Printing: Back to Basics Part 3

One of the most commonly asked questions in relation to graphics software and printing is how to increase the size of an image without getting blurring and jagged edges. New users are often surprised when they resize an image and find that the quality is severely degraded. In print projects, resolution is key. If the images that you include in a print project does not have high enough resolution, they will appear fuzzy, jagged, or blurry. The reason for the degradation is because bit mapped, or raster, image types are limited by their pixel resolution. When you attempt to resize these types of images, your software either has to increase the size of each individual pixel – resulting in a jagged image – or it has to “guess” at the best way to add pixels to the image to make it larger. Most printing companies require a minimum of 300 dpi for all images at the final print size. However, some printers require even higher resolution, so it’s always a good idea to check with your printer on their recommended printing resolution. Generally, the higher the resolution of your image, the better the quality the image will be when printed.

So, you have an image you want (or need) to use but it doesn’t meet the required dpi? What can you do?

First, you cannot use the common paint application that comes with Windows. Granted, you can do some basic editing of the image with this application, but it will not help you change the actual resolution of the image. In order to change the dpi, you will have to change the ppi (confused by ppi and dpi? click here). There are several software programs out that will allow you to do this but, for our purposes, I will concentrate on Photoshop. The most important thing to understand about resolution is the relationship between an image’s resolution (ppi) and an image’s print size (actual width and height -dpi). Pixels per inch (ppi) is often (although mistakenly) used interchangeably with dots per inch (dpi). Dots per inch (dpi) is a measurement describing the way an image is printed, scanned, or displayed on your monitor. For instance, you may scan an image at 300 dpi, print a 300 dpi image at 600 dpi, view it on your monitor at 72 dpi, but unless you resample it in Photoshop, the image will always have a resolution of 300 ppi.

Open an image in Photoshop. Go to the Image menu and select Image Size. This is where you can change an image’s resolution and print size (width and height). The following Image Size dialog box will appear:

Note that the width and the height of the image as you view it on your monitor is not necessarily representative of the image’s actual width and height — the size it would print out at (Print Size). Average monitor resolution is 72 dpi. If you view a 72 ppi image at 100% in Photoshop, chances are that it will appear on your screen in its actual print size. However, this is not true when viewing a 300 ppi image. A 300 ppi image viewed on-screen at 100% will be enormous. Don’t get tricked into believing that what you see on your monitor is what you’ll get when you print or place the image into another application. The only way to determine what your image’s actual print size will be is through the Image Size dialog box.

When the Resample Image box is checked, any changes you make to an image’s width or height will not change the image’s resolution, and as such, any changes you make to an image’s resolution will not affect the image’s width and height. Keep in mind, however, when you increase width and height, or resolution, you are adding pixels to your image. These pixels don’t actually exist so Photoshop must create them. As such, you will succeed only in degrading the quality of your image.

If you want to increase an image’s width and height, or resolution, then uncheck the Resample Image box. Now any changes you make to the image’s width and height will change the image’s resolution, and vice versa:

  • If you decrease resolution, the width and height will increase
  • If you increase resolution, the width and height will decrease
  • If you increase the width or height, the resolution will decrease
  • If you decrease the width or height, the resolution will increase

The best way to increase the width and height of a scanned image is to scan the image in at a high resolution (about twice what your final resolution should be), and with the Resample Image box unchecked, decrease the resolution or increase the width and height—both will yield similar results. Once the image width and height is where you want it, you can then check the Resample Image box and type in the resolution you want. At this point, as long as you don’t increase resolution, or width and height, your image quality will not suffer.

“Cheap” Is Not A Dirty Word

Once upon a time the word “cheap” was pretty much scoffed at and thought to be taboo- but it appears that this previously taboo word may have a bit more clout in today’s economy. According to an article published on iMedia by Tom Crandall,  CEO of Ayohwahr Interactive,  “cheap” is no longer a dirty word and he appears to be right. Where companies once felt that this word would reflect upon them badly, they are quickly coming to realize that “cheap” attracts customers.  Craig Mcdonald, in his recent post, asked, “How much is the word “cheap airfare” worth in the United States? The answer is about $8 million, according to comScore Marketer Search Data, December 2007.

