Signage and Artwork Files

Creating Signage from Artwork

How file formats and digital manipulation changed how signage is designed.


With the advancement of creative digital techniques, creating signage from artwork files has become faster, easier, more accurate and more precise, helping to change how the industry operates. Increases in the resolution of cameras and more capable printer heads can deal with much denser pixel placement, together leading to very high-resolution printing and signage output. All of which begins with digital manipulation in a range of software tools.

The advent of the open source Scalable Vector Graphic format in 1999 helped create uniformity in how graphics and logos could be read across the growing new information platform, the internet. A common file format allows for digital manipulation of logos and artwork in a huge range of applications, and easier means of that information being read from one program to the other. The introduction of the Vector format introduced flexibility in design as the arrangement can be output to just about any common raster image formats, including jpg, png, gif, and tiff. Vector logos are also scalable in size allowing them to be reduced to the size of a business card or enlarged to fit a roadside billboard without affecting the quality.

Raster images contained information about individual pixel colours and positions, known as bitmaps. The main issue with bitmap images is that they aren’t scalable. A 640 x 480 image requires this information to be stored for 307,200 pixels, while a much larger 3072 x 2048 image needs to store information for an enormous 6,291,456 pixels.  That not only takes a huge amount of disc space when processing, but increasing the size of the image has a profound effect on its structure, making the individual pixels stand out more as they get bigger, creating an increasingly indistinct image.

Vector graphics differ in that they are defined in terms of a series of 2D points, which are connected by lines and curves to form polygons and other shapes. Each of these points has a definite position on the overall x- and y-axis of the work plane, thereby determining the direction of the connecting path. Each point and path may have various associated properties including values for stroke color, shape, curve, thickness, and fill, so that all the information is contained in a much smaller file size. Typical formats include vg, .eps, .pdf, .ai, .dxf.

When creating artwork for signage schemes, having a format that can be digitally manipulated without a loss of quality, regardless of size, is vital for successful scaling on programs such as Adobe Illustrator.

Creating artwork in this format allows for it to be processed by other parties – including customers – electronically for approval, with total confidence, in what they see being exactly the same as what they will get once it has been approved.  There are also huge advantages when it comes to production as electronic files can now be handled by many different pieces of equipment, both fast and effectively.

The advancements in manipulation of creative digital files has transformed the way in which signage is designed and manufactured. Customers and suppliers are able to use digital communication to share, review and approve signage artwork quickly and efficiently.