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Even Better Blog for Help & Learning the Graphics Industry

Be sure to visit our new blog at: where you will find help with many topics of interest to the graphics professional and lots of learning materials as well. Learn from us or share your own experience!


Be sure to visit our improved blog!

More members, more topics and more training services!

Find The Right Fonts For Your Projects & Test Them Online With FontPro

Find The Right Fonts For Your Projects & Test Them Online With FontPro

by  on May 17, 2013
Web designers have a lot riding on their shoulders whenever they set out to design a new app or service; everything from the layout and the flow of the content to its color scheme has to be carefully considered and crafted. One very important aspect of design is the choice of font that’s used. It might sound somewhat trivial, but fonts come in a huge variety and they certainly aren’t a one-size fits all deal. FontPro is an excellent service that helps you choose the right font for any project. It’s free for now, but might not stay that way. The service allows you to search fonts by specifying different parameters such as the weight, slant, and width of the letters. The search can further be classified into serif, sans serif, slab serif, mono-spaced  script, handwriting, black letter, and decorative. Let’s take a more detailed look at it after the jump. Read More…

25 Free Must Download Design Programs

25 Free Must Download Design Programs


image14 25 Free Must Download Design Programs


25 free must download design programs, the article features a range of different design programs including alternative programs for some of the most popular design programs such as Photoshop, flash and illustrator. A great collection of programs available for free which is perfect while currently suffering from a recession.



Image Editing


Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, andplugins.

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2) GIMP 2.6.6

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks asphoto retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages

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3) Xara Xtreme

Xara Xtreme is quite simply the best value and fastest all-in-one graphics package you’ll find. For drawings or photo work, for print or the web, it’s the perfect choice.

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4) Active Pixels

Great free app which is very similar to Photoshop.

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5) PaintStar

PaintStar is a versatile digital image processing software suitable for such tasks as retouching of photographs, composing and authoring images, image morphing, screen capture, and displaying image thumbnail in Windows Explorer context menu.

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6) Picasa 3.1 Build 71.43

Picasa automatically finds and organizes all of your pictures including: jpeg, tiff, bmp, psd, and standardcamera movie files. Sending pictures with e-mail used to mean five steps just to get it right. Picasa lets you pick the size and then automatically attaches your pictures. Browse through all your pictures and view slideshows of your albums with the click of a button. Enhance, fix red-eye, and even crop without losing data or permanently changing your original picture.

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7) Art weaver

Artweaver is a Windows Freeware program to simulate natural brush tools. It is therefore suitable to leave your creativity free run. Artweaver offers you a clear program window, which can be used without training immediately.

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8) VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor

VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor is a versatile image editor with an intuitive interface and a wide variety of features. This powerful application is user friendly, offering simple image editing, high productivity and easy customization.


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9) Photo Pos Lite

Photo Pos Lite is a free lite version of the award-wining photo editor Photo Pos Pro. Photo Pos Lite contains many of Photo Pos Pro’s tools and features.

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10) MAGIX Xtreme Photo Designer

MAGIX Xtreme Photo Designer is a powerful yet easy to use application that allows you to edit your photos quickly and precisely. This incredible program offers a comprehensive set of tools that enables you to edityour pictures and assists in transforming your photo ideas into reality.

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Illustration Design Programs


11) Inkscape

I think inkscape is one best of vector programs alongside illustrator plus its very easy to learn. Its an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format.


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12) Draw plus 4

Not a popular program as inksscape but still great free program, when you need the very best results from your drawing & graphics projects – choose DrawPlus 4, our much enhanced version, which offers a massive range of additional vector drawing tools, graphic design features and animation features.

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13) Karbon

Karbon is a vector drawing application with an user interface that is easy to use, highly customizable and extensible. That makes Karbon a great application for users starting to explore the world of vector graphics as well as for artists wanting to create breathtaking vector art.

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14) Insight Point

Karbon is a vector drawing application with an user interface that is easy to use, highly customizable and extensible. That makes Karbon a great application for users starting to explore the world of vector graphics as well as for artists wanting to create breathtaking vector art.

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15) Smooth Draw

The best free program which I’ve come across if your looking to test out your skills using a tablet. SmoothDraw NX is an easy yet powerful freehand drawing tool. It’s a limited yet free version of SmoothDraw. It produces the most smooth and expressive stroke through your tablet. It also smoothes mouse input for who don’t have a tablet.

