Image Quality

GRAPHICS FORMATS – RASTER vs. VECTOR

RASTERS

Raster is the word to describe any common image. It is the world of 2D vision that we have. It is a 2D grid of pixels. Every pixel has a certain color. That’s it. Our computer screens work this way, our cameras work this way, and our eyes work this way, so it makes sense that our graphics formats work this way too. By having high-resolution images with millions of pixels, one can stuff remarkable detail into their pictures. The higher the resolution the more detail. Rasters are saved as .raw, .jpg, .tiff, and other popular image encoding formats. Your camera takes rasters- always.

VECTORS

Vectors are different. Technically, vectors aren’t even images. You can think of the relationship between vectors and images as that between our DNA and our bodies. Vectors, in other words, are simply the set of instructions for how to create an image. These instructions are fairly simple. “Make a circle over here. Draw a line along this path. Add a gradient between these two colors”, etc. With enough of these instructions, highly detailed images can be generated, but not as detailed as rasters. Vector graphics are never as detailed as raster photographs.

Raster-Vs-Vector-overlay

How is this relevant ? It all boils down to one distinct issue: scalability.

With rasters, one may get plenty of fine, granular detail. Once one scales that image up to a substantial size, though, the pixels start to reveal themselves, and it’s ugly.

This is not a problem with vectors. A mathematically defined line or a circle has no fixed pixel resolution, so the computer knows how to redraw the shape no matter how big it is. Unlimited scalability. No pixelation. Only smooth curves and polished gradients.

So if your aim is to fill a large space, such as an entire wall at your retail store, or to give your office some panache, consider the option of vectorized graphics to give an exceptionally clean picture. Keep in mind that photographs cannot be converted to vector without significant loss in detail. Thus, logos and other graphics are ideally designed and printed as vectors.

 

General Questions

Q: HOW ACCURATE IS THE COLOR?

A: 6 color CMYK +LC +LM does not match SWOP inks exactly, so output is not identical to what comes from offset printing. Pantone (PMS) color matches are not guaranteed, but the color range HCG signs can reproduce is within 95% of the CMYK  Pantone standards.  If color is a concern than we can provide you with a Hard Proof, for a small fee.

Q: HOW DOES LAMINATION AFFECT COLOR?

A: Glossy finish lamination tends to make prints look more vibrant. Matte and Satin finishes will prevent unwanted glare (important for trade show exhibits or backdrops being used on television or camera) but do not enhance color.

Q: HOW SHOULD I SET UP MY FILES?

A: We run Adobe Creative Suite on PC and primarily print from .eps or .tiff files.  We accept files in the following formats: .ai, .psd, .eps, .tif, .pdf, .jpg. Please note that .pdf, and .jpg files cannot be edited. 

If you use any program but Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and cannot convert/export files to .EPS or .TIFF files, please convert to .PDF file. This typically includes Quark, InDesign, Corel, and miscellaneous sign programs.

Please build files as close to actual size as possible, or work in 1/2 or 1/4 scale of output size. It is not necessary to build files with extended bleed or crop marks. For best results, submit vector art and raster art in RGB or CMYK.

Font options

Convert all text to outlines or send all font sets included in file. Please provide highest resolution original versions of linked raster images.

We primarily request you convert all fonts to vector outlines or curves, depending on your program.

Feel free to send us the font files, in PC format. MAC fonts are incompatible with our system and therefore will not work.

Image Sharpness

If your graphics are primarily logos, text, and shapes, vector line art .EPS files provide the sharpest images in large format. Vector line art is based off x/y lines, curves and coordinates, you can enlarge the graphic as large as you like without losing resolution.

If your graphics are raster images (jpeg, tiff, bitmap, gif, etc.), please save files at 150-300dpi @ 100% file size for optimum clarity. Size file proportionately if you need to scale the image down, ex: 150dpi @ 100% = 600dpi @ 25%.

Images copied/pasted off the internet typically do not work well for large format.

Banner and Banner Stands

If you would like us to stitch your banners, please leave a 1.25″ bleed.

If you would like us to stitch banner pole pockets, please follow these directions:

  • 4″ extra material required for .5″-.75″ diameter pole
  • 6″ extra material required for 1″ diameter pole
  • 8″ extra material required for 1.5″ diameter pole
  • 9.5″ extra material required for 2″ diameter pole

The bleed for a retractable banner stand can run up to 10″ on the bottom, depending on the type of retractable you have.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TURNAROUND TIMES?

A: Typical turnaround time on a standard project is 24-48 hours. Projects of higher quantity or are more labor intensive require an estimated time of completion from HCG Signs.

WHAT SERVICES DOES HCG Signs Provide?

