You would think that of all the things you needed to learn when starting a sign shop, making a sign would be the most difficult. In fact, it is the opposite. Actually making signs is probably the easiest thing you will have to learn and definitely the most fun. When I had purchased and set up my equipment, I was able to make my first sign within 30 minutes and hang it in front of my shop. The basic steps for making a adhesive vinyl sign are as follows:
1. Set up the cutter. To set up your plotter for cutting you simply load the vinyl, make sure it is lined up and hit the button that sets the origin (starting point) This lets the computer know the machine is ready for a job and lets it know where to start. You generally always start at the leading edge of the vinyl either to the left or right depending on the machine. Also, make sure you have enough vinyl rolled out for the machine to feed. Most machines cannot handle the drag of having to pull material off a roll. You have to pre roll it off so the machines just has to roll it back and forth. You only have to make the mistake one to see what I mean.
2. Design the sign in your Vector Graphics Program. In my program you input the size of the substrate that you will be applying vinyl to. For example, if you are making a 2 x 4 banner you would enter 24 inches for the height and 48 inches for the width. The program will show you an area that matches that size. This is an important step because it will assure you that what you cut will fit the banner. Then you simply type in what you want to say, select your font, bring in any graphics, and then send the job to the cutter.
3. Remove the material from the machine after it is cut and weed away what you don’t want. Be careful not to pull up letters that you want to keep. If you do you can put back the one that came off or recut just that letter and reapply before transfer taping. If your machine is set properly, weeding should be fairly easy. If not, it will be difficult. Running a test cut before the main job will let you know if your settings are correct. Refer to your manual for more on this subject.
4. Transfer tape your vinyl. The video below uses clear transfer tape but I prefer the paper type. I have found that the plastic clear tape creates a lot of static and pulls the vinyl to it magnetically before I am ready. I have not figured out how to avoid this so I use the standard paper tape. Once you have transfer taped just trim around the design with scissors.
5. Apply the graphic to the sign, squeegee on and remove the transfer tape. This is the final step. You can use the wet method with no hinge or the hinge method. The wet method involved peeling the backing off the graphic, spraying it with soapy water, spraying the sign, sliding the design in place, squeegeeing, and then removing the transfer tape. The hinge method is where you line up the vinyl letters, tape one edge, fold back, remove the backing, squeegee on, then remove the transfer tape.
After this step you are done. The video below will also show you all the steps.