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Vinyl cutting with Illustrator?

Discussion in 'Adobe' started by Random, Dec 9, 2005.

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  1. Random

    Random New Member

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    Hello! Seeing as how this is my first post, I should give a little background info. I received my Master XY-300P vinyl cutter today, and have been playing around with some sample cuts. However, while I love Illustrator, I don't really like Flexi. Is there any plug-in for Illustrator that will send the vector paths to the cutter? I have my cutter hooked up to my LPT port.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. Derf

    Derf Very Active Member

    A plug in for Illustrator came with my Graphtec but I still use Flexi to cut with I did not like the plug-in.

    I design my vinyl signs in Illustrator on my MAC then open the file in Flexi on the PC and cut from there. I have noticed that as long as text is outlined and you have cut able art Flexi sign will open an illustrator CS2 file but to be safe save down to a 3.0
     
  3. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    We have the same cutter and can't print directly either. I called before we got the cutter to ask about cutting directly from Illustrator and they told us to get EasySign instead of Flexi and that was supposed to allow us to cut from Illustrator - it doesn't. All it really does is perform a kind of "auto-import" from Illustrator. If there is another (affordable) alternative that REALLY prints directly from Illustrator I would love to find it since ALL our work is done in that format.
     
  4. Random

    Random New Member

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    Waaaaaaaaay too expensive. And only available for Apple. -_-

    Seriously, what's the deal with plotter software costing an arm and a leg? You'd figure that if people already dropped that much on Illustrator and a cutter, there'd be an easier approach. Also, I hate this USB hasp thing. Worst idea ever.
     
  5. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    Interesting that one only finds hasp keys with grossly overpriced software. Flexi, much as I like it, inarguably is grossly overpriced. As well as the rest of the crop. They do it because they can and the vast majority of their target market has zip for software skills, maybe one or two of then got three lines in a row of BASIC to actually run, and has little choice but to ante up.

    I spent many, many, years developing graphics software, for both corporate masters and enlightened self interest. I know pretty much what it's worth and I have never, ever, seen such greed and paranoia that's routinely displayed in the specialty graphics software industry.

    I have often toyed with the idea of writing and placing in the public domain a universal hasp key emulator. It's really quite simple to do and I admit to being suffciently perverse as to enjoy giving the finger to these people, especially to the hotbed of arrogance that is Scanvec-Amiable. But, alas, I have more interesting things to do right now and I've forever sworn off doing software at that level. And I already own functional copies of everything that I want to run so I see no real need except for entertainment value.
     
  6. Random

    Random New Member

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    Do it and I'll offer any and all help I can give you. I don't think we're the only ones who find it outrageous.
     
  7. iSign

    iSign Verboten

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    Bob the arrogance in your exaggerated opinions are trumped only by your apparent cluelessness in grasping the actual facts of the matter. They "do it" because sign specific software only has a realistic chance of serving a market less then 1% of the size of the market served by a program like Adobe Illustrator..

    ...AND as for the software skills needed by their target market... writing software code is a skill that only warrants a score of zip anyway! (well, obviously somebody has to do it... I'm not downgrading that skill... just saying it is near the bottom of MY list of needed skills to run a sign business)

    In the few areas where I feel programs like Flexi, Signlab or Omega are superior to Illustrator... a true professional can easily justify the legal purchase price in a few weeks or months of time saved. I own those 3 (plus Casmate & Inspire) & never missed a beat in the steady profits realized by paying for good tools when you need them.

    ...well Bob, I guess YOU have the choice to NOT ante up, because when the rest of us were learning how to wrap a tailgate, you were learning how to reverse engineer someone else's intellectual property so you could publicly fantasize about some criminal satisfaction from offering up your pirating prowess in hopes of facilitating more thievery.
     
  8. Random

    Random New Member

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    Hey Doug. Not all of us are professionals. I don't run a sign business; I got the cutter in order to cut logo decals for my (extremely) small business, because I got sick of paying $3 a piece for a 2"x7" logo and $50 for a 24"x24" stencil. The cutter hardware is getting inexpensive enough to where consumers can purchase and utilize it without breaking their bank; it's ridiculous to think that the software would cost more than the cutter.

