Artwork terminology utilized by sign companies

Demystifying common signage artwork questions.


The sign industry has a wide variety of terms, which could even be considered it's own language to a sense, that may have your everyday Joe scratching their head and asking what the heck are you talking about? This blog will be one of many, that will attempt to simplify the terminology that sign companies across the globe use, and will more than likely be asking about artwork that is being submitted to create any custom signage, especially if there is a problem with the artwork.

Understanding sign company terminology, especially in the realm of artwork, greatly helps our customers and future clientele circumnavigate the whole sign buying process because submitting good artwork is an essential key in the sign making process. Bad artwork can lead to poor quality signs or having to settle for less than stellar signage...and nobody wants a lackluster sign that doesn't live up to their expectations.

The terms described below may come up in conversations when obtaining sign pricing via phone or through a quote request. And for those who are not familiar with graphic design terms, or lucky enough to know someone who is, we're here to help! And on that note, let's get started with the fundamental sign terminology that this blog is based on....


Basically this is the file that you will be submitting to your chosen sign company for them to print or produce your custom signage. Other terminology that may be used to reference artwork are graphics, design or layout.


This means that the file you are submitting to create your sign from can be printed "As Is". This typically means that the art file is "ready to print" and built to the exact size that it needs to be printed or manufactured at; and that no additional text or image alterations need to be done to the art file.


This pertains to raster images (mentioned below). High resolution images have a higher ratio of dots per inch (dpi) and will produce higher quality prints. For print production a resolution of 300 dpi usually works very well.


Also pertaining to raster imaging, low resolution artwork, has less dots per inch (dpi) that typically results in grainy or pixelated images. Low-resolution art images are great for web use but do not translate well to large scale print or sign production.


In digital printing a raster image is a combination of closely spaced of dots, or pixels, that form a pattern or more simply a picture. The most common file extensions for raster images are .jpg, .tif and .psd. which are designed utilizing the Adobe Photoshop program. (See Raster File Format Guide...)


Vector artwork is the preferred file for any sign printing! Vector artwork is mathematically based through descriptions of points, lines, paths and curves that represent graphic images. Common vector extensions are .eps, .pdf and .ai which are created via the Adobe Illustrator program. (See Vector File Format Guide...)


Short for Pantone Matching System, this term is used in regards to color matching, and describes a standardized color reproduction system. All PMS colors are assigned numbers that simulate just about every color imaginable in various solids and shades.


Also known as 4-color printing or CMYK is a print process used to digitally print artwork. The four colors, CMYK, consist of a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). This is the preferred color profile of all artwork being submitted for digital printing.


This color format is used for viewing, primarily for computer screens, that consists of different shades of three basic colors: Red, Green and Blue. If an RGB artwork file is submitted for a process color (or CMYK) output, problems in color shifts can and do occur, that can completely alter the original image when printed. As a rule of thumb, for digital printing, always submit artwork that is built in a CMYK color format.


If your sign needs to be "cut-to-shape" that means that it will be cut out to the shape the text or logo of your submitted artwork. Cut-to-shape (sometimes referred to as die-cut or computer-cut) artwork has no background and can only be achieved by submitting a vector file.


If your artwork file is not completely "ready-to-print" you may need to employ your chosen sign company (or outsource with a paid graphic designer) to help you with graphic design for your signage. Most sign companies have graphic designers who are on hand to take your sign idea and turn it into a printable file that matches your vision.

Have sign questions or need help with your artwork, please give Quick Signs a call at (714) 573-9313, or visit our Help Center for further online information.

Who are we? Orange County Signs, also known as Quick Signs

Quick Signs, also known as,  has been a leader in the signs and graphics industry for over 20 years. We specialize in large format printing utilizing state-of-the-art digital printers. We service the signs and banner industry of Orange County, California and we produce and ship our sign products everywhere in the United States. The cities we service in Orange County are Tustin, Irvine, Newport Beach, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Orange, Anaheim and many other surrounding communities including San Diego County, Los Angeles County and all of Southern California, and anywhere in the United States!  Local Service Areas

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