Why You Should Invest in True Sign Making Software
Everyone always claims that their software is the best. This article has taken a few of the foremost signage specific software products and gives you insight into what makes them worthy to take their seat in your shop. Read on to learn more.
By Daniel Montañez
Why should I invest in true sign making software?
In the world of sign making and creation there are many ways of accomplishing the design and finally the production of customer signs. This article will go into the differentiation between mainstream design software and true sign making software. We will concentrate mainly on the three leading sign packages available on the market listed as follows:
- CADlink Inc. SignLab™ Print and Cut 7.1 Revision 1
- Scanvec Amiable Inc. - FlexiSIGN-PRO 7.6 v1
- Gerber Scientific Products OMEGA™ CP 2.1
SignLab™ Print and Cut 7.1 revision 1
This sign making software is produced by CADlink Inc., a company dedicated to the sign making industry. CADlink Inc. offers a full line of software aimed at optimizing the workflow of a sign maker, whether large-format printing, vinyl cutting or routing and engraving.
When looking to compare the mainstream design applications such as Adobe® Illustrator, Photoshop, or CorelDraw®, to SignLab, it is easy to look just at the price difference between them and come to the conclusion that the mainstream design applications will suffice. We will look at the purchase from a traditional sense of “Return on investment”.
SignLab offers precision tools developed with the sign maker at heart. Inside this software you will find the following:
- Vectorization tools for easy transformations of picture into plot files.
- Contour Cutting tools for combining picture and line objects to form exciting signage.
- Large format Printer drivers
- Profile creation capabilities using your scanner
- Drivers for Vinyl Cutters
- Measurement tools for exact spacing when measuring sign placement.
- And much more…
These tools pose an extreme advantage for the sign maker to finish a project without the need to jump from application to application as would be the case when working with mainstream design software, allowing for more production time.
SignLab Color Management
Upon creating files in the mainstream applications, and figuring that all drivers for your printer are available, there is still the need of purchasing color management software and equipment to maintain consistent output control.
Using the new SignLab Print and Cut 7.1 Revision 1 software, these steps of purchase are not necessary. SignLab comes with a profile creation module that allows one to both linearize and create ICC profiles for your large format printers. Having this control tightly knitted into your application allows for exploring new media at a better cost reducing your overall operating cost.
Employee Learning Curve
Employees carry their tendencies of learning that may reduce or increase the time needed to have a profitable situation. Training an employee to make file corrections in the different programs, plus be creative in design can lead to months of hands-on training that can add frustration to the workplace.
The strategy of training in one software application leads to faster, more productive employees. With import filters from many applications, files can be received and opened. The resulting factor using SignLab is that even with high employee turnover, a company is able to quickly reset themselves into production mode.
The decision at this point whether to use a sign making software such as SignLab Print and Cut or using the leading mainstream design software becomes rather easy. Hands down, if you are a sign maker your best investment is the sign making software.
FlexiSIGN-PRO, the comprehensive sign software from Scanvec Amiable, offers a wide variety of features for sign makers. At its price tag for the full Pro version, there may be a temptation to purchase basic graphics programs as an alternative. The reasons quickly become clearer once introduced to FlexiSIGN-PRO. It has everything bundled that a user would need to make today’s contemporary signs. From scanning and vectorizing to raster editing to outputting to a plotter or large format printer, the full gamut necessary for sign making is available as part of the FlexiSIGN-PRO software package.
Graphic arts and illustration programs do a great job with those applications for which they are designed. Unfortunately, sign making is not one of them. The toolsets in FlexiSIGN-PRO are designed with vinyl cutting and digital printing in mind. Create an outline in the program and you have a fully vectorized, cuttable object. Try creating an outline in a graphics program and you’ll likely get a raster object that cannot cut.
Output the vector data to a plotter/cutter with FlexiSIGN-PRO and a window opens with full preview display and functions that easily allow the user to re-orient the objects, tile the cuts, even nest multiple jobs. With graphics programs the data must be sent to an additional program that is bolted on and the flow of designing comes to a grinding halt.
