It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one of these machines - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Along with the CNC router I discovered the wonderful material called Precision Board and the glues, primers and other companion products they offer. Since then we have gone through many tons of the material using it in most signs and projects we tackle. This journal will chronicle our many adventures both past, present and future. I'll talk from the perspective of someone who pushes these products to the creative limit on a daily basis. I'll be adding to the stories two or three times each week. -dan

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bitmap MAGIC!

More than five years ago, just after I learned how to use bitmaps to create textures in EnRoute I was eager to see just what I could do with them. I was also looking everywhere I could to find inspiration. I needed to know what worked and what didn't.  One source of inspiration was my collection of old National Geographic magazines. I would san in the old photos and see what the images would do in the program. Eventually I figured out what worked the best and how to tweak and adjust them to work even better.

On one such search I found a picture of a fossilized fish. I remember getting excited to give it a try. I scanned the picture and pulled it into Photoshop. I adjusted the contrast and added a few bits. Then I created a quick vector file in Illustrator and drew up the vectors for the circles and lettering around the edge. I imported the files into EnRoute and then set to work. 

The basic file was simple. The circle was made into a relief. Borders and lettering were added as a modification to the relief. Then the magic was about to happen with the bitmaps.

The fish was added first. The black did nothing while the white of the photograph was raised by the 0.15" I specified. Grays were in between. I layered a second bitmap called splotches over the entire file to add a little more texture. This was done very subtly with a numeric of only 0.05. It didn't need much to make it effective.

What amazed me at this early stage of the game was just how fast the process was from start to finish. From the time I found the image, edited it, built the file, sent it to the router, ran the file, painted it and mounted it to my wall was just under an hour. The paint was still wet of course but the file was done and amazingly so!

It was pure MAGIC!