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A Digital Imaging Alternative

By Pat Moorehead

Sub-contracting digital vinyl printing can be costly. This is especially true if you mess up and need something reprinted.

mod_c1.jpg - 5.96 KAfter experiencing a Butch "Superfrog" Anton workshop, I started using his Norwegian Airbrush technique whenever I could. It’s a great way to add special effects to vinyl (Sign Business Magazine-July 1997 issue) and is priced about 1/10000th of the cost of a thermal resin printer (also discussed in the same issue).

mod_c2.jpg - 7.14 KOne day a customer handed me a page from a magazine and wanted ‘something like this’, about a 5’x 2’ oval, put on the side of his horse trailer. The first thing I thought of was having a digital print made. Not only is it a printed photo, he only wanted 3 horses, in a different order and the riders wearing different hats. That in itself is tough with photo-editing software. I went to work on a digital quote. I looked at him said it would be about $400. By the time he got up off the floor, I remembered the FROG! I said I could do something really nice by hand for half that and I got the down payment.mod_c3.jpg - 4.59 K

In our shop, we use CorelDraw 7, but the following can be done with most signmaking software. First I scanned the image and then converted it to black and white, 1 bit. The resulting image was then traced and saved as a vector file. The next step was to alter the artwork to the customer's approval and finally do the final scale drawing. Notice I omitted the grass, It’s easier to add by hand later. mod_c4.jpg - 4.04 K

The majority of the sky’s color in mind, GSP Apricot was chosen as the base. Since they want an oval final image, I plot the vinyl, but do not weed it yet. Using the scale drawing as a guide, I determine the horizon line, then ‘eyeballing’ the photo I start spraying the sunlight, clouds and highlights with Krylon right from the can. Be sure to have adequate ventilation or you’ll feel like you just got home from a Grateful Dead tour.mod_c5.jpg - 4.38 K

If Krylon isn’t available, find it (no other paint I’ve tried will work as well). Spray on some paper or something else to be sure the nozzle works right and get a feel for the spray pattern. I start with yellow, because it is the most distant, then red, and last, warm brown. You don’t necessarily have to wait for complete dryness between colors, but care should be used to not apply too much paint in one spot or crinkling will occur. Clean your ‘airbrushes’ by holding upside down and spraying until no paint comes out. As the paints dry, I plot and weed the black silhouettes.mod_c6.jpg - 4.86 K

The black vinyl is now applied to the weeded oval and trimmed to fit. Now, lets do the grass (no Dead jokes here). I use a really cheap brush that I have cut most of the hair out of . Spray some black Krylon into a small container, and then using careful little strokes, add the blades of grass.mod_c7.jpg - 6.80 K

NOTE: If you get paint in the background it WILL NOT wipe off without taking the other colors with it. When the black dries, a clear coat of the entire image with some Frog Juice (Sunscreen 7000) finishes the job. Allow the clear to dry, mask it (low tack if ya got it) and the graphic is ready for application just like any large format print.mod_c8.jpg - 3.65 K

Unless a true photographic image is needed this saves the customer about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost of digital and it’s done in house. The customer was very happy with the job and now wants a picture of his dog on the front. Sit boy! Stay.

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This 12'x8' MDO was quoted using a digital vinyl print of an architectural rendering and vinyl lettering at $2500. By ‘froggin’ it at $1500, I made the customer a more cost effective alternative and myself some good money. By using this technique, you can do the same in your shop!

Pat and his wife, Jan Orick, operate MOD, Moorehead Orick Design in Columbus, Ohio USA. In his spare time, he is a moderator in the Signmaking discussion area of Chris Dickman’s i/us website and serves on the Board of Directors for the Columbus Computer Society. (This is because he is really bored since the Grateful Dead no longer tour.)

Take a few minutes and visit the Moorehead Orick Design website or drop them some e-mail. Thanks for sharing this with us Pat!

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