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Also be sure to check out the Ideas, Tips and Tricks page.
Below is a list of helpful things to think about when designing a branding iron. I take care of all this when I create a design for you.
- File types I can work in/produce
- Software I Use (and you can use for free, too)
- How to Judge Feasibility with A Sharpie Marker
- Minimum Line Thicknesses
- Minimum Gap Sizes
- Working around Problems
- Other Design Considerations
File Types I Can Work With
Vector Files: PDF, SVG, WMF, AI files. If you had a professional create your logo, or you used inkscape, you should be able to get a vector format file. If I could pick, I prefer SVG’s, then PDF’s, WMF’s, and then AI’s. These are the best file types to work in. Please include a bitmap rendering of the file too, just in case something doesn’t import correctly. [Back to Top]
Bitmaps: JPG, BMP, PNG, PNM, PGM, GIF, TIFF, etc. 600pixels/inch or better are very helpful. Digital cameras, cell phone pictures, and most drawing programs make these. I need one of these to know how things are supposed to look in case importing doesn’t go perfectly. Please send one of these in addition to a PDF, SVG, or AI file. [Back to Top]
Software I Use
If I create a design, it will be done with the free inkscape software. The logo I create is available to you free of charge to use for making t-shirts, business cards, etc. It will scale nicely. The logo itself may be worth the price of the iron! [Back to Top]
The Sharpie Marker Test
If you do the “new sharpie test” you will know if a design can be made into a branding iron. Here’s how to do it.
1 – Obtain an UNUSED “fine point” (not ultra fine) sharpie marker like these: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sharpie-The-Original-Fine-Permanent-Marker-2-CT/17617453
2 – Print or sketch your design the size of the iron you want. If you don’t have a design yet, draw a square box using a ruler that is exactly the size you might want to order (i.e. 1×1, 2×2, etc. inches).
3 – Trace over the design with your fresh sharpie marker to see how it goes. If you can trace it, I can cut it. If it looks okay with the line widths achievable with a sharpie, it is likely a good candidate for a branding iron. Then, see how many of the finest lines you can draw will fit between the lines in the drawing. If you can get two or more lines in the gap I should be able to get my cutter in there just fine.
Minimum Line Thickness
0.008″ (0.2mm) thick, is the bare minimum line thickness I can guarantee. Two sheets of paper stacked are about 0.008″ thick. Ideally, you want lines 0.012″ (0.3mm) thick. For perspective, the fine point mechanical pencils are 0.020″ (0.5mm) thick if you draw with the flat end straight against the paper. I will check your design for compliance and make suggestions or adjustments. [Back to Top]
Minimum Gap Size
Gaps should target 0.023 inches [0.58mm] in areas you need to “guarantee” the features should stay distinct and not bleed together. The gap between the letters H and I in “HI” are a good example of this. If the gap between the H and I goes away, it will look like a weird H and not be legible.
The holes in the letters A, B, G, P, S also must have a place where a 0.023” circle can fit to have a likelihood of remaining open in the branded mark.
Other gaps where your brain can figure out what was intended work fine down to about 0.016 inches [0.41mm]. The space between the letter O’s in fOOd would be fine down to 0.016″ The spots like the inside corners in a letter V, W, X, Y, or Z are good examples of this. These “gap points” will turn into a little 0.006 inch [0.15mm] radius automatically which is really tiny and looks fine.
I will check your design for compliance and make suggestions or adjustments. [Back to Top]
How to Solve Problems with Small Details
- Simplify the design — Removing every other line in a grain pattern, dropping saw teeth, or other such details can make a huge difference.
- Increase font sizes:14 or 16pt is usually a good starting point. Smaller sizes are possible with simple fonts
- Remove some elements of the design [Back to Top]
Other Design Considerations
- Simple and bold logos make a mark that is easiest to get right every time.
- Wider lines transfer more heat and will burn more quickly while narrow lines tend to transfer less heat. Having similar thickness lines in all parts of the design makes better marks.
- The longer the iron is in contact with the wood, the more the mark “bleeds” into the wood. The mark grows with higher iron temperatures and longer contact times. Finer details are preserved with lower iron temperatures and shorter contact times. It is all just a matter of practice.
- Tiny gaps between burned areas are heated from both sides and have some tendency to fill it. A gap about the size of a sharpie marker line is about the narrowest mark that won’t “fill in” with char quickly.
- HAND DRAWN items on UNLINED white paper can be taken directly to aluminum if you draw/sketch with a sharpie.
- Signatures or initials are always cool and unique.