A: Full Color Printing
Exceptional clarity! Our digital printers give us the ability to print at up to 1440 dpi. Our inks will last 3 to 4 years (un-laminated) outdoors without fading and are of archival quality indoors because they are solvent based, waterproof, and UV resistant.

Lamination
Lamination can add a whole new finish to your print. Make your signs glossy, matte, luster or textured. A protective clear coat nearly doubles the life of your prints or signage for a very reasonable price.

Mounting
We can mount your graphics to any of our variety of materials such as foam boards, sheet styrene, aluminum, corrugated plastic, and more! Just let us know what type of use you have, and we will help you select the mounting that is right for your project

Graphics Design
Our in house graphics designers have experience in everything from simple banners to complex trade show displays and vehicle wraps. Get amazing designs and prints!

Vehicle Graphic Installation
Our in-house installation team can wrap nearly any type of vehicle. Our portfolio includes custom wraps for trucks, cars, RVs, boats, trailers, and fleet graphics.

Window Graphic Installation
One way window perforation is ideal for vehicle graphics or storefront advertising. Window perforation can prove problematic to install properly, so let our professionals take care of it for you!

Wall Graphic Installation
Wall graphics are very effective at building corporate identities and displaying logos. They are easy to care for once they are installed. Our installation team can put up logo graphics on your walls as large or as small as you need.

Decaling
Putting down decals such as door and window lettering is a breeze when you use our on-site installation. Why settle for a decal that is wrinkled or not properly adhered?

Image Scanning & Clean-up
Some graphics simply will not produce a fantastic print straight away. Our graphics team can clear up rough edges, alter many types of text, and modify your graphic exactly the way you need it.

Pantone Color Matching & Proofing
Your logo and brand identity is not up for discussion. Match your exact shades with the Pantone Matching System. We will create a print in miniature on the actual production material and printer for you to approve.

Rush Ordering

We know that sometimes graphics do not get approved on time or a million other hang ups – but that doesn’t mean you can miss a deadline. Not to worry — we will have your prints in your hands when you need it without sacrificing the quality you have come to expect.

Custom Job Request
We love a challenge. If you have a project and have been told elsewhere that they do not know to do it or where to start, contact us and talk to one of our graphics specialists.

Q: WHAT TYPES OF INK DO YOU USE?

A: Depending on the application, we use UV-curable printers.

Terminology

Q: WHAT IS LARGE FORMAT PRINTING?

A: We start where most print shops leave off. Although we have the ability to print the smaller sized graphic requests, we specialize in producing large graphics including vehicle wraps, tradeshow displays and exhibits, full color outdoor banners, and much more.

Q: WHAT IS MEDIA?

A: Media is the material that your graphic is printed on.  At HCG Signs, we  print on many different types of media including banner material, adhesive backed vinyl, fabrics, backlit material, and many others.

Q: WHAT KINDS OF MEDIA ARE AVAILABLE?

A:

Calendar Vinyl
General-purpose signs and graphics; moderate to good exterior durability. Greater production yields equals less cost. Stiffer/thicker film equals easier handling. Thickness of film increases resistance to abrasion. Intended for flat, smooth opaque application surfaces.

Cast Vinyl
Designed for maximum outdoor durability and conformability. Cast films also maintain their color and other properties better than other vinyl films. Better performance of pigments and UV absorbers, less shrinkage. Durability of cast films is generally higher than that of other vinyl films. Cast films can be made very thin which produces a conformable product that allows application over substrates with rivets, corrugations, and complex curves. Excellent for flat and irregular opaque application surfaces and vehicles.

Etched Frosted
Simulates the appearance of etched or sandblasted glass on window fronts, entry doors, and partitions.

Banner
Durable, flexible, tear and fade resistant material will withstand most weather conditions. Available in a variety of scrim, smooth, and mesh materials. Thickness of film increases resistance to abrasion.

Specialty
Variety of specialty media such as photo paper, artist canvas, perforated window film, static cling, street & wall graphics & more.

Q: WHAT KINDS OF ADHESIVE ARE AVAILABLE?

A: No Adhesive

Banners, photo paper, poster paper, and artist canvas typically do not have any adhesive.

Changeable
Changeable films can be removed without any aids such as heat or chemicals and without leaving adhesive residue.

Repositionable
Repositionable graphics have a low-tack adhesive that leaves no residue and can be reused like “Fat Heads.”

Semi-permanent
Some semi-permanent films can be removed with the aid of heat only. Others may require chemicals or accessories. These films leave less than 30% adhesive residue that can also be removed. Vehicle wraps are semi-permanent.

Permanent
Permanent films are not designed to be removed. In some cases they can be removed, but with great difficulty and likely damage to the substrate. If they are removed, they may leave significant adhesive residue. Decals and signage typically use permanent adhesives.

Static Cling
Designed for short-term indoor window or mirror graphics where no adhesion is required. Static cling graphics are repositionable and reusable.

