Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the question to go straight to the answer further down the page or type keywords in the search box below to focus the list.
All the True Type fonts on your computer can be used in the Wizard. In the 4.1 and 5.0 versions of the Wizard each True Type font can be added ? one at a time - to the available fonts. The 5.1 and later versions have been improved so that all the True Type fonts on your computer are available at all times.
To view the entire font library, go to the Font List page on this Web site. To view all of the characters in a font, go to the feature Font Layout from the Text Menu in the program, then select the font that you want to view. You may also specify the size of the page (default is 8.5" by 11") for printing or plotting.
Go to Open in the File Menu, and select Font Files (*.fnt) from the Files of Type box. Select the font that you want to edit, then click on Open. If you want to make changes to a particular character, select that character and make the desired change using any of the standard tools (such as vector editing, outline, italicize, etc). If you want to make a global change to the whole font, select all of the characters and make the desired change. You may then save the font with a different name, such as Helvetica Bold Italic, and you have just created a new font!
In all versions of the Wizard prior to 5.0, two files were created whenever a design was saved as a layout. The vector data containing everything needed to produce the design was saved in a *.LYT file and a low resolution bitmap (preview or snapshot) image of the design was saved as a *.LSS file. Both the LYT file and the LSS file are updated whenever the design is modified and re-saved to reflect the most recent version of the design. In all the 5.0 and later versions, the vector data and the bitmap image are both included in the *.LYT file. Whenever you send a Wizard design to another company that has a copy of the Wizard or to Aries Graphics to resolve a technical problem, the file you should send is the LYT file not the LSS file.
The best way to do this is to export it as "Sign Wizard EPS" [*.EPS] (previously called "Postscript EPS"). From Corel Draw choose Import and select the filter called "Postscript Interpreted". Your layout will come in perfectly! For more Importing Exporting help click here http://www.aries-graphics.com/TipsTricks_import_export.html
The design was probably exported with resolution settings that were too low in the Export Bitmap Image dialog box. When a bitmap file is exported from the Wizard, the resolution can be adjusted to meet the intended use of the image. If the image is to be sent with an e-mail message and the intent is for the complete image is to be displayed with the e-mail, then a low resolution is required (e.g. 600 pixels wide by 300 pixels high). If the image is to be enlarged and printed on a wide format printer or if the image will be vectorized (converted to a vector image), then the resolution should be much higher (e.g. 6000 pixels wide by 300 pixels wide). However, this high resolution image, depending on how much detail it contains, may be too big to send by e-mail.
The best import/export filter to use when moving files between the Wizard and Corel Draw is EPS. Corel Draw has two import filters that accept EPS files ? Encapsulated PostScript and PostScript Interpreted. Be sure to use the PostScript Interpreted import filter whenever you import an EPS file created in the Wizard. There are several other vector file formats that can be used with Corel. However, DXF is not recommended because Corel uses Bezier curves to define all curved shapes and breaks all arcs in a DXF file into short straight lines (chords).
When you export a design from the Wizard using one of the bitmap data formats (JPG, PCX, TIF, etc.) you can specify the Dots/Inch, Width (or Height) in pixels, and the Bits per Pixel. The Dots/Inch value is multiplied by the width and height of the image to come up with the Pixels Wide and Pixels High values ? so these setting are interdependent. For example, if an image is 10 inches wide by 5 inches high and the Dots/Inch setting is 100, the Pixels Wide value will be 1000 and the Pixels High value will be 500. If you change any one of these three settings, the other two will automatically be changed to the corresponding value. An important consideration these days in creating and e-mailing bitmap images to customers for their approval is balancing the resolution of the file with the need to have the file small enough to send by e-mail. The usual limit is 3 MB, but some are even smaller. Any e-mail attachment larger than 3MB is usually returned to the sender with the comment that it exceeded the maximum file size. The estimated file size in the Export Bitmap Image dialog box is very approximate ? especially for JPG and similar formats that automatically compress the file to give a small file size but maintain the quality of the image. If you will be e-mailing the file, it's a good idea to always check the file size to be sure it's less than the limit of your e-mail service before sending it.
Most of Corel Draw's clipart is created for printing, not plotting. When viewed in wire frame mode you will notice lines cut across objects. If the design has any custom outline thickness, you will notice that in wire frame mode there is no vector data (lines) on both sides of the thickened line. If the image has any gradient fills, they should be removed completely. Or better yet, we reccommend you change the steps in the export dialog from 128 (default) to 2 minimum. Bottom line is check it in wire frame mode first in Corel Draw. If you want to cut what you see, then go ahead and export as EPS. Once you bring it into Sign Wizard you can then modify it, size it up and plot it.
