I would like to offer some insight in graphic development for vinyl applications. Better results come from not only using higher quality vector artwork, but some art techniques as well. The quality of the graphic will not only determine your ability to edit and customize, but also to cut, weed, apply, and press. Not all artwork is created equal, and not all vector artwork is good for cutting.
The ‘Simplifying’ of a design is a production process that a good artist in the imprint industry will learn sooner or later. Most of us consider graphics and artwork better as it gets more and more detailed and complicated. This is not best for most applications.
Size and amount of detail. No one wants to spend all day weeding out teeny tiny sections of an overly complicated design. Making sure that your art is simplified as much as possible will help save time. First think about the size of the applied design. How much, and what areas of the art will not be seen, noticed, or missed. Eliminating these sections from your graphic using a node-selection tool, eraser, or crop tool, can save a great deal of frustration later.
Next consider any outlines in your design, and how they may be simplified as well. A good example is simple lettering or numbers. Ask yourself a question: Can I just cut the outline, instead of the entire graphic? This might be a good option to save time. Cutting just outlines (or cutting just center content) may not save us any material.; But we are certainly saving the weight, hand, and breathability of the garment, making the client much happier in the long run. Also, don’t be afraid to mention to the customer those little things you do to make sure they are happy. We all pride ourselves, in some degree, in quality and service.
Graphic relevance and alternative options. Of course, if we are cutting a very specific logo for a customer, we must re-create and apply that exact logo. Remembering the section above, also consider offering additional options to the client. This is an easy way to direct the design towards a more production ready format. Try saying: “I noticed your name / number / mascot / design is something like we have done before, and recommend that we use this option to make sure we get great results.” This lets the customer know that you really are looking out for them. This lets you use a font / outline / stock image / or quality vector graphic (clipart) that will ultimately make things easier in production too.
Over the decades technology has entered our industry more and more. I cannot stress having the right tools for the right job enough. We all know that a quality cutter can make life easier, especially in the long run, that a good computer will also help. We may not all consider how much having a good Design System can help every single day. Quality vector artwork can save hours, if not days of frustration in the long run. The right software to help design, customize, edit, and output everything streamlines our processes. Ask yourself “what is it that we really do here” and then answer: “we put graphics on stuff”. I know this is over simplifying our industry, but if you look at it this way, you realize that the graphic, is half the equation. A quality starting point (graphics) will make the difference between a smooth production process, and a bottlenecked one. The slowest point in our everyday process is the graphic itself. I am not saying that we all must spend top dollar on equipment, computers, and software. I am saying that you should seriously consider each (equally) as tools to ensure success, as much as you would consider the shirt, hat, sign material itself. *Many companies in the promotional products industry have zero equipment. Although they have the ability to impress clients with quality artwork, proposals, and send production ready designs to their fulfilment centers.
Educate the Public a bit. Help your customers come to better conclusions by explaining, just a little, about what it takes to do what they want. Direct them to more simple and bold concepts that will express better for them. Direct them to clipart images, or quality graphic websites, where they can choose from production ready files (not random internet searches). Most of all, direct clients to rely on your expertise, as they would in any other industry where a company produces a customized product.
I must mention, not because this is my company, but because we have the best resource for quality vector graphics: YourArtPages.com & IDesignShirtsOnline.com. Everyone at Action Illustrated, from our sales reps, graphic design staff, web development team, and senior executives are happy to answer questions and help you build your business. We really are. Check out our YouTube page, and FaceBook pages for more training tips.
Other aspects of getting good cuts: Knowing how to adjust the down-pressure on your cutter is very important based on the material your cutting. Learn how to swap out your blades for new, or different angles. YouTube has a ton of videos. Different materials act differently in different cutters. It may be worth a Saturday to ‘just play’ with your equipment to improve your understanding, and make yourself more comfortable with the machine. Take your ‘practice’ results and donate them to a local church or school. Your increased comfort with graphics and equipment will always result in a smoother running shop.
*All ideas expressed in this post are the exclusively those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the policies or opinions of Decorated Apparel Magazine. The author represents that he or she is exclusively responsible for the content contained, and that he or she is the owner of any intellectual property used or expressed, and has the right to publish any statements or images contained herein. All content is offered 'as-is' and Decorated Apparel Magazine does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any statements contained in this or any other post. Your use of any advice or statements of fact or opinion offered are completely at your own risk.