Two types of image files are necessary when reproducing a number plate, bitmap and vector. Unlike bitmap files, vectors are independent of resolution, meaning they can be resized without losing quality. Bitmaps are created with a photo editing program and contain a grid of square dots. Bitmaps are calculated by the number of pixels within an image. Vectors are created from bezier paths, or mathematical lines and curves. These paths contain anchor points and handles that determine the x-y axis of a drawing. Because vinyl cutters read only vector lines, reproducing a number plate requires the use of vectors.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Photo editing software
- Illustration software
- Vinyl cutter (optional)
Find an image of the number plate for reproduction from an online royalty-free vector clip art website, or scan the number plate in a scanner at 100 per cent. Use the lowest resolution when scanning or unnecessary artefacts may appear in the vector output.
Use a photo editing program filter to reduce the noise in the number plate image before converting to a vector file.
Adjust contrast in a photo editing program. Save the file to your hard drive as a "Bitmap," .bmp, which retains better resolution than a .jpg in most cases.
Open a vector program and select "File, New" from the drop -down menu. Set the vector document at the standard size for a number plate at 12 inches for the width by 6 inches for the height, or 864 by 432 pixels.
Create a number plate template by setting top and bottom margins at 1 inch, and 1/2 inch on the right and left sides. Display the ruler when measuring in a vector program by entering "CTRL/CMD R," or select "Show Rulers" from the drop-down view menu at the top of the screen.
Click and hold down the mouse button on the ruler, dragging to the desired position. Zoom in by clicking "CTRL/CMD +" if the ruler increments are too small to see.
Select "File, Place" importing the number plate file into the vector program. Hold down the "Shift" key maintaining the proportions of the number plate file and resize the image to fit your document.
Select the graphic. Choose the "Trace" function from the "Object" drop down-menu. Select a preset from the "Tracing Options" dialogue box or manually determine the settings. Choose "Preview" for tracking the changes you create.
Use the "Black and White" setting if the colour has been removed from the number plate graphic, or "Color 6," which contains only six colours and are good for tracing simple logos and illustrations. Use the "Detailed Illustration" preset for complicated drawings.
Use "Threshold" controlling the black-to-white percentage of the image tracing. Set the threshold lower for more white areas, or higher including more black areas in the image. Begin with the default setting of 128 and adjust as necessary.
Add "Blur" smoothing jagged edges of the imported Bitmap image. Start with a setting of 0.2 pixels and add blur until the jagged lines smooth and small artefacts are eliminated.
Adjust the "Path fitting," which controls how far the trace is from if the image still needs smoothing. Choose a higher setting smoothing the lines in the number plate image.
Select the "Minimum area" detailing the amount of pixels squared that is traced. Select "Ignore white," if you want the white areas, such as the background, not included in the tracing.
Select "Trace" or "Enter" depending on your specific program. Choose "Object, Expand" to view the outline of the number plate.
Click and hold on the pen tool in the tool bar when adding, subtracting, or altering point placement on the number plate illustration.
Save your number plate file to your hard drive. Import the file into your cutter program according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Tips and warnings
- Bitmaps are measure in PPI, or pixels per inch.
- Vectors were initially created for the airline and automotive design industries.
- Include a trace of shadows behind the lettering and graphics to make the number plate appear three-dimensional.
- Remove any lines that improperly intersect.
- Always view the graphic in "Outline" or "Wireframe" mode after tracing that way you can see all the traced elements. Bitmaps will not show up on the screen in this mode.
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