What is a cut file?
In the world of digital images and design, there are two graphic formats: vector and raster. Vector graphics, which are the preferred format for files that are not photographs, are made up of points, lines and curves - or paths - containing colours, gradients and other editable effects. Raster graphics or bitmap images, on the other hand, are the preferred format for photographs, and are made up of thousands of squares of colour - called pixels. In order for our graphics to be decal cut we create all files in vector format.
What does decal mean?
Some people call it a sticker - but we think thats a bit old fashioned. We prefer to call it a decal, and we love the term so much we decided to name the company after it! A decal is a vector cut graphic that can be transferred onto another surface to personalise it. Our decals are all vinyl cut decals - a modern type transfer that will last many years.
How do we create our vector cut files?
We've written a short blog here to explain the process from the first idea, through the drawing phase and onto the final output.
Lets start with the idea. We take a lot of inspiration from current trends. When we started out with our first Macbook range we decided to head down the route of TV, movies and gaming - the likes of Batman, Superman, Homer, Snow White, Mario etc... Everybody can relate to a famous TV character so we what better trend to start with! These were a huge hit almost instantly. With such a great response we needed to expand the range, and expand quickly! This is where we set out to cover a wider range of hobbies and trends. The idea for the VW Camper, the example we are using in this blog, came through via a custom request for a car decal. A client of ours wanted some VW logos for his camper van - from this request, something clicked with us and we thought "Camper van decals!" That's a great niche market with plenty of enthusiasts, a great hobby for many and plenty of pretty cool results along the way!
In order to create the outline shape accurately we needed to grab an image of a VW camper online and start the drawing process. Finding an image is easy - with plenty of image searching websites online it didn't take long to find an image we were happy with.
We use Adobe Illustrator for all our graphic work - Adobe is by far the market leader when it come to graphics design, and in our opinion is easily the best piece of kit for vector graphic files.
1. A quick google image search bought up a great image (also known as a raster graphic) below. We need to pull this into illustrator and start a hand trace.
2. Tracing can take quite a bit of time to master and will be a slow process to get all the detail in. Start by tracing the outer shape, making sure to capture as much of the form as possible. It is also important to keep an idea in mind of the final size, to avoid creating small intricate areas that will look bad when decal cut from the vinyl material. Once the outer shape is complete, we'll work in towards the middle until all the details are added. On occasion we'll add or edit details that might enhance the overall appearance - for example you'll see below (in point 3) that we added a small roof rack, larger wing mirrors and a beefy front bumper.
3. Once traced we end up with a graphic similar to the below. Although the design is fleshed out, from here it still needs some work doing. Currently it looks great as it - but we now need to tweak it to fit various Macbook sizes.
4. The final steps are to make sure the design will work across the various Macbook sizes. We have a vast amount of product templates on our system. These templates need to be highly accurate to ensure the products we send out are fit perfectly to each device. We align all vector files up with the templates to ensure the illuminated apple logo will light up the relevant area of the design - in this case the iconic VW logo. This makes for an impressive final product.
5. The finished design. The finished vector file at the top and a client photo at the bottom. Happy days!
Finally, we need to display these across all our selling platforms. To do this we'll need to create raster files for all visuals, and once complete the products can be uploaded to our sites. Some of these methods will be shown in similar blogs over the next few weeks, stay tuned.
LD Design Team