    However, that's not the part that angers me. I'm outraged that there aren't any alternatives. All of you are talking about a professional solution; I don't need one. Flexi is overfeatured as it is - 90% of its functions are duplicated (poorly, I might add) from Illustrator. I already have Illustrator. I bit the bullet and paid for that one because it's so incredibly functional, and I can get much more use out of it in the long run. So why do I use Flexi? The Cut/Plot button. And you expect me to pay how much for that one button? ... Sorry, count me out.


    I don't mean to be as offensive as I might seem. But all you're saying is "buy it, it's worth it". If I were to turn around and make thousands of dollars with the software and cutter, maybe it would be worth it. But I'm not. Please think about others' situations before you attack them so tactlessly.
     
  9. iSign

    iSign Verboten

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    TACTLESSLY!!! ???
    Virtually ALL my ATTACKING is done tastefully! :Big Laugh

    ...by the way, this site is for sign business people & your decals are worth $3 & your stencils are worth $50.
    The only reason people think they are not worth that is because cheap garage hacks are buying plotters & in some cases bootlegging software with emulators & other hackjob circumvention methods to avoid suffering the proper costs of doing business that the people selling the $3 decals are paying.

    Feel free to hang out here & pick the brains of all the sign pros who paid their dues (& paid for their software) so you can cut around the local sign pros in your neighborhood to save yourself a few lousy dollars... but take that "poor me" victim attitude & check it at the door. Nobody was attacking your "situation" until now... but now that you mention it "cheap garage hacks buying plotters" has always been one of the thorns in the side of the signmakers... so I wouldn't suggest advertising that fact in the future.

    you may be right about being able to afford to purchase it... as far as "utilizing" it... I guess that remains to be seen. :Sleeping:
     
  10. Random

    Random New Member

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    I'm sorry; unlike most of the people I've seen in your industry, I'm trying to deliver a quality product to my customers at an affordable price. And my customers are consumers, unlike the wasteful large companies that you feel so proud of ripping off. Try telling the folks down the street that their garage sale sign is going to cost $100 and that "it's worth it".

    I must reiterate, sign making is not my business. So please, stop acting like I'm stealing your business here. The reason I come to this site is because unfortunately, most of the information I need is locked down tight within your overprotective industry.

    Bottom line - I don't need a professional solution, I need one that simply works and is affordable. Argue as vehemently as you'd like, what you're talking about is not affordable in the slightest. Not if I want to do it more than once. With that - I'm sorry, you're wrong. If you had taken the time to read my post instead of scanning it and kicking into your "professional" rhetoric autopilot, you might have come up with a cohesive and compelling argument. Thanks, try again.
     
  11. iSign

    iSign Verboten

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    if you're just here to dis the sign industry why don't you just take a frikkin hike fool... you come here with your first question & turn into a whiny little freak.

    Just because you start a thread doesn't mean everything going on here IS ABOUT YOU :help: this is the internet dude... this is a public forum. Other people are conversing here too.

    Stacey is a comitted & intelligent business person who asked a question, I offered her one link to software that does what she asked about (& there are others out there as well) ...who says I have to read, not scan, your post? WTF are you anyway? What have you contributed here?

    Bob has his own brash style of tossing opinions into the ring & I am quite an arrogant hothead myself. He & I have bumped heads before & probably will again, but at least he is a thick skinned mature individual that can take schitt as well as he can dish it out... but I throw a few words down his way & you pop up all defensive making it about YOU again. :Oops:

    I have nothing to "argue" about, I just offered you a chance to open your eyes to a few FACTS about the value of items you want to produce, the value of proper tools to produce them, & the value of the helpful information that could be found here... but you had the bright idea of digging your heels in to the absolute worst position to gain sympathy around here & have ended up in a deeper hole then if I buried you with my own words, so excuse me... I'll get back to communicating with other sign professionals here & you are free to troll around for other garage hacks secure in the knowledge that my posts are not about you.
     
  12. Random

    Random New Member

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    Pardon me while I take a second to make an educated post.

    I'm not here to "diss the sign industry". I'm here to learn more about its techniques. While there is a hobbyist community for nearly every other profession out there, there is nothing even close to one for signmaking. To a hobbyist, your "facts" about the industry are painfully hard to believe. And as such, I am only trying to figure out why. Nowhere in my arguments did I say anything about this site being anything other than a wealth of information.