To Quote Tom Crandall:

“According to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, the average monthly search volume for the phrase “cheap insurance” typically amounts to 673,000 queries. Last month, the number of queries for this term rocketed to 2.7 million. Likewise, the average monthly search volume for the phrase “cheap car” is traditionally about 1 million queries. Last month, the volume exceeded 3.3 million.

So, as you consider incorporating adjectives such as “affordable,” “budget,” “inexpensive,” “low-cost,” and “thrifty” into your SEO strategies, consider this: There is a growing number of brands weaving the keyword “cheap” into their on-page SEO elements. (Many are even incorporating this term into their marketing copy!)”

Obviously this bad word has been given a reprieve and marketers are learning that it does not damage brand perception or curb profitability. So, I can hear you thinking…. how in the world does this apply to signs? Well, the name says it all 🙂 We are cheap and we are not afraid to tell the whole world!

What about you?

How To Create A Great Outdoor Sign

Before you design your sign, be sure to consider the intended display area for your signs. Many graphic artists make the mistake of creating designs that look fabulous on their screen but not so fabulous for a large display sign. Whereas text conveys the message in an electric file, graphic design conveys the message in a large printed product such as banners and cortex Bandit signs. This is why it is so important to have minimal written content.

With all the competition available in today’s world, it’s important to best utilize the sign colors and space to produce the best possible advantage. The right text will give the most import information needed, such as contact information. But it is the colors, the layout and the design which will grab new customers.

To maximize the impact of your signs, be sure to take into consideration where you want to place your signs. The placement of your signs plays a big role in how many new customers you gain.

Here are some quick tips prior to placing your Super Cheap Signs order.

  1. View a couple of the areas or the location you will be placing your signs. Guess work can create a lot of wasted space. Outdoor signs are designed for pedestrians and motorists, the signs are expected to be more visible from farther distances than indoor signs. If most the new customers you want to attract will see them at night, you don’t want a black background with yellow letters.
  2. Vinyl banners are primarily used for its visual impact more than its word content. The visual display should be able say its message in seconds with a picture and minimal text. Use contrasting colors so the words and or pictures stand out. The colors you use in your banner should not match the color of the building or placement to which you will be using to hang the banner from.
  3. Consider who will be reading the sign and who you want to read the sign. If you own a coffee shop and the community is dog friendly, your banner can show a dog sitting at a table while its owner drinks coffee.

Placing Bandit Signs – Against the Law?

Attached is an impassioned email from a loyal customer in the DC area. It’s about some of the laws that have been passed regarding the placement of so-called ‘Bandit Signs’, or Yard Signs, and their response. This customer game me permission to post the email, on the condition I leave out the author’s name. It’s a bit long, but for those of you interested in the topic its still a very good read.

You’ll also see there is a letter attached from a Real Estate Investor to the ACLU…

Happy Reading!


