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Best Sign Program

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  • Best Sign Program

    What are some of the better user friendly sign/design programs out there? Starting a sign business and have no experience or training with the different software? I know I'm brave lol

  • #2
    Hi Racerchick and welcome to GDF.

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    • #3
      Starting a sign business and don't know anything about software? Not to sound rude (although I may) but if you aren't familiar with one of the main pieces of the business, why are you starting the business? If you don't know the software, I'm also going to assume that you don't know the hardware, as they usually go hand-in-hand. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.


      • #4
        A sign business? As in large-format printing, screen printing, neon, posters, banners, billboards, sheet metal, vinyl, foam core, composites, what?

        As for user friendliness, I'm not sure why you're looking for that. Will you be taking in artwork from designers? If so, you'll need the software they use, which is pretty much the core Adobe programs. Are you thinking people will be coming to you and asking you to design and fabricate the signs in the program of your choice? If so, that'll be a serious constraint on the extent of your possible customers.

        I admire your bravery, and there may very well be more to the story to make your new endeavor seem a bit more realistic. Short of that, though, I need to echo what Cosmo just said.


        • #5
          Remember what I said about people with printers = receptionist with photoshop?

          Good luck with that.


          • #6
            Signage isn't entry level stuff. I've been working in the printing industry for 10+ years but I wouldn't go and start printing signage. Not only will you need to know how to set everything up for print, you'll have to troubleshoot supplied files. Without years of experience, it would be impossible for you to identify even the most basic problems.

            If you're interested in signage, see if you can get some work experience at a sign shop. I doubt anyone would hire you without experience, but you might get some insight at the world you're trying to get into. Once you've had a few years experience working full time in signage and you still think it's a good idea, get a huge loan, buy a bunch of gear and start your own business.
            It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


            • #7
              I've been doing signage for nearly 20 years. We don't do any of the really large drop or ''banner'' printing nor any of the specialty printing like long term outdoor materials that are highly specialized. It's most outsourced mainly because there are so many different types of printing, so many different types of signage, so many variables for getting the work done, so many ways for things to go wrong (profiles, inks, media, machines, finishing, print heads, mechanics, yada yada yada) and we just don't have the customer volume to support the cost of the actual bigger machinery.
              And still I wouldn't start up a sign shop.
              I see what my vendors go through in time, sweat, and materials.
              No one wants to get into the print industry if they've never done it before.
              But a lot of people do.
              Buyer beware.


              • #8
                Thanks, but I actually came for some help, not to get ignorant feedback. Everyone has got to start somewhere.


                • #9
                  You got help, just not the help you wanted. Calling it ignorant was unnecessary. You got solid advice from people who have been in the sign business for years. And Buda addressed a great way to start.
                  Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


                  • #10
                    The best software for the job would be illustrator. I'm sure there are other options that are cheeper and easier to use, but with less capabilities.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Racerchick View Post
                      Thanks, but I actually came for some help, not to get ignorant feedback. Everyone has got to start somewhere.
                      You came here to ask a question on a subject you know very little about.

                      The feedback you got was from people who've been directly and professionally involved in printing, design, sign making and creative direction with a collective experience of, maybe, 125 years, or so. You got variations of the same response from all of us for the simple reason that the shared knowledge and experience we have (that you're ironically referring to as ignorance) lead us to tell you something different from what you'd hoped to hear.

                      Well, OK. Good luck with it, but I'm afraid luck won't take you all that far without the skills and expertise to back it up.


                      • #12
                        So many unskilled people do this, just open a business in our field that they know nothing about. I don't know how many of them I have ran across in my time, thanks to client choice (forcing me to use them). And of course the job goes haywire during their learning curve but they always managed to make it look like it was my fault because they had the previous relationship before I came along.


                        • xi93ix
                          xi93ix commented
                          Editing a comment
                          So, so, true. I work with a print shop that cannot accurately print CMYK files... No concept of color management and actually asked for RGB files over CMYK. Then guess who looks bad when things go wrong???

                        • PrintDriver
                          PrintDriver commented
                          Editing a comment
                          If you are doing wide format, and depending on what kind of CMYK files you are talking about (image or layout), and if you are using CMYK instead of pantone color matching, I wouldn't blame the print shop if your stuff doesn't look ''accurate.'' With CMYK, there is no ''accurate''. CMYK prints ''as is''' by the numbers in wide format (using the machine/media profile provided by the media company.) It won't necessarily match anything you've gotten done on a standard press, and it certainly won't match any Pantone color you have in mind. If you apply Pantone Solid Coated, the matches will be much closer to your intent. Probably one of the most common phone calls I make is to find out if the logo or corporate colors being used have Pantone equivalents. It's surprising how often they don't, or I'm told to ''just print it'' with the expectation by the designer that it'll match stuff being printed elsewhere. You could go to 3 different sign shops with CMYK files and get 3 totally different prints depending on machine, inkset and media.

