Once the basic engraving methods are understood, a job or layout must be developed. The basic concepts of design layout are the same for manual or computerized engraving systems. In both cases some amount of planning for the layout's final appearance is necessary. In computerized design, the operator is assisted by the software and has graphics or fonts to help achieve the final look. The first step in the computerized engraving process is to create or obtain the individual design elements to be used in your job or layout*. The elements you put into your engraving software (such as company logos, creative borders, interesting clip-art, etc.) can affect the appearance of your work, and can add a great deal of appeal.
If these items are not part of your in-house library and are supplied by your customer, consider the following:
Shapes are vector images that can be generated in a computer graphics program, or loaded off a CD-ROM as clip-art. (See examples) Any method for generating these elements must ultimately create a vector image and any vector image is a shape. Shapes can also be borders, dingbats, calligraphic elements or any other object of decoration. Shapes can be used to cut out objects for things like state badges, heart or bone-shaped pet tags and any other object that is more complex than the standard rectangular shape.
Aside from clip-art, there are several different methods for obtaining vector shapes. One is to trace a bitmap in a drawing program, (usually by making it un-editable and drawing new vector lines on top of it). Two others are digitizing and scanning.
Digitizing is the process of using a special tablet for tracing artwork, which then comes into the computer as a vector drawing. Digitizing can be very accurate, but requires the purchase of a tablet and learning how to do the tracing. Digitizing needs very little clean up, but is time-consuming. With the possible exception of clip-art, digitizing can produce the highest-quality results available.
Scanning is similar to digitizing in that you are taking an outside image and transferring it into the computer. Scanned images come into the computer as a Bitmap (BMP) format, and then need to be put through a vectorizing program, to be converted into an engravable form. Scanning is quicker and easier than digitizing, but the hardware is more expensive and the vectorized artwork may need additional clean up.
Fonts are pre-generated letters (and occasionally pictures in the form of a font), which can be easily placed in the same way as normal text. While your layout software can place text and fonts, sometimes it is necessary to create logos or designs using typestyles that are not possible within your engraving software. Creating distorted or oddly positioned type is best done in illustration programs such as you would use for shapes, and then they are exported into your layout software.