Magnetic
Magnetic signs and decals can be “stuck” to any ferrous material and moved.

Q: WHAT IS LAMINATE?

A: Laminate is applied on top of media, and in many cases helps further protect the graphic from abuse. We generally use a cold lamination film

Q: WHAT IS SUBSTRATE?

A: Substrates consist of foam-core, gatorboard, MDO board, plexi-glass, alumacor, polystyrene, PVC, etc. Your adhesive backed graphics are mounted to these types of materials to add strength and rigidity.

Q: WHAT KINDS OF SUBSTRATES ARE AVAILABLE?

 A:Corrugated Plastic “Coroplast”

Durable because it is water proof and resistant to stains and most chemicals. At regular temperatures most oils, solvents, and water have no effect, allowing it to perform under adverse weather conditions or as a product component exposed to harsh chemicals. Wide range of colors. 4mm is a common thickness; 10mm is very heavy and rigid. Coroplast is a popular brand.

Foam Core
Extruded polystyrene foam core laminated on both sides with heavy white or black smooth coated paper. Designed for interior mounting applications requiring rigid, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive material. Typically, foam core is used for short-term usage as it dents readily and does not hold up well to certain glues, such as superglue and some paints.

Ultra Board
Heavy-duty, all-plastic panel that features a litho-grade, high-impact polystyrene surface for permanent displays and signs. Ultra Board is designed primarily for interior use, but can be used outdoors, and it is durable. Dent-resistant styrene liners are secured to the foam center with a bond that keeps the panel flat and rigid. Moisture does not penetrate.

Poly-metal
Solid or corrugated plastic core with aluminum laminated to both surfaces. Extremely flat surface that will not warp or distort. Excellent durability in outdoor applications. Alumalite, Alumacor, Dibond, and Omega-bond are popular brand names.

Styrene
Extruded high impact material used primarily as an indoor panel or for outdoor usage up to 1 year.

Expanded PVC
Expanded PVC is lightweight, rigid board of moderately expanded closed-cell polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Low gloss matte finish. Will not rust, rot, peel, or absorb water. Suitable for display, exhibit, interior, or exterior signage and for photo mounting. Soften at about 150*F. This means that you can easily heat up thin (3mm or thinner) pieces and mold as needed. Sintra is popular brand name.

Magnetic Sheeting
Permanent magnetic sheet used primarily in vehicle magnetic signs. Vehicle magnetic signs are typically .030″ thick and 18″ x 24″. However, the largest magnetic sheet available is 24″ x 50″.

Sign board
Exterior grade wood products with a variety of aluminum, vinyl, or enamel surfaces. Excellent for exterior signage.

Acrylic
Lightweight, high optical quality, high impact strength, and excellent weather ability. Ideal for backlit signage.

Polycarbonate
Polycarbonates are Lightweight, high impact strength and excellent weather ability. They come in clear and white. Primarily known by the trademarked names Lexan, Makrolon, Makroclear and are a particular group of thermoplastic polymers. They are easily worked, molded, and thermoformed. Because of these properties, polycarbonates find many applications. Ideal for backlit signage.

Q: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CAST AND CALENDARED VINYL?

A:Though cast vinyl and calendared vinyl look the same they have some very fundamental differences that are established during their creation that yield specific application limitations. These limitations are essential to know when selecting vinyl for various projects.

Calendared vinyl, which gets its name from the manufacturing process, is created from a series of basic raw materials which are run through a series of calendered rollers once it reaches a molten state. The process of being fed through these heavy rollers establishes the flat smooth surface that is calendered vinyl. This process is fantastic for high volume vinyl projects as it is quick and can yield a very large amount of vinyl. The one set back to this process is due to its original molten state as a ‘ball’ of material that is flattened, the vinyl retains a memory of this shape and when exposed to heat tends to slightly shrink. Though this ‘dimensional stability’ is not of the highest quality it is subtle and ideal for shorter term projects. This vinyl process tends to yield thicker vinyl which is ideal for durability during its use.

Cast Vinyl, also named after its production process. This vinyl though is prepared as a liquid and is poured into casts that are then run through a process to solidify the mixture. After the solvents have evaporated the vinyl is ready and since it was in a relaxed state during this process it does not have the tendencies to regain any other shape which offered high ‘dimensional stability’. As you can imagine this process is a bit more time consuming and produces a vinyl that has a longer life span in addition to a difference set of specifications. Due to these factors it tends to be a higher quality material and a bit more expensive than its alternative.

HCG Signs offers various vinyls of both selections, understanding the limitations and capabilities of our vinyl allow us to better serve the needs of our clients. The 3M Company is the leading manufacturer of Cast vinyl which has been established at the top choice vinyl for vehicle graphics.