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at_play 158 posts
Jun 27, 2004
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What is a "cut vector pdf"

Feb 13, 2013 6:27 PM

Doing a layout for a client and they said they need a cut vector pdf for their printer. They are going to have my layout printed into a sign.


I don't know what a cut vector pdf is and I am very new to using illustrator. I just started using it two days ago for this specific project.  I found the save to pdf option but I don't know what cut vector is, do I need to do something to cut it up or something?


I have creative cloud cs6 and am using illustrator cs6 for this project.   I got no clue here what they are looking for.  I can save it out to pdf is that what they mean? 

This is for an actual profesional printer they will be taking this to and they will make the sign from the file I give them.


Any help here will be much appreciated as you can tell I have no idea about the file format for printing printing.. I mostly do projects for the web and don't come across print print projects much.


If there are any tutorials out there you know of about this video would be great but text based will work too, please share.



  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 13, 2013 7:00 PM   in reply to at_play

    Artwork suitable to be cut via a plotter.  Call a local sign shop, they'll be able to give you direction.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 14, 2013 4:45 PM   in reply to at_play

    Essentially you need to ensure everything has a solid outline. No glows, shadows, feathering, etc. Think of it as if you had to cut the artwork out of construction paper. Hard edges only.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 14, 2013 5:06 PM   in reply to at_play

    It's not really possible to advise you accurately without knowing more about the project specifics.


    Generally speaking "cut vector pdf" is someone's sloppy way of saying they need vector-based paths for a plotter/cutter to follow in cutting sign vinyl. I don't know why they want it specifically in PDF format.


    Sign cutting devices vary. There are simple cutters which cut all the elements of the artwork out of vinyl (individual letters, for example). If designing for that kind of machine, all your artwork needs to consist of only vector paths.


    There are other devices which are hybrid cutter/printers. They can print raster portions of artwork, and then follow a vector path to cut out the overall shape. If designing for that kind of machine, the arwork may be partially or entirely raster images, and only the paths intended to serve as the cutting path needs to be vector-based paths.


    Sign cutters/plotters generally are driven by HPGL plotter language, not by PostScript. So the operator opens your Illustrator artwork in a cutter driver program which can re-interpret the Bezier curves contained in PostScript artwork into HPGL commands which are understood by the cutting device.


    There are considerations that have to be borne in mind when designing vector-based artwork for sign cutters. Generally, you don't want any crossing or overlapping paths. Its merely "looking right" on screen doesn't ensure that it is suitable for cutting.


    So while it's not rocket science, you do have to be familiar with the process itself so that you can build the artwork appropriately. In that regard, it's much like designing for print.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 5:20 AM   in reply to at_play

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but:


    …I don't know what a cut vector pdf is…

    …I am very new to using illustrator…

    …I got no clue here what they are looking for…

    …I do NOT know what kind of machine is used to make the sign…

    …it sound this is someone that is either semi or completely retired and does this as a hobby and really doesn't understand…

    …noone really understands what this person needs…

    …I do NOT know what this new version will be printed on…
    …I also haven't really used Illustrator before…

    …What's wrong with this picture?



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 8:58 AM   in reply to at_play

    Might I suggest that you ask the elderly gentleman who runs the sign shop for a sample PDF file so you can look at it and get a better idea of what's needed? If you can look at a file that he has run succesfully you may learn a good deal. Probably it is very simple.

    You might also ask him what the CNC machine he is using needs when it cuts from a pdf file. He might not know computers but he probably knows his cutter very well. Likely you'll get a set of instructions about limitations of how thin any given area can be, how much of an offset the cutter needs from the actual art to account for kerf, if certain colors need to be applied to the cut lines that mean something to the controlling machine (ie, cut, perf, depth of cut, etc)


    Good luck,


    Michael Riordan

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 17, 2013 1:04 PM   in reply to at_play

    Hi Ian,


    Since I do printed vinyl decals I'd like to guide you as well. since your artwork is created from Illustrator, saving as a PDF should save as a vectored file, remember to create outlines to all type, this way there are no font issues with the sign guy. If you artwork is larger than Illustrator's boundaries, scale down but remember to inform the sign guy as well. hope this helps.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 17, 2013 6:30 PM   in reply to at_play

    No need to stroke the text as long as it's above the object it should print that way. Saving as an eps (vector not jpg) can be used or dxf but that's a last resort. Ask the sign guy which formats he can accept then save them to his liking.



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