October '20

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 0 O C T O B E R G R A P H I C S P R O 2 3 shape of the sign blank. This allows you to line up all the edges. If this is not possible, use a ruler and string that can be taped to the worktable over the sign blank. Larger signs where the text cannot be cutout as typed, or if you want to nest the letters to save material costs, need a tem- plate for application. Depending on the sign size, you might use your laser or a vinyl cutter to cut a template. The mate- rial can be cardboard, paper, or even vinyl. If you use paper, the thicker the better. Again, make sure it is straight when placed against the sign blank and temporarily taped in place. If you are applying on a wall, blue painter's tape is a good choice. You may find painter's tape that comes in choices by how long it will be applied for. Shorter timeframe tapes have weaker adhesives and pull off easier without damaging the paint on the wall. Another possibility is lasering an out- line of the text and graphics directly on a sign blank. The outline must be smaller than the letters so they don't show after application. You cannot simply shrink the letter or parts of the graphics to be smaller than the pieces to be applied. That does not work for a number of rea- sons. You will want to create an inside con- tour using your vector graphics program. In Corel, follow these steps: • Select the text or graphic and from your top menu choose Effects>Contour to open the docker. • There are three settings at the top. Choose Inside Contour and use 1 for the number of steps. Your offset can vary, but should be around 0.05 (for large letters, the setting can be higher such as 0.1). • The remaining settings are not particu- larly important. Press Apply and don't worry if you don't see any changes. • With the text or graphic still se- lected from your top menu, select Object>Break Contour Apart. Now move the new contour outline away from the text or graphic. • With the outline selected, change the line thickness to a width your laser will raster (laser), rather than cut. You want to laser the image on the sign blank, not cut into it. This image is your tem- plate for application. Applying text without a template is time consuming and tricky. Applying the letters straight along a bottom line is not the only challenge. They must be applied vertically correct and spaced properly as intended by the font designer. If this is the only choice, block fonts and all caps such as Arial are by far the best choice. The last consideration is which adhe- sive to use. Will the signage be inside or outside? In the sun or shade? On a sign blank or wall? Which materials were used for the applied text and graphics, and the sign blank or wall? The correct adhesive will vary from two-sided acrylic tape for acrylic signs, acrylic glue, or even con- struction adhesive for some outside walls. If you are producing an all-acrylic plastic sign, applying thin acrylic tape (wide) to the back of the appliqué material before you cut it out is a great option. Just know that the pieces can be sticky after they are cut, which can make weeding tougher, and more delicate pieces will break easier. Two- sided tape can also be cut to size and ap- plied. This requires more labor. Liquid or gel type adhesive can be faster, just be careful of dripping. Gels are much better than watery glues. Adhesive setup time should not be too short, especially if you are new to this process or are ap- plying small pieces. Setup times of 30 to 60 seconds is reasonable for larger parts. For small pieces, you may want one to two minutes or longer. After applying, make sure the piece does not crawl or move around. Tweezers are good to use and may need to be cleaned often. Sticky glue on fingers and tweezers can quickly turn the project ugly! GP BOB HAGEL recently retired after owning Eagle's Mark Awards & Signs for 18 years in Southern California. While owning the business, he offered a full line of personalized products using laser engraving, sandcarving, and full- color UV direct print on products. Today, he consults on starting and expanding personalized businesses, and on improving production efficiency and quality. He can be reached at Contour lines created in CorelDRAW thickened to raster onto a sign blank. Left: Ready to apply the letters and graphic parts through the template onto the sign substrate. Right: A small finished sign, which was time consuming and challenging due to the tiny parts.

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