Dear Jon:
I have been advised by my attorneys to simply change the phone number on the sign to an unpublished number. We rotate the phone numbers and we don’t list our company name in my home state, VA. I made it difficult for them to fine us ($100 a sign in VA, $500 a sign in MD). I changed our business over to an LLC from a sole proprietorship. Now, the registered agent for the company resides in 100 miles from the jurisdiction where we put the signs.
We never put the signs out during the day. We start putting them out after 5:00 p.m.
This makes it impossible for the Virginia, Maryland, and DC department’s of transportation to fine us since they don’t work after 5. They are the ones who have the jurisdiction to fine us (they can only fine us if they see someone named in our company’s LLC put a sign in the ground). We also purchased this device that puts the signs high up on poles. Those signs stay up for a week or more. We also use two sided tape to tape them to the metal sign poles in the medians.
Our lawyer told us to politely point out to a cop-should they harass us-that putting signs out is not a criminal violation. We are told to say to all cops, “Do you have jurisdiction over this matter? Is this a criminal violation? My lawyer told us it wasn’t. Have a good day officer.”
My arrangement sounds sleazy at first glance, but I have had several lawyers look at our local sign ordinances. They have told me that they are a blatant violation of our commercial free speech. I figure it would cost me around a half a million dollars to fight the local ordinances. It’s a lot simpler to play dirty like the Realtors and politicians. Also, if I did fight the sign ordinances in our area, there’s a good chance they might actually write a proper sign ordinance (no signs for anyone anywhere in this jurisdiction). Protecting free speech is my second priority. Making a living is my first.
The lazy government worker who picks up one of our advertising campaign signs can’t fine us because the phone number on the sign is simply not listed when they do a reverse search. It would cost them much more than what they would make fines to get a court order to find out who we are. They just don’t bother. The local powers that be do, however, call us up every so often to tell us that, “They are going to do a sting on us.” Well, they did. I thanked them for letting me know as well. They tried to do it by having a well marked county vehicle follow me around one day. To make a long story short, I stopped my car after a few miles of him tailing me, waved a sign at them and smiled. Then I walked into a Mac Donald’s, sat down at a table by the window and stared at them parked in the middle of the road staring at me. (Legally, they couldn’t do anything because they didn’t see me put the sign in the ground). Anyway, I exchanged my car for a rental for the next few weeks, started putting the signs out at night and I haven’t seen them or heard from them since.
The bottom line. Many jurisdictions around the country are being sued by bigger businesses with bigger budgets and they are winning. A sign ordinance with an exception for one group or another violates several supreme court decisions as outlined in the attached documents. There’s a lot more bullshit we have encountered over the ordinances, but I think we have a handle on it now.
Suing the government is extremely expensive. Check out your local chapter of the ACLU. The Thomas Jefferson Center also agreed to do all of the legal research for us for free in conjunction with our lawyer should we ever decide to go to court. Our lawyers have told us that a lawsuit against the government requires endless billable hours of research. There are hundreds of law clinics that could aid in that research for free.
There’s a lot more to all of this than I mentioned in this email. Google Reid Cox and read his Constitutional Primer On Sign Ordinances. I also attached a letter-PDF-that I gave to the Director of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU.

Sign Design Tool

What do you want to see in a ‘Sign Design Tool’ on our website? I know what WE want, but that may not be what the customer wants! Many of you have suggested adding a this kind of feature. Other printing and sign companies have created things that are good, some very good. But there is always better.  What do you think?

Fonts and Typefaces Could Make The Difference

Fonts and typefaces and sizes, oh my; I mean this is pretty boring stuff. Nobody really wants to hear about it or think about it, even me, and my livelihood depends on it. Letters are the single most important part of a sign or banner, they are the building blocks of your message.

It may be a boring topic, but I can tell you this: nothing can screw up a sign faster than typeface experiments. With that said, here are my helpful type-tips:

  • Boring fonts usually work best if you’re considering a type-face with a name like Lounge Bait or Mighty Tomato, please just stop what you’re doing and count to ten. Old stand-bys are called that for a reason, they are clean and readable use them.
  • Avoid too many words it’s tempting to put a lot of information on your sign.  Don’t do it!  Simple is best. You are not making a menu for people to sit and ponder.  You have one chance (about three seconds) to target your desired audience and then you’re done.
  • Use the right size type try to figure out how far away people will be from your sign when they read it and select your letter size accordingly. Check out the helpful chart below, it will help you build a readable sign.




















































Size Does Matter (Sign Sizes, That Is)

What can I say? Sometimes, I think of the headline before the blog topic. In this case though, it is relevant. People always come into the shop and ask us what sign size they should get.

Signs come in a bunch of sizes: 9×24, 12×18, 18×24, 24×24, and 24×3 and that’s just yard signs. Throw in custom banner sizes and you can get a sign in virtually any size. But what’s the best size?

I can tell you the most popular size, that’s the 18×24 standard plastic yard sign. It might not be the right size for your purpose, but it offers a good compromise between affordability and printable surface area. It’s large enough to be readable from a relatively fast moving vehicle, yet cheap enough to allow you to purchase several signs to increase your advertising area.

Three things to consider when deciding on sign size:

  • Speed of the vehicles that will see your sign – larger signs work better at higher speed limits.
  • Complexity of message – a more complex message, requires a larger sign (see our 3 second rule to simplify your message)
  • Area of advertising zone – more signs are better for a large advertising area. Smaller signs are cheaper so you can get more for the same price.

On our web site, you can experiment with sign size and quantity to get the best per-sign price before you even design the sign.