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Hi,

I just inherited a Mac G4 and i would like to devote it to creating layouts for signs and sign boards.

I also inherited a large quantity of clip art, font packages, and borders.

I carve signs and plaques using a plunge router, various knives, chisels, and gouges and various rotary "dremel" tools.

I currently creat my designs on my pc using Broderbund Print shop Deluxe. It works ok but it is very limited and I think I can do better.

I am familiar with photoshop and a layout program called Quark Xpress on the Mac but I am willing to learn new programs.

What I need is a program that will assist me in designing precise scalable sign boards that has full capabilities using fonts, clip art, and other graphic elements.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experience that might help?

I'm looking forward to what you guys have to say.

Thanks,

Jerry
 

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Does anyone have any suggestions or experience that might help?
Hi Jerry:

One of the worlds I was attached to was the typesetting world. We used high end editors and typesetting equipment.

When I left that world, I took with me a copy of WordPerfect 1.0. I currently use ver. 8.0. I can do almost everything with WordPerfect 8.0 that I could with the galley print typesetters. Now, I can even add graphics with a broad range of options. There is also a "textart" capability with skewing and all kinds of other effects. All of the typesetting controls are there and with a good sized printer or plotter the output is accurate.

I'm glad to see you have a decent selection of fonts. I'm running about 2,364 (my display fonts are scattered across several disks) and I keep picking them up as I go along. The biggest headache are display fonts. They're either too big or too small. They look good onscreen but lousy on paper. fontspace.com has a reasonable selection of display fonts. myfonts.com has a reasonable selection of body fonts. I think both are associated with Bitstream. Their website formats are eerily similar. fonts.com has some free stuff that's pretty fanciful but maybe usable.

One of my most useful tools is the Bitstream Font Navigator. It allows me to view fonts by format (truetype vs. postscript) family, size and to display a sample text for every font. One of the restrictions of Windows is that it limits the number of installed fonts. The Font Navigator allows you to view all fonts and install/uninstall those that you need.

I would also highly recommend that you participate in the signmakers forum here on routerforums.com. They will have tips and tricks that may be of interest to you.
 

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Jerry, What OS does your Mac run? The answer is essential. As of OS 10.5 (Leopard) there are many applications that no longer run; Leopard does not have a Classic mode while earlier versions, 10.4 (Tiger) could run classic mode (OS 9.2) as a window or could start up in OS 9.2 (Panther, OS 10.3, Jaguar, OS 10.2). OS 10.0 was essentially unusable and Apple admitted as much.
As of now the only application I know of that might be what you need is Adobe Illustrator. It is difficult to get precise dimensions, and I cannot get the dimensions to show automatically. It does have the ability to make full use of the OpenType fonts. One annoying property is that the artboard is in the middle of a very large area, and it is very easy to scroll away from it and have a very difficult time finding it again. However, multiple artboards can be set up. The artboard size is set when you open a new document. Illustrator does not support multiple pages.
If you have used Quark, you might look into Adobe InDesign which is primarily a very sophisticated layout app that does have drawing tools, but nowhere near as many as Illustrator.
I used Canvas 10 but it has been taken off the market for Macs, and could not make use of OpenType/Unicode fonts but it had many capabilities I cannot duplicate in Illustrator. However, Canvas does strange things with type such as relocating isolated letters, that I cannot figure out, and often when copied into another document, the image is rotated. The WordPerfect of which Ron extols the virtues (quite correctly in my opinion, but he is clearly far more expert in it than I am so I do not feel competent to be a judge of his statements) is an application that was my primary word processor until Corel took the Mac version off the market about a decade ago. Actually I have many thousands of pages of documents in WordPerfect but when I open them in something that does run on OS 10, the images and many tables are missing. I could still run WordPerfect in OS 10.4 classic mode.

I do hope that somewhere in this rambling post there is something you find useful or at least informative.
 

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Thank you!

