Cut Vinyl Graphics introduced computer technology into the production side of sign making. Until then all signs were laboriously brush lettered by hand. The vinyl lettering is produced by a plotter driven knife blade which cuts by x-y coordinates from a roll of colored vinyl material. The vinyl material has an adhesive backside which is adhered to a silicone backing sheet. Once the lettering or image is cut, the excess material is removed (weeded) from around the cut vinyl letters and the center of the letters are plucked out. The lettering is now visible against the silicone backing material. A transfer tape which has a stronger adhesive than the silicone backing material is then placed over the lettering. The cut vinyl graphics are now sandwiched between the backing material and the transfer tape and are now ready to be applied.
Because the plotter (cutter) works only with the contour cutting of the image and does not fill the lettering, Vector art is required to communicate with the plotter. Vector art can be thought of as wire-frame art and not bit map images used for printing. Most vector art files we use end in .eps or .ai although most .pdf files will also work. Because the vinyl is cut, there are limits as to how small and detailed the image can be. There are other methods for very detailed images, see Large Format Digital Printing.
The benefit of cut vinyl graphics is durability and resistance to fading. The high performance vinyl that we use is a 2 mil thick cast product which conservatively has a 7 year warranty but over 10 years is common, depending on color and climate conditions. The “shop hours” vinyl on our front window looks like new and has been there since we bought our first plotter in 1989. There are less expensive calendared films which shrink, crack and become unsightly over time and are used for temporary signs; we prefer to avoid this material.
Vinyl graphics can be applied and will adhere to almost any surface: metal, glass, sealed wood and any painted surface. It is excellent for vehicles, boats, building signs, office door lettering, wall graphics and just about anything else you can think of that tape will stick to.