                          As for RGB files, I'd ask you for those in two instances.
                          1. If you are doing lambda or lightjet prints which are both an RGB print process!
                          2. If you want us to apply our specific machine/media CMYK profiles to your images. Those aren't available in your programs. The RGB color space has more color info available in the file for a more accurate profile conversion, assuming you haven't already changed them to CMYK. Once you go from RGB to CMYK and save it, all that extra RGB gamut is dumped, never to be seen again. Wide format machine/ink color gamuts are much much wider than conventional CMYK presses. Your stuff might look better if we do the conversion. Especially flesh tones. Not all shops offer that though. If yours is doing it, and doing it right, you've found a rarity.
                          Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-03-2017, 04:24 AM.

                      • #13
                        I had another look through and I couldn't find any ignorant feedback. All the feedback was professional with years of experience behind it. I'm sorry you didn't hear what you wanted to hear.

                        Did you want me to say: GIMP is an image software that free and anyone, even a child can use it. I wouldn't use it personally, but you should start your company on GIMP.

                        OK. Good luck.
                        It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


                        • #14
                          Actually Illustrator is pretty stupid compared to the top line sign-softs. And it does not often interface directly with the output devices you are going to be using to create signs. The signware developers know what it means to design for signs and how to output to the various specialized devices or rips. You can do things in single clicks in the major signwares that Illustrator does really poorly with extensive work-arounds (like extruded outlines with solid dropshadows.)

                          But you know what? Unless you are a designer in a sign shop, you never see a design created in a sign software from the outside creatives. You would need Illustrator, Indesign and Photoslop to interface with the buying public then know how to interface that with your sign machinery. Plus you need a whole host of ''can-openers'' for those things clients send you not made in Adobewares, and for fixing some files that are created in Adobewares, plus rip softwares and printer drivers, not to mention a whole bunch of other equipment to finish whatever signs you print, some of that equipment with software interfaces of their own that may even require CAD skills.

                          There isn't one ''sign program.''

                          There's also a whole legal side to sign making as well; the regulations on air quality, sign zoning bylaws, ADA requirements, OSHA requirements, fire marshals, police details, insurance of all kinds, ...and on and on.

                          If you want to open a sign shop, start by working at one. At least for five years. Ten would be better. Then maybe you'll be ready.
                          Last edited by PrintDriver; 04-06-2016, 08:04 PM.


                          • praxis11
                            praxis11 commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Assuming solid drop shadows are even desirable, that's hard for you to do in illustrator?

                          • PrintDriver
                            PrintDriver commented
                            Editing a comment
                            If you look at the common themes of signage right now, in the areas where vinyl and car wraps and stickers for dirt bikes rule, that big old fat dropshadow/outline look is very popular and almost an essential thing.

                            Using Extrude in Illustrator to get that look, you have to turn off the lights in the program, use a solid color fill then go back and weld all the shapes together so you don't get crossing lines in your vinyl cut, then fix any stitching and stray points. No I don't have trouble doing it in Illustrator. I can do it nearly 10x faster in the sign soft I use because they know exactly what extrude should do. No crossing lines. No multiple bits. That's why I often ask people who post here to show the Outline View of the logo they've created. There are production skills beyond making the pretty picture. Just the other day I whacked a poster here with a rolled newspaper for ''covering things with white rectangles.''

                            There are other things that sign softs do that Illustrator requires you use multiple clicks. Arrays are another one. Sure you can set up your shapes and Command D all you want or fiddle with the Pattern palette. Or you can select a radio button and type in 2 or 3 numbers.

                            Illustrator only recently added the Edit line tool and a little bit more useful Join command (though it sometimes still likes to join two totally unintended points...) The sign softwares have been doing that for as long as I've used them - nearly 20 years.

                            There are also shortcuts in signware that work with no fill in much the same way as the divide or minus front do in Illustrator.

                            Signwares also don't make stupid miter math errors (spikes or flat cuts) when doing offset paths. You can also view your tool path if sending something to the CNC. I used to laugh when I saw a tool path for a half inch bit appear around a single point. That would put a 1'' hole someplace you probably didn't intend to put it. Do that in a piece of $600 Moz metal and your boss gets very unhappy. But now the newer CNC softwares will detect and advise on the presence of stray points and looped bezier handles.

                            Yeah, most designers wouldn't and don't have a use for having a signware to design, but in the sign industry, knowing the tools you need to avoid $600+ errors? Takes practice and experience.

                            The new printers that print directly to substrates are another good example. When those things came out in the early 2000s, many of us in the industry laughed and said, ''yeah, blow a print on that thing and you blow a whole 4x8 sheet of material.LOLOLOL.'' We aren't laughing so much now and put everything from cheap PVC to 6-panels doors through them. Blowing a single sheet either in printing or in the CNC finishing, while not common, does still happen. You need someone who knows what they are doing -- and a good recycling program in place.
                            Last edited by PrintDriver; 04-07-2016, 07:33 AM.

                        • #15
                          I used easy cut studio software, it can help me cut out the graphics.






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