and we will evaluate it and let you know the results.


1. Make a working copy of your raster file so that you will not destroy your original.

2. Make sure any images, logos, or linked files are included as part of the file. Linked images generally cause problems. If you are unable to embed these images into your file make sure you also provide those images to us and indicate on the drawing their placement and size.

3. Convert all fonts (text) to curves or outlines. Your software should have a function called "Text To Curves" or "Make Outlines" or a similar command. Check your applications documentation or the applications help file for more assistance. By converting the text to curves or outlines we will have your text in the correct font without needing to have the font itself.

4. Print out a copy of the image at the best resolution possible in full color. If using PantoneĀ® colors indicate the color.

5. You are now ready to export your file. Because every application program does things differently, we strongly encourage you to output the file in several different file formats (see below for those we support and prefer). It is important to note that Exporting is not always the same thing as Saving a file. It depends on the Application program being used.

6. If you are using one of the applications we support, provide a copy of your original file from that application.


SUPPORTED FILE FORMATS     [Top]


.ai, (Adobe Illustrator) - Raster or Vector Preferred
.bmp (Windows Bitmap) - Raster
.dwg (AutoCAD) - Vector (can be a problem)
.dxf (AutoCAD) - Vector (can be a problem)
.eps (Encapsulated Postscript)- Raster or vector Preferred
.hpgl, .plt (Hewlett Packard Plotter Files) - Vector
.pdf (Adobe Acrobat) - Raster/Vector
.psd (Adobe Photoshop) - Raster Preferred
.wm (Microsoft Windows Metafile) - Vector
.tif (Tiff Bitmap) - Raster Preferred


APPLICATIONS WE SUPPORT     [Top]


We have the following programs and can of course read files from these packages on the PC platform. If you are using a Mac product there is still an excellent chance that we can read your Mac files.

Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Photoshop
FlexiSign 7.6 (Specialized software for the sign industry)

Most graphic programs can save a file as an Encapsulated Postscript file (.eps). You can export your graphics file to an .eps file making sure any fonts are converted to outlines/curves. Most PDF files can also be used if created with more recent applications.


GETTING YOUR FILE TO US     [Top]


You can mail or ship a disk, or E-Mail the file to us , or upload a file to our server. It should be noted that file sizes in excess of 10 MB will not be accepted by our e-mail server and files large than 100 MB will be rejected via the upload method. Larger files should be compressed using WINZIP or STUFFIT before being sent to us; or, provide the files on a CD or USB stick. If you are sending a vector file it does not need to be compressed and we would prefer that it is NOT.


MEDIA TYPES WE SUPPORT     [Top]

If putting the file on disk we prefer that the disk is formatted for PCs (if you provide a Mac disk we can generally work with it, however a slight additional charge could apply in extreme cases. We support the following media types:


CD-ROM Drive (both CDR & CDRW)
USB Drive


If you need assistance or want additional help on this procedure, call us at (408) 956-8271 or send us E-Mail.

When we attempt to import your file one of several outcomes can occur.

    • The file will convert with no problems and we only need to resize and place the image: There will be a one time $10 charge per file for this conversion.
    • The file will convert, but there will be problems with the graphics which we will need to correct: We will show you the scope of work required if you are here in person or discuss it with you over the telephone. We will also provide a firm quote for cleaning up the file to the level required for signage. Typically, this one-time charge runs $60 and up depending on the amount of work required.
    • We can not use the file and will have to scan your artwork as described below.


SCANNING YOUR IMAGE (The Last Resort)     [Top]


If electronic artwork is not available, or will not work properly, we can take clean camera-ready black and white artwork such as Ad Slicks, PMTs, Stats, Linotronic prints, or similar artwork, scan them, vectorize the image and make any necessary corrections required. The better the quality of the original artwork the less costly this scanning and cleanup process will be. The maximum scanning size we can support is 8.5" x 14". We get better results with a 600 dpi laser printer image on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper than we doing trying to scan an image from a business card. We will give you an estimate for recreating your artwork by scanning and cleaning it into a useable vector based format. Depending on the complexity and number of colors, this one-time charge will run $60 and up. Once we see your actual artwork we can give you a firm quote. As a general rule of thumb, the larger and cleaner the artwork provided, the less time and resultant cost will be needed to make the image or graphic usable.