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16) Pencil 0.4.4b

Pencil is an animation/drawing software for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. It lets you create traditional hand-drawn animation (cartoon) using both bitmap and vector graphics. Pencil is free and open source.

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17) SPRAY vector generator 0.1

SPRAY vector generator is intended to produce helper objects for vector illustration software like Xara X, Corel Draw, Adobe photoshop. You can easily generate huge number of circles with random position, fill, outline color; random paths, grids, and rays. You can place generated objects thru clipboard at your favorite illustration app. Developed for Xara X but also works with Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator.

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3D Modelling

18) Blender

This is the best 3D modelling program that I’ve come across Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.

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19) K-3D

K-3D is free-as-in-freedom 3D modelling and animation software. It features a plugin-oriented procedural engine for all of its content, making K-3D a very versatile and powerful package.K-3D excels at polygonal modelling, and includes basic tools for NURBS, patches, curves and animation. Give it a try!

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20) 3DPlus 2

3DPlus is the amazing 3D design software that enables you to create stunning 3D graphics for your home, school or business – no experience required!

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21) Google Sketch up

Google SketchUp Pro 7 is a suite of powerful features and applications for design and engineering professionals.

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22) 3D Canvas

3D Canvas is a real-time 3D modeling and animation tool that incorporates an intuitive drag-and-drop approach to 3D modeling.

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Animation Programs

23) Synfig

Synfig is a powerful, industrial-strength vector-based 2D animation software package, designed from the ground-up for producing feature-film quality animation with fewer people and resources.


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24) TouchArt

touch Player and 21 interactive 2D and 3D animations (synths) are included in this sampler. Touch lets you manipulate visuals in real-time, giving you control of various parameters like lighting, color, textures, motion, video playback, and composing. Play some audio and you can sync visuals to the BPM.

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25) anim pixels

A great free program which allows you to create powerful 2d 3d cool looking graphic animations.

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Leave a comment below, tell us what your three favourite free design programs are.

How to Make Backlit Signs Look Good Day and Night

Posted by Kim Dudley on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 @ 04:28 PM
backlit sample sign spokane
Driving around Spokane, you may not see a whole lot of full color backlit signs.  That’s because full color outdoor backlit signs present a special challenge: constantly changing ambient light.

In the beginning of sign making, backlit signs were hand painted with translucent paint that looked great when lit from the front by the sun as well as at night when lit from behind.  The transition from hand-painting to cut vinyl made the process easier, and translucent vinyl worked well for both day and night settings.  The downside to the vinyl was that it was and still is very expensive compared to other options.  In addition to a high price tag, the vinyl could only produce spot color, so images and text had to be simple. Photos, gradients and special effects were not possible.

Digital printing has solved both of these problems, but naturally, it leads to some of its own complications.  Digitally printing a sign face is more cost effective than either hand-painting or ordering and cutting several colors of translucent vinyl.  It also allows for a multitude of nearly unlimited color choices, and gradients produce a realistic, vibrant image.  The complication arises when different lighting – from the outside by the sun, and from the inside by electrical lighting – hits the print.  If the sign looks good in daylight, the backlighting will completely wash out the color at night (see the far right image, above).  For the same reason, if we increase the saturation to make a sign look bright and clear at night, it will be too dark for daytime viewing.

The solution?  After much testing – we found that the best solution was two layers of ink with a separating layer of white ink, all printed on the front side of the sign face.  By printing color, then white, then color again, (triple strike) you get an image that looks good no matter what the lighting.  When the sun shines on the sign, the front layer of ink is all that is seen.  When the sign is backlit, the second layer of color, hidden behind the white ink is pushed through so the sign isn’t washed out.

In the picture above, we printed the same image using three different processes.  The image on the right shows a “single strike,” or just one layer of ink.  This type of printing is great for most signs, but as you can see, the backlighting washes out the image at night.  The image on the left shows the same image printed on the front of the sign face, then printed in reverse on the back side.  This “double strike” method gives better color, but can be very difficult to register exactly on both sides.  The center image is a “triple strike” with color, white ink, then color printed on the sign face.  Our test image is printed with 100% opacity white ink, but by lowering the opacity to 50%, the image is bright and clear, but not too dark.

Even with the extra ink and extra printing time required for a triple strike, this is still the most cost effective option for vibrant full color backlit signs that look great in any lighting conditions.  The color will be sure to last at least 3-5 years, and if the sign is laminated, you can expect 5-7 years of life.