    Flamewars aren't really my thing. Try stopping by Something Awful if you find them to be so necessary.
     
  13. signage

    signage Major Contributor

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    Does it cost more for a VW than a BMW?

    The price for the software that actually does the bulk of the work is what has always cost a lot. Look at the machining industries you can get a cheap piece of equipment and do the work, but when you want to get into automated or computer driven work the software costs thousand of dollars. So you can either do it the hard way (manually) or pay and do it more efficiently. As far as writing code there are other costs other than just the programmer fro a company put an item in tot the market place.
     
  14. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    I admit to not being experienced in the arcanery of wrapping vehicles and their tailgates. I'm a retired software engineer who, before embarking on that much more lucrative career, was a journeyman signwriter and all around print shop hand. Back when all there was was quills and One-Shot. I kept my hand in over the years but vinyl is relatively new to me in the last few years. Perhaps forced upon me by dimming eyesight and a tender back but an interesting and, for me, almost a seamless change. Seamless because proper typography and design are timeless. As well as a great deal of those years spent diddling software was dealing with X-Y devices as well as printers. I was, obliquely, part of a bunch that developed ink jet technology.

    Regardless of my checkered past, this is not thievery, piracy, or even moral repugnancy, not at all. Not even close. Anymore than a pop-up blocker is obstructionist. I'm not proposing filing the serial numbers off a legitimate package and distributing it. All I'm doing is creating an alternate environment under which it can run. No different that adding an aftermarket plug-in or perhaps additional memory.

    All you have to do is set up a filter process that gets in front of all traffic through the particular interface where you want to create the illusion of a hasp key.

    I wouldn't have to lay a glove on anyone else's proprietary software, merely add a process to my system, that's MY system, not Scanvec Amiable's, Onyx's, or anyone elses. Mine to operate in any any way I see fit to do so.

    Moreover if you wanted to run, say, Flexi, under this process you'd still need a valid user ID and hasp key code. All it does is replace the chunk of plastic, you'd still need to know the secret handshake.

    Of course armed with this process, anyone with a legal copy could burn one and give it to someone else along with the proper secret decoder ring settings. Being fundamentally honest, I wouldn't, but what others do that has no real effect on me is of little interest. The operative word here is 'real'. Obscure and tangential micro-effects are not players.
     
  15. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    Thanks for the link Doug, but we're hooked up to the cutter with a PC. We'll just keep importing.

    Software is expensive - for any kind of specialty. I think Brian has it about right - you can buy inexpensive hardware (we did) and use the (cheap) software that came with it or you spend the money and get a professional version. Comes down to manual vs. automated. We are still in manual mode - as we grow we'll update but for now the price is not in our budget.

    I understand your point Random - and to some extent you, Bob, although I don't feel writing a hack is the appropriate thing to do even though writing code is definitely a skill in my book. But you have the software and equipment to do the job - it just takes a few more steps. That's usually the way it is in a hobbyist version vs. professional version of anything. Look at Windows XP (cost $99) and Windows XP Pro ($299) or Microsoft publisher ($250) or Adobe Illustrator (lots more!!!) You pay for the extra bells and whistles that a professional level application delivers even if you don't utilize all of them.
     
  16. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    There are a million vinyl hacks and hobbyist around, when they find a professional board and talk about high cost and rip-off sign shops, I am amused at what little they know, yet voice such a strong opinion. I do not get offended, what do they really actually know about the business to get so riled up about.

    If a hobbyist is looking for a cheap solution it can start with a brush and a can of one-shot to a knife and tracing paper. If they get into the computer part of it, they already have a computer, fonts and hopefully a paid for version of a legitimate vector software. At the least they have 1000-1200 bucks invested. Why balk at 300-500 bucks for Co-Cut, Flexi-Starter (I just bought a legit version for 80.00) or other bridge solutions. In time Random will have invested in App. tape, vinyl, cutter, misc install tools for basic signs......another 1000-1500 bucks. In total they need a 2000-2700.00 investment. So what is another 3-500 bucks?

    Now calling a sign shop overpriced by charging 100 bucks for a garage sale sign may be true, but a lot of shops, including myself have minimums, that sign would be 75.00 if I did it. Here is why.......

