Creating your own motorcycle graphics requires vectoring skills associated with a vector graphics software program. You must use a vector program for necessary creation of mathematical lines and curves or "paths" that a vinyl cutter machine can read. Gain experience with vinyl cutting machinery, if you have no previous experience. Learn techniques by practicing cutting, preparing, and applying vinyl graphics. Convert bitmaps, or "raster" images, by changing the dots or "pixels" into vectorised lines and curves. Import bitmaps created in a photo-editing software program into the vector software for the best raster-to-vector conversion results.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Vinyl cutting machine
- Vector software program
- Photo-editing software program (optional)
- Vinyl cutter software program
- Cloth measuring tape
- Craft knife
- Masking tape
- Premask tape
- Large table
- Rolls of vinyl
- Sign-making squeegee
- Grease pencil (optional)
Measure the decal area on the motorcycle. Compensate for curves and prevent scratching by measuring with a cloth measuring tape.
Open a vector graphics program. Use your measurements for creating a new file. Select "File, New." Type the numerical information in the fields of the "Options" box. Select "Enter."
Choose the "File, Place" command to import a bitmap image into the vector program. You may also draw your own design with the Bezier pen tool, located on the tool bar. See the manufacturer's instructions for creating vector graphics with the pen tool in your specific vector software program.
Enlarge or reduce the placed bitmap graphic, if necessary. Hold down the "Shift" key, keeping the graphic proportional, while dragging from any corner point.
Select the image. Choose "Options, Trace" to convert the bitmap image into a vector graphic. Choose a preset option or manually manipulate the controls. Adjust the graphic according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Adjust any lines of the vector motorcycle graphic that overlap or need alterations by holding down the mouse button over the pen tool. Select the "Convert Anchor Points" tool.
Manipulate the points and lines as necessary, creating a smooth path of lines and curves and preventing cutting errors later. Consult the "Help" file of your specific program for more information.
Open the cutter software program, importing the vector from your vectoring illustration program. Select "File, New," then "File, Place." Resize the motorcycle graphic if necessary, using the same technique you used in the vector software program.
Place a roll of vinyl on the lower roller rack of the vinyl cutter. Feed the loose edge of the vinyl through the vinyl cutting machine manually.
Start at the rear of the machine, and pull the vinyl through the machine to the cutting area. Align the vinyl by using the guides on the front of your vinyl cutting machine. Lock the rollers into place.
Select "Cut/Plot" from the "File" menu, beginning the cutting process. Remove the finished cutout from the vinyl roll with a craft knife when the cutter has finished cutting the design.
"Weed" or remove excess vinyl from the graphic with a craft knife, starting along the exterior, working your way to the interior.
Secure all edges of the vinyl sheet to a large table with masking tape. Pull out the amount of premask tape necessary for covering the entire area of the graphic, plus 4 to 6 inches.
Attach 4 to 6 inches of extra premask to the table above the graphic without touching the graphic.
Lower the premask slowly over the graphic, starting at the secure edge and working downward by applying pressure with your sign-making squeegee.
Use a 45-degree angle when applying the tape with the squeegee. Smooth back over the taped graphic when all the premask has been applied.
Remove any excess premask overhang from the motorcycle graphic with a craft knife.
Tips and warnings
- You can scale vector graphics to any size because, unlike a bitmap image, vectors do not depend on resolution. Using the "Place" command enables temporary resizing for bitmaps, without losing image quality.
- You may import a bitmap directly into the vinyl cutter software program if your vinyl cutting software has the capability of converting "raster" images into vector images.
- Take your time when "weeding."
- According to Sign Industry.com, "The horizontal hinge is good for fleet graphics or when you are working with long panels."
- Always preview your motorcycle graphic in the "Outline" or "Wireframe" mode, ensuring all the lines have been converted properly to vectors. "Raster" or pixelated images will not show up in this mode.
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