How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

Discussion in 'How To' started by panzerknacker, Dec 11, 2009.

  1. panzerknacker Member

    How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)



    [SIZE="3"]How to use black and white print services (sometimes called blueprint copying) to make high-visibility signs as big as 36" by 48" whether you can use design software or not.[/SIZE]

    • 36" x 48" Tri-fold Display Board. These are available in the $8-9 range from Staples or Office Depot. Rather than the foam board type, get the corrugated cardboard ones -- they're cheaper and sturdier. These fold up for easy carrying.
    • Spray glue. 3M Super77 from Home Depot is top of the line. This costs about $10, but you can use it to make many, many signs.
    • Butterfly clips or clothespins or some sort of removable clips (2).
    • A 36" x 48" black and white print of your design....

    [SIZE="1"]Note: My own print-ready designs will soon be available here in PDF, and hopefully those of others more design-savvy than myself.[/SIZE]
    • The fewer words on your sign, the bigger the words will be. The bigger the words are, the more visible your sign will be.
    • Recommended software for designing your sign include Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. Less tech-savvy people may want to use Microsoft Word, but see the note below about maintaining the size ratio. Photoshop is not recommended because it produces pixel-based images rather than vector images.
    • Output the file to PDF or a common format that handles vector/scalable graphics and text. Using a pixel-based format like JPG or even PSD is not recommended; the image will pixellate badly at a large size.
    • Design your sign within the frame ratio that you intend to print. For a 36"x48" sign, fit your design in a 3:4 ratio; for 24"x36" fit within a 2:3 ratio. Those using Adobe should use ruler guides or frames, those using Microsoft Word might create a 1-cell table with an invisible frame set at the right proportions.
    • If you don't know how to use design software or don't want to, use one of the designs available here (soon). To design your own by hand, get an 11"x17" piece of paper and make your design . Use black pen only and fit your design within the appropriate frame ratio. See the 4th note under "Printing" to find out how to enlarge your design to 36" by 48".

    • Most printers & copy shops can print black & white images at large sizes for very cheap. FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's) charges $0.75 per square foot (they said $9.79 for a 3x4ft. print).
    • Before resorting to FedEx/Kinko's, call around small local printers, as their prices are invariably cheaper and service better.
    • Before bringing your design to a printer or copy shop, make sure you have an appropriate format. If you're bringing your design in electronically, be sure to bring it in PDF format at the right size, etc. Talk to the printer about what will produce the best result.
    • Some copy shops use "blueprint copiers" for this service. These aren't cyanotype printers, but B&W copiers that enlarge 8.5"x11" or 11"x17" documents to 36" by an indefinite length (it's printed from a roll). In this case, you'll need a hard copy of your sign printed out for copying. My advice in this case: make your design on 11"x17" paper, either with software or by hand. The bigger the original, the better the enlargement. (If you don't have an 11"x17" printer, just make the file and bring it to the copy shop on a flash drive. It'll cost you an extra $0.50.)

    1. Doing this outside = recommended.
    2. Lay the display board face-up, such that you can fold and unfold it. You want to mount your design on the inside of the board, not the outside, otherwise it won't fold.
    3. Align your design to the board and secure it on one end with the butterfly clips or clothespins.
    4. Take some scissors and trim excess paper if you need to.
    5. Gently lift the paper up, spray the adhesive on a section of the board about a foot long (not the whole board at once!). Lay the paper back down.
    6. Here's the tricky bit: Press the paper down to stick it to the board. Do this from the center moving outward. Be careful not to get wrinkles in the paper. This will require a little practice. The glue is forgiving and can be lifted for a short time after sticking if you make a mistake.
    7. Stick the design down little by little, 6" or a foot at a time across the board the long way. Wrinkles always happen, but this will minimize them.
    8. The corners usually need a bit more reinforcement. You can gently peel the corners up a bit and give them an extra dose of glue.
    9. Clear packing tape can also be used for reinforcement, but should be used minimally because it's shiny and may produce glare.
    10. Fold it up once to make sure it's working properly. The creases made by folding will be hardly visible from a distance.
    11. You're done. Let the glue dry and have some caek.

    [SIZE="3"]Other notes:[/SIZE]
    • If folding cracks the toner along any of your letters, you can fill in the black with a Sharpie. No one will notice.
    • Vertical signs may be tricky because of the way the display board folds. If you can find some way of securing the board so that it remains rigid when vertical, go ahead and make a vertical design.
    • Though I haven't done it myself (yet), these signs can probably be stapled to a piece of wood for carrying overhead. A 2" by 3/4" by 8-ft. length of wood costs about a buck at Home Depot. Also, I mean a big stapler, not a paper stapler.
    • If you want color, try printing letters in outline form and then coloring them in later.
    • Images should be grayscale and should have their contrasts turned up way high so that they come out of the copying process well.

    That's it for now. Edits to come, I'm sure.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. _You_ Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    Excellent idea eloquently explained. This anon is doin it rite.
  3. _You_ Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    ur signs are awesome.

    i've purchased all my anon supplies, including a digital camera (w/ video and memcard) for less than $75, and am on a budget, so $20 for a sign is pretty way up there...
  4. _You_ Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    Also note: some cities may frown upon bringing large pieces of wood to any form of rally or protest. Check with local ordinances and what the cops say. You can use thicker cardboard tubes, (check in the trash or at furniture repair shops / upholstery places). Also, please be mindful of filling trash cans when you leave. Take the signs with you back to your car /homes.

    I believe you can also make them more water proof with contact paper, packaging tape, or maybe even spray cans of sometype of polyurethane (scotch guard?) that doesn't make the ink bleed.
  5. panzerknacker Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)


    $20 is a high-end estimate -- I didn't want to low-ball it and have people complain that it actually cost more. I'm able to do mine for about $12. Take good care of it and the sign will outlast the CoS itself.
  6. panzerknacker Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    Good point. Make sure you are allowed to have a sign on a big stick before you make & bring one.

    As far as sealant/protectant against moisture, I imagine a workable fixative from an art supply shop would work well. Packing tape is not recommended because of the high glare.
  7. _You_ Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)


    ^ A 1000x THIS
  8. Zhent Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    I recommend using Inkscape for software, its like Adobe Illustrator but open source and also easy to use.
  9. i'mglib Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    I just did this in a slightly different way (thanks for the tip, btw).

    I took a 8.5 x 11 (landscape) copy of the text, and had it copied on architectural paper. It was $1 a foot, so it was slightly more expensive where I took it

    Anyway, they can blow it up 400%, so it came out 34" x 44".

    It's pretty awesome.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. greebly Member

    Re: How to: Make Big Signs for Cheap (yet another way)

    Good stuff thx guys.

    I'll try and find equivalent UK links for items unless someone beats me to it.

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