Ron and Tom,

Wow! In all my years asking "how to" questions on the internet I have never received such high quality or to-the-point answers. Thank you both for your expertise.

I will check out all the programs you mentioned to see how well it fit my needs.

I especially liked the two thumbs up for WordPerfect. While i haven't used a Mac in ten years, I did my Masters thesis in WP. I hadn't considered it as a design program but, with your recomendations, I think I would feel very comfortable using it.

Ron having our blessing as a typesetter gives me great confidence that WP will meet my needs. As I mentioned I have some experience with Quark and Photoshop so I hope to use them as well. I don't have great drawing skills so I'm not sure if I will get Illustrator. Because most signs are two dimensional I think a straight forward layout program will best meet my needs.

One important consideration is the ability of any program to produce PDF output files. Because I have only standard size printers, I need to send my larger projects to Kinkos for printing.

This raises a side question that you guys might answer.

How do you transfer your designs to the workpiece?

Up to this point I have been carefully scaling my designs to fit my monitor on my pc. I then take the output to Kinkos and enlarge them to actual size on their larger format printers. From doing this several times, I have discovered that Printer toner in the copiers makes an excellent transfer ink for heat transfers.

Here's my technique. I'd like to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

I reverse print my original design as a mirror image on paper using my home printer. I then head over to Kinkos to make the correct sized copies. Back in my shop, I tape the design to a prepared workpiece. Then I use the heat transfer tool that came with my standard wood burning set to heat up and transfer the toner design onto my work.

I have found this method to work pretty well. The only drawbacks are the need to make a trip to Kinkos everytime I make a new design and the time it takes to heat transfer the design to my workpiece. If there are quicker and easier transfer methods ... I'm all ears.

Here's a photo (see attachment) of a design transferred to a piece of white oak.

Returning to my Macintosh...

Unfortunately, I've learned since I posted my note that my new Mac is perhaps not so new. It is an early G4 which still runs OS 9.1. SO my first task is to get the OS updated to a more current version. The specs on the system say its compatible up to 10.4.11.

I hope that will be adequate for my needs.

I plan to use it only to create designs and get on the internet. I hope if I assemble all the correct software fonts and clip art that it will service me for many years.

Since I've begun creating signs, I have found a creative outlet that is very satisfying. Up to this point I have only carved signs for family and friends. With each project my confidence and experience grows and I am anxious to take on larger and more ambitious projects. If I could find a paying project that would be nice too.

Guys thanks again for your help. While I am new to this forum. I can already tell there is allot of experience here.

Regards,

Jerry
 

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Hi Jerry:

I will check out all the programs you mentioned to see how well it fit my needs.
Exactly. I can make all the recommendations but it boils down to the suitability for your needs.

I especially liked the two thumbs up for WordPerfect. While i haven't used a Mac in ten years, I did my Masters thesis in WP. I hadn't considered it as a design program but, with your recomendations, I think I would feel very comfortable using it.

Ron having our blessing as a typesetter gives me great confidence that WP will meet my needs. As I mentioned I have some experience with Quark and Photoshop so I hope to use them as well. I don't have great drawing skills so I'm not sure if I will get Illustrator. Because most signs are two dimensional I think a straight forward layout program will best meet my needs.
Quark and Photoshop are very useful tools. I've always been involved in publishing government reports. The covers were done by very experienced graphics artists and the guts were done by a 24hr crew that kept going until the job was done. It was remarkable how simple typesetting was but how incredibly difficult the graphics arts were.

In your example, your biggest headache is going to be upsizing. You can't take a 15 point font and blow it up to 6" type. Everything changes, the weights, the spacing etc.

I would suggest that you get a 24" dot matrix printer (garage sales is best. You may have to go through a few to find one that actually works properly) that your program will support. WordPerfect will adjust inter-character spacing using "kerning" but you won't be able to tell the results until you do a full sized print.

