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Help please, starting from scratch.


New Member
Hi, great site "signs 101 ". Ok I just liquidated a biz I never liked
after 30 yrs of success thank G-d. Now I plan to open a sign biz
on the same location, I love, love love being creative and
using my brain. I am self educating via the Web. I plan to start by
offering car/truck graphics being located on a busy street and
banners etc. At this point I am looking at the Roland Colorcam
600 as my main tool. As far a software I am still kind of lost as
what to purchase. Any info or corrections to my game plan
would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely, Marc / Signpower:thankyou::signs101:


New Member

Do you already own it? If not... I would do some further research... You need to look into cost of operation.... Just my .02... If I were doing it from the start I would spend extra $$ and get a versacamm... my .02

Mike Paul

Super Active Member
I use to have one. It is only good for very small decal and maybe pick-up truck doors. I would sugest a Gerber Edge. Rock solid performance with a 12in. print head.


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
Before I can answer your question, can I ask a few?

Have you had experience with this business?

How is your graphic design experience? (not software experience but designing)

Any expereince with color correction, Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel or any other graphics programs (the tools of the trade)

Mac or PC?

Do you have any books ar gone to any other resources? like signforums, how magazine, letterhead to see the competition?

Have you talked to the competition yet?

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I'd minimize my commitments until I was certain I liked the business and had a better understanding of what benefits and drawbacks exist for your hardware and software choices.

Start with something like an Adobe Creative Suite package or CorelDraw Suite, a bridge program so you can output to a plotter and a basic vinyl cutting plotter. The rest can be farmed out to wholesale jobbers or other local shops who can't keep their $30,000 print and cut systems busy. 80% or more of what you will produce can be done efficiently with what I have described without sending the balance to outside resources.

The benefit is that you retain creative control, have time to learn what you're doing, and won't make a mistake in a major choice that you'll be living with for a long time.

The Roland PC 60 and 600 line, from what I have read, have enjoyed a much more successful marketing experience for Roland than they have had a good user experience for their customers. They have had thousands of complaints about problems outputting and have a well documented over-the-top cost of operation which will quickly eat up your up front savings on the hardware.


New Member
I agree with Fred, learn digital from your outsource first and master the vinyl plotter in house, then once your digital business will cover the overhead move into your own machine, chances are alot of things will change by then. Rick has a great point about your experience. Knowing a few software programs and having actual design knowledge is two different things otherwise I'd be a designer instead of what I do in the biz. I like your enthusiasm of the sign biz, but taking the right path will save you years of pain and money. If you are hands on with some ability to cut substrates and throw a little paint it would be to your advantage to hire a designer already skilled in sign design and learn from them. Best of luck!


O.k. I checked out your website, CNC? You obviously have some skills!


New Member
Thanks, thanks to all replies

:thankyou: I want to thank you All very much for your time and

In regard to Rick's questions...

1. I am not experienced in the sign biz.

2. In all truth I am very good at design and have worked in the
field designing biz cards, adds, and signs for friends. I also do part
time work designing wax castings for a few jewlry places.

3. I am not experienced in color correction or the graphics programs you mentioned.

4. PC only so far.

5. I am doing what I can as far as reading and working the WEB.
I will check out the sources you mentioned.

6. I am talking with the competition, those that will talk that is.
They seem to feel I should start with car graphics and banners
being that my location is on a main business street.

Correct me if Im wrong. you are all saying I shuold start out
with a vinyl cutter only, sub out any printing in the mean time.
Latter if the business demands it to buy a hi end printer/cutter
Gerber Edge.

Thanks again, Marc :thankyou:


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
That helps,
A lot of people get into this business looking at the auto/truck graphics as a step into it, Banners is a natural since they are simple, not a bad start, but there is a lot of competition, especially in your location, be prepared for it.
One way is subscribing to magazines like Signcraft, and books on truck graphic layouts and books like "Mastering Layout" by Mike Stevens or Dan Antonellis' Logos for Small Business( I think thats the title) Great resources you have on hand.
Next is if you have experience, you should some knowledge of a vector software, (Corel, Illusrator, Freehand or Canvas) Maybe you should stick to the one you are used to, and use a bridge program to start-Cocut comes to mind.
As far as a cutter printer, Roland may sound good, but look into it carefully, the money it takes to operate makes it an expensive chouce in the long run, to be honest the Edge in NOT the high end option, in fact it's more the entry level solution-when copmpared to an Arizona, Gerber Maxx, 3M Scotchprint.
With no expereince in the business, and none is color software like Photoshop, you already have a lot to learn, I would suggest finding a vendor, the area you are in must have a lot of choices, look into them before you make a choice. On the point of design experience, you were not totally clear how much, try going to www.creativehotlist.com or check out the work here, see how you compare to the better designs, it's alwys a learning experience, but you can learn a lot by the great work posted on this and other boards.
I say start posting in the portfolio section and get a feel at where you stand, if you do have a software preference, great, if not-pick one, and start immediatley in training yourself, the more practice the less it gets to putting your design into reality. Most of all have fun with it, it is a great way to release your creative side, as long as you know that design is worth something, and other sign guys have to many low ballers to compete with, try to start getting paid as quickly as possible.
On equipment and software, I have used almost every brand out there at various sign shops-the better ones I have used are Summa, Graphtecs and Gerbers.
Software, I use Illustrator to design in, I started in Corel, and it's a solid program, but since I design for print as well as for sending out to other shops, Illustrator is the most "neutral" software. Good luck on your decision and don't be afraid to ask any questions, there is a great group here.


New Member
THis is my first post on this forum, just found it today! I entered this business 2 years ago with some graphic arts talent and basic illustrator and photoshop knowledge but absolutely NO sign shop experience. (My husband & I bought the equipment from a guy who tried to be in the business for a year.) I think Fred's advice on starting out with just a plotter and outsourcing for color digital graphics is excellent advice. The plotter is our workhorse and you can do a lot of great looking stuff with cut vinyl alone, or add a little Frog Juice for color effects on your vinyl and you get even more versatility at very little cost. (Just take a look at what Superfrog does with a can of "Frogjuice" spraypaint if you get the chance.) That said, we have a Gerber Edge II printer and it is lots of fun (and useful) but if we had paid new price for it and were making monthly payments on it it would be tough to justify at this point. Good Luck!


New Member
Hi Joy, glad you found signs101. Sounds like your off to a good start in the business.


dennis j

New Member
Hi Joy, my wife and I started our sign business 4 years ago it sure does make going to work in the moring a lot easier than it use to be.:smile: