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Measuring Details in Logo Designs

On this site you’ll find guidance for what the limits are for minimum line thickness and minimum sized gaps (like holes in letters). That’s great, but how does one go about measuring things in an image to see if they are too small? I do all of this when I work on a branding iron for you, but if you are going “DIY”, this can be a a useful guide.

The easiest thing I have found for quickly gauging the “inch measurement” of something in a logo is to open it in a program called “gimp.” It is an open source, no spyware, free photo editing tool you can get from here

After installing it use the menu in the upper left hand corner to

File -> Open

browse to your file.

Then click

Image -> Properties

Note the LARGER of the two measurements in Pixels.

Now that we know how many pixels make up the longest side of our image, we can look that number up in a table to see how many pixels the minimum line thickness can be in an image.

This google sheets document has the below chart in it. Find the number of pixels your image is in the left column then go right until you are below the number of inches wide your iron is. The intersection of those two columns is the minimum number of pixels a line can be and still turn out well as a branding iron. Example: 1100 pixel wide image going onto a 2 inch iron: 5 pixel wide line minimum.

Now what?

Now we grab the “paint brush” tool in gimp and set the diameter of it to the number of pixels we got from the table. This will give us a cursor the minimum size any line can be so we can hove it over various parts of the image to see if they are smaller than the minimum size.

Tools -> Pencil

Now we set the brush type to a “hard circle”

Then we set the brush diameter to size we are comparing to: 5 pixels.

Now hover the brush over parts of your image to see if they meet the minimum line thickness requirements.

The same thing is then repeated for checking gap sizes. In this case an 1150 pixel image on a 2″ iron need 14 pixels of gap.

Setting the brush to 14 pixels we now hover the brush over various areas to make sure they meet the minimum gap size. Areas that often cause trouble the holes in the letters e, a, R, q, etc. In the below image, we see the brush fits inside the A, so the gap there is at least 14 pixels. This gap is cuttable and meets the minimum requirements for being made into a branding iron. Note the word minimum — A little larger wouldn’t hurt, but this will work.

So there you have it — Use the table to pick a brush size, zoom in with your mouse wheel, and scoot around the image making sure your design has spots the cutter can get into and lines that are thick enough to do a good job.

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YST002-How I make branding irons and why sizes matter.

If you look at one of the branding irons I make, you’ll see that the part that does the branding is raised and the parts that are unbranded are cut back from it.

I have done experiments to determine what works and what doesn’t. The below image is a test burn I made with my “torture test” iron. It is designed to figure out exactly how where something becomes so small it won’t work anymore.

To make an iron, I have various sizes of cutter that plunge into the metal and cut it away. When I make something like the J in the photo, the profile of it looks like shown below:

Lines in my designs can only be so thin before there isn’t enough metal left to heat the wood. This absolute minimum line thickness is 0.006” If you take the number of pixels across your image (say 800) and divide by the number of inches the iron is wide (say 2) you can get the pixels per inch. For this example 800 pixels/2 inches = 400 pixels per inch, or 400 dots per inch (dpi). You can determine how big a line is by zooming in and counting the pixels and dividing by the pixels per inch. Example 12 pixels wide/400 pixels/inch = 0.030” I often set a brush to the size of my minimum line thickness and hover it over my image to gauge if a line meets this minimum requirement. The same “hovering” can be done with the gaps in the drawing, although those need to be bigger. Below is an image illustrating how the tiny cutter is pulled up and can cut an narrower groove.

Gaps and White Spaces in the Design

To make a narrow gap (white line) in a design, the cutter has to be pulled back to use just the very tip of it. Gaps in my designs can only be so narrow before the gap is so shallow and narrow that the wood in the little gap gets baked by all the hot metal around it. 0.023” is about the minimum size gap that can be guaranteed to exist in the metal and have a chance of not getting blackened. 0.012” is the smallest gap that can be made at all. Gasps that small often fill in during branding. Sometimes that’s fine. Two letter O’s merging together where they get close are perfectly legible. Two long parallel lines that merge into one aren’t usually okay.

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Photographing Signatures and Logos

Yes, you can just snap a photo of a signature and email it in and we’ll make it into a branding iron. —BUT— There are some things you can do to save design time so you get your iron faster and with better fidelity.

Camera Position: Take the Photo with the Lens straight up from the Signature

I frequently forget that the camera lens is not in the middle of my cell phone body/screen. It is off to the left of center the way I normally like to hold it. That’s fine for family photos and trips to the beach, but not documents.

How to Know if you got a good straight shot?

If the edges of your document are parallel to the edges of the photo, you have done a great job. If the document has some “wedge shape” to it, you might want to try it again.

BAD: The edges of the document in the below image do not follow the edges of the document.

GOOD: The below image shows the edges of the document are parallel and follow the edges of the image:

Lighting Position

Anyone that has taken a blurry photo in a poorly lit room knows lighting matters. When photographing a document, it REALLY MATTERS.

Lights create glare spots like the sun on the hood of a car. If one makes sure that the light is off to the side of the document being photographed, the glare will be off the side of your document instead of blowing out the middle of it.

Keep lights off to the side of your document.