Take a look at the logo below. It took hours of staring at that just to figure out that the letter "C" was slightly too heavy. I haven't taken a close look at the sign but if you give it to a graphics artist, I'm sure he'll have some comments.

One important consideration is the ability of any program to produce PDF output files. Because I have only standard size printers, I need to send my larger projects to Kinkos for printing.
Pound around the garage sales for a few saturdays and you'll come across what you need. I'd use a 24" dot matrix or better still, a larger plotter.

This raises a side question that you guys might answer.

How do you transfer your designs to the workpiece?
I don't work in signs but there are fellows here that do. I would think, print out your design and glue it to the workpiece. When you're done, sand off the paper and glue.

You've also got to decide if you're going to have the design sit proud of the background or if you're going to carve into the background. If you're going to sit proud of the background, you'll need skis. If you're going to carve into the background, you'll want to paint before you remove the paper so the sanding operation will give you a clean finished look. I would suggest the "V"drum sander for that operation. However, all of this is subject to comment and approval from the sign making people.

Up to this point I have been carefully scaling my designs to fit my monitor on my pc. I then take the output to Kinkos and enlarge them to actual size on their larger format printers. From doing this several times, I have discovered that Printer toner in the copiers makes an excellent transfer ink for heat transfers.
Firstly, I would suggest a multihead configuration. Add realestate by adding monitors, not bigger monitors. I use three heads, all LCD. That means that you can now blow up the details to really refine them.

I would also suggest that you e-mail your graphics to Kinkos. If they're as savvy as Staples is here, they accept e-mail submissions. You can develop a relationship with one of their "techs" who will give you feedback on the output before you go to pick it up. That way you can tweak it before going to pick it up. Don't expect a graphics artist's expertise but some of them are pretty good.

Here's my technique. I'd like to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

I reverse print my original design as a mirror image on paper using my home printer. I then head over to Kinkos to make the correct sized copies. Back in my shop, I tape the design to a prepared workpiece. Then I use the heat transfer tool that came with my standard wood burning set to heat up and transfer the toner design onto my work.
I'm a master at picky but you're way beyond me. I'd just glue the pattern to the workpiece and cut right through it.

I have found this method to work pretty well. The only drawbacks are the need to make a trip to Kinkos everytime I make a new design and the time it takes to heat transfer the design to my workpiece. If there are quicker and easier transfer methods ... I'm all ears.

Here's a photo (see attachment) of a design transferred to a piece of white oak.
As above, try glue. Even a thin layer of white glue will work.

Returning to my Macintosh...

Unfortunately, I've learned since I posted my note that my new Mac is perhaps not so new. It is an early G4 which still runs OS 9.1. SO my first task is to get the OS updated to a more current version. The specs on the system say its compatible up to 10.4.11.
A computer never dies. The applications get bigger and slower that requires bigger and faster toys but so long as the original application doesn't change, the computer will run it for centuries. My biggest headache is operating systems. I have to use Windoz because of the install base but I'm constantly trying to switch over to Linux.

I hope that will be adequate for my needs.

I plan to use it only to create designs and get on the internet. I hope if I assemble all the correct software fonts and clip art that it will service me for many years.
Don't screw up your production machine with an internet connection. Use another system as an intermediary, especially if you're using Windoz. Not so bad on the Mac other than you'll plug up your production machine with junk.

Since I've begun creating signs, I have found a creative outlet that is very satisfying. Up to this point I have only carved signs for family and friends. With each project my confidence and experience grows and I am anxious to take on larger and more ambitious projects. If I could find a paying project that would be nice too.
You are beginning to learn. There is a rule that says every journeyman pays with 10,000 hours of apprenticeship. Never stop experimenting or learning.

Guys thanks again for your help. While I am new to this forum. I can already tell there is allot of experience here.
Now, I'm a junior here. There are others that will give you years of experience but the one thing they can't give is your experience. Return the favour as you learn, so we can all learn, and, yes, comment.
 

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