Use computer graphics on a sign or to decorate an Instructables project. I needed a small sign that could survive outdoors for a few months, and I wanted more than just lettering on it. My sign is black and white, but color could be used just as well. Step 7 includes hints about how to compose a computer graphic. To see my related Instructables, click on "unclesam" just below the title above or in the INFO box to the right. On the new page that appears, repeatedly click "NEXT" to see all of them.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Printer paper, bright white, heavy, 24 lb.
Backer board, half-inch PVC plastic (because I had some); or plywood, particle board, masonite or wood sealed with paint or varnish
Contact cement, spray can; waterproof, adheres pretty well to PVC
Clear plastic, spray can. I used automobile clear coat, because I had some
Roller sold for sealing wallpaper seams
Step 2: Let Us Spray
Compose and print your graphic, then trim the paper so that it is about one quarter inch larger than the backer board in both length and width. I believe printing made using heat-fused toner (laserjet), rather than with inkjet, is more durable. If it is more convenient to compose and print your graphic with inkjet, it could be made more durable by copying it using a fused-toner copier, which usually can be found in a public library. Apply several coats of clear plastic spray to each side of the printed paper and allow to dry. Spray the back side of the paper and the mating side of the backer board with contact cement and allow to dry.
Step 3: Attach Paper to Backer Board
Press the cemented surface of the backer board onto the cemented side of the paper. The paper overlap edges allow for proper alignment, by eye, since once contact is made, the paper cannot be moved or removed. If your project is large, you may need to print the graphic on more than one sheet of paper, trim and arrange them on the backer board.
Step 4: Rollin’
Use the roller, working from the center out to the edges, puncture and press flat any bubbles, to make tight contact between the paper and backer.
Step 5: Paper Cut
Cut away the excess paper tight against the backer board edges.
Step 6: Performing Seal
Use the roller to seal the edges of the paper to the backer, where they may have been raised by trimming, and the sign is finished. The graphic could include a novelty shape outline, and the shape cut out on a band saw. In addition, instrument panels, operating instructions or decorations could be composed on the computer and applied to Instructables project cases. Graphics of gears and shafts and cogs and sprockets and chains could be composed and applied to the outsides of project boxes to give them a steam punk look without having to machine all those metal parts.
Step 7: Compose the Graphics
I use Paint (previously Paintbrush), because it is included in all Windows operating systems. Find it on your computer at Start>Programs>Accessories>Paint. The program is very versatile, allowing you to import photos, clipart and graphics, modify and combine them, create special effects, and to draw and add text, all in colors. For my sign I imported the horseshoe clipart, then drew the circle and slash and added the lettering. M$ expects the user to learn Paint by just playing with it, which can be frustrating, and the included robust Help feature is no substitute for an instruction manual. An internet search yields a number of Paint tutorials, some of which include videos. Two printable versions are http://www.lesley.edu/faculty/ahunt/MSPttutr.htm
The internet is loaded with databases of photos, graphics and clipart, some free, some for pay. Microsoft.com offers a large, searchable, free database of clipart, which includes a small program that helps you select and download scalable versions of your selections as you browse. Alternatively, you can click the magnifying glass on an individual selection to get a larger view, then click its magnifier to get an even larger view, then right-click to copy and paste that graphic into Paint. You can capture a low-resolution image of anything that appears on your computer screen in the same way. If right-click>copy >paste does not work, hit the 'print screen' keyboard key to copy the entire screen to your computer's clipboard. Next 'paste' that image into Paint and cut out and save just the portion you want, as I did to get the image for this step.