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New Member
Here's a question I asked Fred, which he answered...but he told me to post it and get a variety of answers so here it is...

I'm a screen printer as you may remember from one of my posts...We just bought a Graphtec FC5100 30" cutter...My question is how do I get started? Say I'm doing a 4'X8' sign, just text...When I Start a new file in AI for the artwork what size should I make it? I have a plug-in for AI called Cutting Master that came with the cutter and think I can figure out the outputting to the cutter, but I'm just not sure how to start the process size wise.

Also...Do I need a stand alone "sign designing" software or is Illustrator enough? Are there any tutorials out there dealing with sign making corresponding to AI? Does anyone wanna come spend a week with me and teach me everything you know for free? I'll buy your lunch...We have a McDonalds right across the street....:biggrin:


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
It helps to get CadTools, that way you can design in scale.

Always start in a scale your page can print your design, that way you can print it out in a scale to your customer and use the drawing for placing the vinyl in the exact location using the drawing as a real scaled reference.

I use Illustrator 99.5% of the time for designing signs, and not just flat panels either. If you are in the habit of adding a lot of effects, outlines, inlines, shadows with distortions then it will take you a little longer on Illustrator then compared to Flexi-sign, Signlab or some other program.

The big thing is learning "expand" "expand transparencies" for vectorizing your outlines and the "pathfinder" tools for uniting, cutting out front or back....lots of practice.


New Member
I use CorelDraw and it allows you to draw in scale w/o needing the Cadtools add-on like for Illustrator. They are both good programs and will suit you well, I just decided to use Corel from the start. I've not used Illustrator very much at all, but I found it cumbersome - I just couldn't ever seem to get the hang of it. That's just me and I know MANY use it with great success.


New Member
Everything I know for FREE? Sounds like a fair swap, seeing as how you are in Florida. You'd probably give ME the boot by noon on Monday.

But you'd have to pay me to eat at McDonald's How about libations? Can I get tanked before class starts? :Big Laugh

But, seriously. http://www.signtoolsusa.com/cat1_1.htm
If you want inexpensive vector to vinyl software - SignTools looks great.
may not have drivers for FC3100. :Oops:

Me, I love VinylMasterPro. Same as Chris, Illustrator is a Ferrari and only need a go-kart.


Bill Modzel

New Member
Well Dead, methinks you worry too much.
There's no reason not to design full size in Illustrator unless you are doing semi trailers or billboards. You are dealing with vector graphics so file size is a non-issue.

The cutting master plug in is wonderful in it's simplicity. I have mine set up to "plot selected items only" which works great. (I'm on a Mac here). If you have a multi color sign you just select the color/item that you want to cut and send it over to the Graphtec. You'll have to turn the fonts to outlines of course but a "command Z" will go back to fonts in an instant.

Pay attention to Rick's admonishment to "expand" any items that you use distortions or other "effects" on. Illustrator now has live distortions which makes them fully editable. They will not cut like they look thought until you expand them.


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
There are rulers and an info box to tell you the size.

On the CadTolls VS Corel scale tools, Corel tools are good, especially because they do a good job for no extra dough. CadTools on the other hand is way better >IF< you have the need for it's features and can afford it, at 250 bucks, I agree it is steep if you only occasionally use it. I design within the CadTools Tools and I set layers for different scales if I need to show a sign to a human scale, or a detaled view for approval.

Before Cadtools I would design or at least make the shape I needed full size, then scale it down 8.333 % for 1"=1'-0- scale, then size it to a usable scale within an Architectural scale that fits the page space. After approval, ready for output, size it full size and cut away on my Flexi-Cut....(on my Mac I used SignPost)

Bill Modzel

New Member
Rick, nice to hear from another Signpost user. I have a little tip that might apply to some user here. I have a Graphtec 5100-75. I have it plugged into my G4 using the USB connection and their own Cutting master plug in.
I also have my G3 plugged into the serial port on the Graphtec. Signpost is installed on the G3. Depending on whose cutting vinyl that day I can switch from G3 to G4 just by hitting a few buttons on the Graphtec and switching from HPGL to GPGL language. It only takes a few seconds and really helps with the workflow around here.


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
My signpost sits in a box, have not used it since the powermac upgrade. It was given to me from my boss after he went to Flexi-Sign, I hooked it up to my Quadra for quite a while.
So Max Taylor is still making it work on later models huh?


New Member
Thanks you guys! You've been a lot of help...just used the cutter on Friday and it wasn't as God-Awful hard as I thought it would be...of couse I did a some simple cutting...just text for our back door...I can't wait to do a real job so I can post it...now I gotta learn to --- VECTORIZE!


New Member
I use Ricks 8.333% method quite often to reduce full size work down to a printable page size that can also easily be scaled with a 1" = 1'-0" architectuiral scale

Another simple scale I use to draw in Illustrator is 1/10th
If I want to draw out a realestate blank I enter 1.8 x 2.4
then If I want my 1/4" border to be 1/2" in from the edge I draw a box 1.7" x 2.3" then another one 1.65" x 2.25"

If you are comfortable with math, just moving a decimal is so easy to do in your head.

I do most of the layout of text & logos by visually creating what looks good to me with no regard for size untill the layout is done.

For measuring I often just use the square tool to draw a box around something, then I can click once with the box tool (I think I hold the alt key to) & it brings up a display of the last box I drew showing the size (at 1/10th scale) of that element. If something is just to big to fit the vinyl, or to fit it twice... I can create a 1.3" box to show me my 13" cutting capacity on my Graphtec... then I can slightly scale down any items that might have uneccessarilly wasted some vinyl.

I use CasMate also, & can design everything at full size, & like Bill said, on smaller stuff, you can adjust the page size in Illustrator to work full size their to... but after years of doing it, the 1/10th method is a no-brainer for me, & allows the drawing to already be sized to fit the paper to print out a proof. Also, an engineer scale will work to read 1/10th scale the same way an architects scale will read 1" = 1'-0"

You can also create at 1/10th enjoying the simplicity of just moving the decimal, & then when you're done, scale it up 1000% to full size & then down to 8.333% to have the 1" = 1'-0" scale drawing.

scott pagan

New Member
Techman said:
If illustrator would just put in some rulers and a measuring device then it would be great..

they're there if you know where to look for them. :smile:

[ctrl]+R toggle rulers on/off
[ctrl]+[alt]+; toggle guides lock on/off
under the eyedropper in the toolbox menubar (click n drag to see all items) there's a ruler icon, select it and click to click, in the info box will be you "hidden" measurements.

i work at 100% / 50% / 25% in illy at all times. so output is 100% / 200% / 400%. that's what works best for my setup, and i do full wrap trailers for most of our production work.