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Signs for Success – Custom Wraps and Graphics is located in Spokane, WA and services Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Cheney and Deer Park, pointing coast to coast wherever successful signs are needed.

Building A New Font

Building A New Font – Vector Magic

Building A New Font

This tutorial was written by Howard Penner and is published here with his permission.

Download the tutorial (PDF)

Introduction from the Author

It was a little more than a year ago that a close friend pointed me to Vector Magic. A very short e-mail. The subject was “Have U Seen” and the content was a link to the once existing Vector Magic site at Stanford. My friend knew I had been playing with vector generation/tracing applications for over 15 years. Both of us had yet to find one that provided a tracing quality that actually saved time as compared to hand tracing using the pen tool. When I saw the term “rotational invariance” on the web site I smiled. I then saw the examples and I knew good things were coming.

At first it was only a web application and very limited in the size of the image that could be uploaded and processed. I put together a set of 20 images of all types and uploaded them to the server, one at a time, over and over, making sure to try each of the settings. These were a varied set of bitmap images of flat color logos, line drawings, litho and intaglio prints, photos, watercolors, and oil paintings. All of the vector output that I downloaded was exceptional.

It has changed the way I work and has greatly enlarged the volume of work I am able to do in the same amount of time. Do not let your clients know that you use this, or how much it helps you to respond to their potentially peripetia prone preferences. (Peripetia – noun. A sudden and unexpected change of fortune or reverse of circumstance.)

Using the desktop version of Vector Magic, as well as Photoshop, Illustrator and Fontographer, or their equivalents, this tutorial will show you how to take a scan of an alphabet (a page from a 100-year-old book on font design) and convert it to a usable, if not fully set-up, TrueType font. If you do not have Fontographer, you can still use this procedure to generate vectors from imagery other than letter shapes. The individual letters will still need to be hand kerned at final layout to get optimum results. However, when used for headlines, banners, and short lists, this can be a real time saver and allows access to custom and ancient fonts with reasonable processing and editing time. This tutorial presupposes a familiarity with the computer desktop and basic usage of graphics applications.

It is my hope that you will find this tutorial to be enjoyable and, possibly, informative.
        — Howard Penner, Free-Lance Graphicist

What does this tutorial describe?

This tutorial describes how to create a truetype font from a bitmap image or scan of a printed alphabet of the font.

What kind of images does this tutorial apply to?

The source material for this tutorial is an old book of decorative fonts, but it can apply just as easily to any scan or bitmap of a font. This tutorial describes the entire process, from scanning, to vectorizing to creating the font itself.

What do I need to follow this tutorial?

You will need access to Vector Magic, either through the Online Edition, or by purchasing the Desktop Edition. In addition, you will need:

  • Adobe Photoshop or equivalent
  • Adobe Illustrator or equivalent
  • Fontographer or equivalent

The Tutorial Itself

Unlike our other tutorials on this site, this tutorial is in the form of a PDF document. There are also a several other downloads associated with this tutorial. They are:

Download the tutorial (PDF)

Download the font (TrueType)

Download the raw scan (PNG)

Sign Making for your Business |

Sign Making for your Business |

This is just a good example of why you should be blogging!

Sign Making: The Different Types of Signs for a Business « Saffron Studio

Sign Making: The Different Types of Signs for a Business « Saffron Studio.

Nice article about signs in general.

FlexiSIGN tips and Tricks

Well, at least ONE person is reading this, so let’s get moving creating some real content. If you have a tips, a project something that can assist others, this is the place to post. While I will accept constructive criticism, what I really want is content that helps!

With that in mind, let me start.

Here are some ideas for contributions. I’ll do some you do some!

  • Color Management – What settings give you the best color?
  • Vectorizing – How to handle low resolution images.
  • Fonts – Where to find them, add them and use them.
  • Updates – How often should you check and why?
  • Goggle – Where to get copyright free images.

Okay, that’s just a start, how about adding more ideas. Just post and we can work on writing together!

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Live Chat is now active on the Neschen Americas SEAL(r) web site !

Neschen Americas SEAL(r) Website Adds Live Chat!

Neschen Americas is updating their customer service abilities by adding Live Chat to their site.  They are using BoldChat as their service to accomplish this. From what I hear, this has already resulted in better customer support and even a few new sales! Do you use live chat on your site? If so what is your experience with this type of service?

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