Graphic User Interface
One of the biggest advantages of FlexiSIGN-PRO is the ease of use the program offers. Every function of the program from designing to outputting is available without the necessity to switch screens or open other programs. No argument that certain graphics programs are powerful applications allowing a wide variety of functions. The problem is that they’re not very intuitive. Much time can be spent staring at the screen or searching for the right tools. With little guidance, even the beginning sign maker can be designing signs and outputting in a couple of hours using FlexiSIGN-PRO and its user friendly list of pull down menus and icons.
RIP for Color Management
I cannot stress strongly enough the need for a RIP when printing on large format devices. Certain printers ship with a Windows driver that allows direct communication to graphics programs. While you can print in this method, a partial list of the advantages you have with the FlexiSIGN-PRO RIP over the Windows driver is as follows:
- Nesting- efficiently arranging the jobs to reduce media waste.
- Tiling or Paneling- printing a job that is wider than the available media by outputting it in sections.
- Using custom ICC profiles- profiles for specific workflow created in the Scanvec Amiable software for the FlexiSIGN-PRO program.
Certain printers will only print through a RIP, so one would need to purchase this in any instance.
While one may be enticed to use a less expensive graphics program in an attempt to emulate what FlexiSIGN-PRO offers, the end result is that the cost of assembling all of the functionality that is standard in FlexiSIGN-PRO still extends into the thousands. FlexiSIGN-PRO is actually the less expensive alternative when you run the numbers.
Finally, when you assemble the bundle of programs together and begin using it, who are you going to turn to for support? You have multiple companies trying to support your single workflow. With FlexiSIGN-PRO you have a single contact for support, making the entire process much easier. One program, one company is cheaper than the equivalent alternative. It makes for an easy decision.
Omega CP 2.1
Gerber Scientific Products develops the OMEGA CP 2.1 sign making software. This is the leading software on the market when dealing with the Gerber Scientific line of printers, cutters and routers. This software is developed along with many other products dedicated at sign design and creation for today’s sign makers.
OMEGA CP creates a different set of variables that have no comparison in any of the mainstream design and illustration software. A unique set of parameters that allow for extreme control of your output devices and the chosen media or foils.
Mainstream design and illustration packages are generalized in their usability, and therefore do not give the best possible use or productivity of the purchased equipment. In any truly successful sign making business, the key to continual growth and profitability is the extent to which the workflow has control elements. Using the OMEGA CP 2.1 many different control points are added to your workflow to get the best use of speed, production and overall color control.
Vinyl Color and media libraries are quickly viewable on screen in the Composer part of the OMEGA software. Fonts are also not a problem as OMEGA CP includes a true type font converter that allows for a more comprehensive library of usable fonts. Color within the workflow is controlled not only in the traditional CMYK sense but also by letting you see what happens to color when printed in a different order or when mixed with spot colors.
Expanding your business in different directions is a normal part of growth. Growth then triggers the purchasing of machines that not only cut vinyl, but also print or even a route. Having software that is backed by a company involved in all these diverse applications lessens the need for employee trainings and heightens the support received. OMEGA CP allows you to have the versatility to add these new machines as just an add-on to the current workflow, as compared to trying to find mainstream software for each part.
Spot Color Control
Nothing is more unique to Gerber’s equipment, than the ability to print specific spot color through its thermal transfer device the “EDGE®”. Foil and clear media become a big challenge for the conventional software for design and illustration, and Plug-ins are needed to get just sub par use of the aforementioned transfers. Using the OMEGA CP software, each one of these elements becomes a natural part of design. Overprints and Trapping of these opaque transfers can be easily assigned within the software for flawless prints or labels.
The conclusion that can be arrived at when comparing the two kinds of software is that each software has a place and an industry for which it was intended. Mainstream design and illustration packages have a generalized mode for operation that leaves many gaps in any sign makers workflow. The result is the need for a much different software for each sign application and a variety of support nightmares, which typically end up costing more than the upfront purchase of a sign making software.
If you are considering entering sign making or have started on the path using only mainstream software, we would urge that you seriously consider the above-mentioned sign making software. The time and materials saved will more than make up the difference in upfront cost, while keeping your growing pains to a minimum.
About the Writer:
Daniel Montañez is a principle owner with Tuned Color which offers Training and Workflow Consultation for Large Format Printing companies. You may contact him by visiting: http://www.tunedcolor.com or call 267-672-9962.