Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Tips & Tricks: Custom grid overlays to assist in easier alignment and replication

Lining up type and graphics on projects is always a challenge. Whether it is vinyl cut on a Cricut® or Silhouette® machine, or a stencil for painting, things need to be straight and square. Some handmade artists are blessed with an incredible eye for placement, spacing, and alignment. But even the best subjective eye cannot match the reference of an objective measurement. Therefore, rulers are of course helpful. I use transparent rulers, sometimes with a strip of white vinyl just under the numbers, to get things accurate. Center finder rulers are also helpful as they have a zero point in the middle and measure in both directions simultaneously. 

In addition to these methods, however, is the use of a transparent grid overlay. If you are using vinyl with transfer tape that includes a grid, that can be helpful. Myself, I prefer grid-less transfer tape so that I can use a custom grid most useful to my project. And where do these grids come from? Well, I make them.

Inkjet printers can print on a marvelous array of materials. There is a material called Transparency Film for Inkjet Printers. I purchased it in a lot of 30 Sheets, 100% Clear,  and 8.5 x 11 inches in size. Be aware that there is a Print side and a Non-Print side. Using a vector graphic program (could be Illustrator, InkScape, etc) I created the size of the grid blocks I needed across the full size of the 8.5 x 11 canvas size. I used .25" blocks, and I added a light grey strip behind every other row of blocks, vertically and horizontally, to differentiate between the columns. Also, I added a bolder center line both vertically and horizontally for reference. I duplicated this file and switched the light grey strips to the horizontal. Everything else remained the same. Now I have two grids that can be overlayed, with a strip of tape typically at the top, on projects. Just line up the horizontal or vertical boundaries from the physical project and lay your type and graphics underneath until aligned with the grid.

Note: be sure to only allow a small amount of your transfer tape (used to move the vinyl to the project) to touch your project while lining up the type and graphics. This can be done by using some excess vinyl backing paper (the shiny side) stuck to the bulk of your transfer tape. Once the alignment looks right, rub-down the top of the transfer tape and slowly remove the shiny backing paper until all the transfer tape is on your project. Remove your grid, and burnish your vinyl as usual. Job done!

One more thing: accurate measurement is a key to success, but there are visual anomalies dealing with eyesight that one should be made aware of. Always go with what "looks" best regardless of the measurement. For example, you wouldn't buy a size 8.5 sneaker, even if this "should" be your size, when a 9 feels much better. When all is said and done, use common sense and pay attention to overall appearance-that is what your customer is seeing.

Both horizontal and vertical column grids are helpful
since projects come in all shapes and sizes.
Tape them together to make larger grid overlays.

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