    I get paid for my time, if 100 people came to me for cheap signs then I have to work too hard with little monitary reward. I have a lot more invested. That cheap garage sale sign will take me at least 1/2 an hour from the start of the conversation to getting it into my books, and than I twiddle my thumbs for the next cheap sign.That cheap garage sale sign will be designed on a $3500.00 computer (and I'm not a bit sorry that I use a Mac) that is hooked up to a DSL line at 60 bucks a month, I may print it out for the clients approval on my $7000.00 color laser printer, or my$2000.00 black and white printer. I use a legit version of Adobe CS2 Premium graphics suite software with original purchases and upgrades I have spent nearly $2500.00 bucks on Adobe software. My type collection is hitting near $10,000.00 now, then I have Flexi-Sign $4,000.00 with upgrades. Add to that maintaining other software like Microsoft Office, Quark, Macromedia Studio, Corel Draw, Filemaker and misc other software on 2 platforms that need upgrading or replacement every 3-4 years. As well as a proffesional vinyl cutter or cutters at around $6,000.00 bucks as well as a stock of materials way past what a hobbyist would carry $2000-5000,00 bucks, then add insurance, taxes and getting paid, advertising........I hope you get the picture.......you can't compare, and the clients that would compare I don't really want as a customer, so go ahead and take them.

    When it's time to upgrade your cheap system, you will find it a lot harder to do if you do not take into account that technology move forward and in time things need to be replaced, and a few more hacks and hobbyist will join in with a cashed out 401k or mommas money or a fresh credit card or the creativley frustrated with equity in thier home with the supportive spouse with brand new equipment and even lower prices. Stay on the sign boards long enough, most new sign people are what I described, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't make for a good sign person.

    For the cheapest solution, you can cut directly from Corel and I think it's on sale this month on Corel.com.
     
  17. gtjet

    gtjet Active Member

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    Well said Rick and Doug. We have Flexi Pro and a Roland VersaCamm SP 300 that came with Color Rip, we have PS shop 7 and we have Mega Art and Print N Cut from Fred W plus other vector software from other sign suppliers. We are not in business to do $8 garage sale signs, you can buy them at wal-mart. We will help a business with a store front sign or signage and so on. At $3 per decal why bother. If you want a 100 of them we can do that for maybe even less depending on size. Random must buy a lot of signs to justify the money he has already spent to be in the business and he must not value his time that it takes to make the signs. Maybe if he spent more time on his business and less on making $3 decals he could afford the sign pro in his area. Lets see if he makes 10,000 3 dollar decals he will have 30000 dollars less $10,000 in expenses so he will net $20,000 dollars. Not bad, almost up to poverty level.
     
  18. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Okay, its another round of the professional sign makers, versus "hobbyists" and amateurs discussion. So I'll just paste in a good magnum opus post.
    :Big Laugh

    Here's my stand:

    I make no secret about my feelings on the subject. Sign making is a profession. It demands real artistic talent, visual problem solving skills and real professional graphic design skills. The best sign makers are usually people who invested in four year art school degrees, bought their software legitimately and worked lots of hours to pay their dues to justify working in this industry.

    I completely disagree with the mindset that sign making is somehow a democratic field that anyone should be able to join. That would be like saying anyone should be able to play in the NFL. It should take a lot more than just the purchase of a vinyl cutter and some cracked software to start a vinyl business.

    On the terms "hobbyist" or "amateur," such terms are supposed to go to people who make vinyl items for themselves or friends and charge no money. When you start charging other people for your work you are trying to work as a professional and therefore should live up to some professional standards. Those standards include paying for legit software, being an avid student of graphic design and constantly trying to improve the quality of your work.

    Almost all other professions demand proven competence in their respective fields before a new worker is allowed to start practicing that trade. Everyone from plumbers to lawyers has to pass some kind of test, earn some kind of certification or even a degree in order to start working professionally. Sign people, and most graphics people in general, are for some retarded reason exempt from such a process.

    It's pretty annoying at times when someone visits this forum and announces something to the effect, "I just bought a vinyl cutter and some software to start a sign business. Can you guys help me design my first logo? I don't know what I'm doing."
    :rolleyes:

    Anyone making such statements has no business running a sign business, much less working for one. Sorry, but that is a fact. If you don't know what you're doing then you have no right to charge people for your work or get paid for it as an employee. A sign designer who charges other people for his work should already demonstrate some expertise in graphic design.

