One of the keys to productivity and profit in digital sign making is efficient design. One of the keys to efficient design is learning to create complex designs without letting the objects get in each others’ way. To do this, you need to learn to manage the objects in your design so you can select and edit only the one you want to manipulate. In Vinyl Express® LXi and FlexiSign software, you can do this by simply locking and unlocking objects, or by managing them in layers using the Design Editor. Let’s take a quick look at how these handy design tools work.
Locking Objects
(Fig 1: You can lock an object simply by right-clicking it and using the drop-down menu) Locking an object allows it to ignore your commands. Once you lock an object, you can't move, resize, delete or otherwise mess with until you unlock it. This is very helpful in moderate to complex designs in which an object you need to edit is in front of one that you don’t want to affect. For instance, if you’re using a Grand Opening sign template from the Sign Power clip art collection, you may want to edit the font without disturbing affecting the border. You can do this by locking the border so you can edit the text to fit the space. Otherwise, every time you try to select the text, you may inadvertently select the border as well, which is frustrating and inefficient. To lock the object, select it and right click. Then, from the drop-down menu, hover your mouse over “Lock”. Then, from the fly-out menu, select Lock. The software adds small padlock icons to the object to show that it’s been locked. You can also use the Arrange menu in the main toolbar. Select the object, then, from the main toolbar, click Arrange. Then use the drop-down menu to lock the object. When you’re done with the editing, follow the same process to unlock it.
Managing Layers with Design Editor
With a more complex design, there are so many objects, locking doesn’t suffice. You may want to lock a whole group of items like a star field on a flag or an imported bitmap image in a print and cut design. You may simply want to make them invisible for a while so you can focus on other design elements. If you have a shop in which designs created by one staff member are output to printing or plotting devices by someone else, you may need to include notes in a file that are seen by the output staff, but never sent to the output device. You can do all of this by using the Design Editor tool to arrange and manage objects in layers. This is similar to the layers function in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and the CorelDRAW Object Manager. You’ll find Design Editor in the main toolbar next to Design Central and the Fill/Stroke Editor. If you don’t see it, make sure you’re using the Default workspace. If you’re using the CASmate, Omega, SignLab, or SignWizard workspace, it may be invisible or in a different location. To choose the default workspace, click File/Workspace/Default. Design Editor starts with a Master Page layout and five default layers. There are two tabs, labeled “Layers” and “Objects.” Use the Layers tab to manage layers and the Objects tab to manage objects and to move them among layers. (Fig 2: The Layers tab in Design Editor controls viewing, printing, editing, plotting and more.) The Design Editor Layers tab view shows the default layers: Substrate, Grid, Guide, Trash, and Layer 1. The Substrate layer represents the surface on which your design will be applied. The substrate layer cannot be edited or deleted, but it can be moved or hidden. The Grid layer is atop the Substrate layer and contains the grid information for your design, which can also be managed in the View menu. Likewise, the Guide Layer manages rulers and guides applied to the workspace. The Trash layer stores all objects deleted during work on a file so that anything accidentally deleted can be quickly and easily recovered. The default layers are numbered Layer 1, layer 2 etc., but you can right click on a layer and rename it to help you keep track of what’s there (i.e. “clip art”, “production notes” or “scanned logo”). In the Layers tab, layers can be added, arranged, deleted, renamed and managed by five criteria; viewing, printing, editing, cutting, and inclusion in the Master Page. You can make layers visible or invisible by clicking the eye icon. Make them printable or unprintable by clicking the printer icon. To prevent a layer from being sent to a plotter, click the blade icon. And to lock or unlock an entire layer, click the pencil icon. Clicking the triple sheet icon determines whether a layer is visible on the Master Page. (Fig 3. Clicking an object in the Objects tab in Design Editor he Design Editor automatically selects it in your workspace) To move objects form one layer to another, open Design Editor and click the Objects tab. You will see the Master Page and each layer below it. There are a couple of ways to move objects from one layer to another. You can select objects by clicking them in the Design Editor Object views. When you click an object in Design Editor, it is automatically selected in your workspace. Once your target object is selected, you can move it by dragging it from one layer to another, or by using the standard cut and paste process. Getting used to navigating Design Editor takes a little time and practice. If you start with simpler designs, it will be easier to keep track when you’re dealing with compounded clip art or complex print and cut graphics. But making that investment can pay dividends in efficiency allowing you to produce better quality work in less time. You’ll be able to produce more work and generate more revenue. Or maybe spend less time designing and more time wining and dining. Either way, it’s an investment worth making.