Posted on Monday, November 6th, 2017
Most of the time, sign designers focus on the lettering and possibly a graphic for a sign design. The letters might get outlined, inlined, carved or gilded. The graphic might be printed in full color or maybe cut out in 3D. But the background is, well, the background. There’s usually nothing going on back there, right?
But one of the things that both CNC routers and digital printers have made possible is to use textures and patterns in the background that would have been impractical to do by hand. It’s another one of those creative options you can take advantage of to set your designs apart.
“It’s a shame to let the background go to waste,” says Sean Beauchamp of Southpaw Studios, “if there’s a texture or effect that would be appropriate for the design. We do a lot of that. Once I got an understanding of how the CNC router worked, all these layers became available from a design standpoint.
“I can carve letters by hand really well—in a sense I don’t need the router for that. But the router can carve all these incredible effects that simply aren’t practical to do by hand, so why not take advantage of that?
“Pen-and-ink crosshatch, scrolls, textures of every kind—there are so many things that can be embossed or debossed into the background. Since hardly anyone does this, it’s an easy way to add a lot of interest to a sign and make it a unique piece of advertising. Sometimes we don’t even use the router—we drag a flathead screwdriver through the HDU background to create an interesting texture in what would have been a smooth background.”
You’ll find more about Sean’s creative approach to sign design in Designer at work: Sean Beauchamp in the November/December 2017 issue of SignCraft, and in the feature on Southpaw Studios in the January/February 2013 issue which has several cool examples of his use of background effects.
A quick look through the November/December 2017 issue of SignCraft turns up more ideas for getting the most out of the background. Glass smalts have long been used by sign painters to add texture and interest to a background, as Gary Johnson did on Long Hill Road. On the Beer House, the plank effect and wheat graphics bring the background to life.
On Living Waters, Chris Lovelady used Dan Sawatzky’s Texture Magic: Woodgrain, which are router-ready files for a variety of realistic woodgrain textures. Gary Johnson used them as well on Millington Vol. Fire Co. Dan has another CD, Texture Magic: Classic Textures, with 101 texture patterns for CNC routing.
Braun Bleamer printed a wood plank background on the SteakShack wrap. Rob Cooper hand painted the woodgrain effect on the background of Sabai Café. All of these are great examples of how you can get extra appeal out of the background
We’d like to see photos of how you’ve put the background to work on your sign designs, too. Send your images to firstname.lastname@example.org today!