    I invested over $50,000 in my four year art school degree. I have worked in the sign industry for over a decade, and worked in other graphics oriented fields before that. I have spent thousands of dollars of my own money on software just for my own use; nevermind the countless thousands our company has spent on software, equipment, computer systems, vinyl cutters, routing tables, etc. With all of that investment, why should I be accomodating others who want to join this industry when they dodge any formal training and not even want to pay for legit software? I have even less incentive to be accomodating when some of those folks turn into new competitors. Those new, unqualified guys are only arriving on the scene to further downgrade my standard of living.

    As it stands, the profession of graphic design has deteriorated to a level not a couple steps above minimum wage burger flipping. If I knew things eventually would become this way 20 years ago I probably would have tried hard to pursue a different trade or profession.

    That's my stand on it.

    Now to comment on a few things posted.

    You realize doing such a thing is a federal felony, correct?

    Flexi, EnRoute and other applications in the Scanvec/Amiable family are industry specific programs. Hobbyist people have no business using them. There is a limited number of professional users that need apps like Flexi. The development cost of that software is amortized out over the number of users. The pricing is completely fair, not "grossly overpriced."

    If Flexi had the user base of Photoshop, then FlexiSign Pro would cost only $500. But it doesn't have that user base, and never will (and probably shouldn't either).

    Usually that sort of thing is a paradox. The folks charging bargain basement prices on vinyl graphics usually offer bargain basement quality to go along with it. Acts of font murder abound, as well as trademark infrigement and other head scratchers. IMHO, anyone who sells cartoons of Calvin from the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon peeing on a given car company logo is a foolish idiot. Same goes for those who cut and sell unauthorized Harley Davidson vinyl logos and more. But that is the speed of many vinyl shops offering "the cheapest price" and operating out of their garage.

    I think nearly all of them also miss the point of professional responsibility. To add to that, there's lot of people working in the sign industry, some for a long time, who don't do competent work. Yet they want to charge small or large amount of money for poor quality work.

    The sign industry does very little to police itself. The only things are offering to enforce any standards at all are coming from the high end. A growing number of states are demanding sign companies that do any electrical sign work to meet various qualifications in order to practice their trade. Many have to earn electricians licenses and do work that is UL Listed. That may have an effect of enforcing higher work standards that filter over into the design aspect. The long shot hope is some of that may finally filter down into the non-lighted "fast signs" area of our industry.

    It is about time for this country at large to get rid of the extremely stupid mindset that the computer is creating the artwork and that one only needs to hire the person willing to work for the least amount of money. The emphasis should be on proven professional level talent. When that becomes the commodity then the commercial landscapes in the United States might stop looking so bad.
     
  19. Random

    Random New Member

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    Apparently I've opened up a Pandora's box of the professionals' feelings of the leeching hacks in their industry. Allow me to clear up some misconceptions and I'll be finished.


    You've just described my situation almost perfectly.


    My product is completely different than the vinyl cuts, but uses them extensively for stencils and logos. Against my better judgment, I'd invite you to look at exactly what I'm dealing with.
    http://www.ransai.com/mall/
    Stencils (custom designs) and logos, for both of which I couldn't justify charging much more than cost to my customers. My work is in the controllers, not in the vinyl. If I were to outsource the vinyl, the cost would be (and has been) exponentially more expensive, which I cannot justify any longer.


    While I understand your sentiments, I'd also like to point out that I have never made such a statement, nor would I ever have the ignorance to.

    Then please, point me at a plotter program that supports hobbyists. I don't believe any exist.


    And this I agree with wholeheartedly. That said, my philosophy on business competition of any kind is this: Fight your battles with the quality of your product, not with the ferocity of your argument. Doug, I saw the sign you made for your company - it looks beautiful. If I were looking for a compelling sign for my business, that alone would sell me on your product.

    My bottom line - I don't run a sign business. I'm not looking to start one with my new cutter. If I were going to become a professional architect, I'd buy AutoCAD. If I were going to become a professional graphic designer, I'd buy Photoshop. I'm not going to be making any money on my vinyl cuts; I can't afford expensive software to support it. So, if someone could point me in the direction of a hobbyist forum for vinyl cutting, I'd be much obliged. Sorry for perpetuating all the drama.
     
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