How to make a yard sign
During an election year the yard sign has become an ever prevalent back drop to our daily lives. These mini billboards can be used for much more than just familiarizing you with the current candidate’s name. Directions to a graduation party or yard sale, random messages for passersby, really the sky is the limit for what these can be useful for. My neighbor who is a roofer and contractor asked me to make a few for him to promote his business while on the job. I made these yard signs at Tech Shop (Pittsburgh), utilizing a vinyl cutter and the awesome work space and tables available to members (at home my work surfaces tend to be cluttered with papers and projects).
Step 1: Step: 1
Step 1: Design the packaging in your choice of vector base design software. Then export to your vinyl cutters job processing software; most cutters now come with a proprietary system to tell the machine how to work.
Step 2: Step: 2
Step 2: Keep an eye on the vinyl as it is cut, making sure the tracking (side-to-side) stays fairly straigh and doesn’t come out from under the rollers. This can be a problem on bigger jobs and cheap machines. You also want to make sure the blade is at the correct pressure setting so you are getting a good clean cut through the vinyl without cutting through the backing paper also.
Step 3: Step: 3
Step 3: Cut the finished vinyl from the roll and take it to a sufficiently large and open work surface. This is the fun part… (Can you hear the sarcasm in my typing?) If you just cut a very detailed design you’re going to hate life for awhile. This process is called weeding, peel back the unwanted vinyl at a 45 degree angle, while leaving only the parts on the backing paper that you want to apply to the sign. Having a pick, tweezers, and scissors on hand can help make this process slightly less painful. Take great care not to let the vinyl you’re weeding touch what is still on the backing paper. It can be extremely difficult to separate and may ruin your material altogether. No one likes the “do not pass go” card, and no one likes starting over… that’s just a waste of time and money.
Step 4: Step: 4
Step 4: Now that you have the unwanted vinyl removed, you will want to apply your transfer tape. I do a lot of decals for my clothing company so I go the clear vinyl transfer tape because I think it looks a lot nicer when displaying and selling decals, but a paper masking tape looking transfer tape is pretty typical. Make sure to squeegee down the transfer with a fair amount of pressure. The adhesive is a lower tack as it’s made to be temporary and removed easily, so you want to make sure it gets a good hold on the vinyl or it can become difficult to adhere to the backing paper.
Step 5: Step: 5
Step 5: Having removed the backing paper, make sure your substrate surface (corrugated plastic in this case) is clean. I used a special product called Rapid Tac. Windex can work in a pinch but is not recommended. After wiping off the surface with a paper towel, I re-misted the surface with the Rapid Tac. This allows you to have some flexibility for repositioning and helps to prevent getting air bubbles under the vinyl.
Step 6: Step: 6
Step 6: Once you have followed the directions on the bottle of Rapid Tac to apply vinyl to the substrait, and allowed it to bond to the surface, carefully remove the transfer tape. Take your time, the Rapid Tac can allow the letters come up as you remove your tape, especially if your impatient like me and don’t allow for more than enough time for evaporation and bonding time. The bottle says 5 – 10 minutes… really over night would be better, but I usually can’t wait that long.
Step 7: Step: 7
Step 7: Admire your sign, stick a stake in it (like a vampire) and let the world know what you have to say! Like “I made it at Tech Shop”!