As new features are introduced in new versions of a software package, there are occasions when the files created in a later version cannot be opened in the older version ? usually because of incompatibilities in data structures. This is the case with 5.0 and 4.1 and earlier versions. If it is necessary to create a layout file in 5.0 or 5.1 and then open it in the 4.1 (or earlier) versions, it is necessary to save it in the later version using the Wizard 4 Layout format in the Save as Type box. There may be other situations where this same error message will appear due to file compatibility conflicts. For assistance in working around this kind of conflict, contact Aries Graphics technical support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The work area can be resized numerically or graphically. The numeric method is the most precise if an exact size is required ? just click on the Layout menu/Layout Properties and enter the new height and width. The graphic method is faster that the numeric method, but not as exact. To make the work area smaller, move the cursor to the upper right corner of the dashed black rectangle currently defining the work area. When the cursor shape changes to a double-ended diagonal arrow, click and drag the mouse down and to the left until the desired size is shown. Then release the left mouse button. This method allows you to adjust the aspect ratio of the resulting work area Increasing the work area graphically is just as fast as decreasing it, but it's not as intuitive. The problem is that if you want to increase the work area a large amount using the same approach as above, you run out of space to move the cursor ? so you have to reverse your thinking. To increase the work area graphically, move the cursor to the lower left corner of the dashed black rectangle currently defining the work area. When the cursor shape changes to a double-ended diagonal arrow, click and drag the mouse up and to the right. If you release the left mouse button in the middle of the current work area, the work area dimensions in both the X and Y axes will be doubled. If you release the cursor 1/4 of the distance from the lower left corner to the upper right corner, the resulting X and Y dimensions of the work area will be 4 times the original. Using this approach, the maximum amount the size can be increase in one operation is 10X. This 10X limit is designed to prevent a very small movement from the lower left corner from resulting in work area dimensions so large that any objects in the work area can not be found. If this explanation is not clear, it should become clear after you try it a few times.
The clipart provided with the Wizard uses the *.LGO data format ? a proprietary data format for the Wizard. In the 4.1 and earlier versions it is necessary to use the Import function and browse, if necessary, to find the Clipart folder. In the 5.0 and 5.1 versions there is a tool in the Toolbox on the left side of the screen (scissors and a small arrow) that will take you directly to the Clipart folder.
There are three basic kinds of objects in the Wizard: (1) a line of text, (2) a "Graphic" and (3) a "Group". When an object is selected (as indicated by the eight control points around it), which type object it is will be displayed in the Help Bar in the upper left part of the display. A line of text created in the Wizard will be identified by the name of the font (e.g. Helvetica Medium) rather than "text". A file that has been imported from another program will appear as a Graphic or a Group, but not as a line of text.
A bitmap image is a digital version of a sign design or any graphic composed of small black and white or colored dots which, when viewed from a distance, appear as a continuous image. A vector image consists of zero width lines and arcs that go around letters, logos and other shapes. For applications like vinyl signmaking, the vectors are usually closed loops that start and end at the same exact position and each loop is "filled in" with a color. Bitmap (or raster) images can be converted to vector images by "vectorizing" the design.
Curved shapes in graphic images are displayed in the Wizard and in most other graphic design programs as a series of short straight lines rather than as curves. In the Wizard you can adjust the Curve Resolution for arcs and for Bezier curves by changing the setting in the Tools menu/Options/General/Curve Resolution. The default setting is 4 degrees and the minimum setting is 1 degree. The larger the degree setting, the more noticeable the flat spots will be, the less computing the program must do and therefore the faster the screen will draw the curves. If you have a complicated design with many curves and it's taking too long to refresh the screen when you make changes, adjust the Curve Resolution to a higher number. When you print the design, the smoothness of the curves will be the same as you see on the display.
It is very important in the production of signs made with vinyl film that each continuous sequence of vectors (each loop) start and end in the exact same place ? otherwise the background (scrap) material cannot be readily separated from the design. For example, a capital letter B has three loops ? two small inner loops and one large outer loop ? each of which must be "closed loops". In the Wizard, not only must all the loops be closed, but each loop must follow a specific direction as the loop is created. For example, for the capital letter B, the outer loop must be clockwise and both of the inner loops must be counterclockwise. With the Show Loop Dir in the View menu checked, the loops directions are indicated by the colors of the loops ? clockwise loops are displayed in blue and counterclockwise loops are displayed in red. In addition, certain manufacturing operations (e.g. routing, lasercutting, and waterjet cutting) require that the inner loops must be drawn before the outer loops. Any loops that are not closed (which by definition of a loop are neither clockwise or counterclockwise) are displayed in black. The reason the directions of the loops are important is that several important manufacturing processes (e.g. outlining, welding, shadows & neon tube layouts) require the loop directions and the sequence in which the loops are created to be as indicated above for the process to work as intended. For data imported from another program or for bitmap images that are vectorized in the Wizard, the direction and the sequence in which all loops are drawn for any Graphic or line of text can be made to conform to these rules by selecting the Graphic or line of text and clicking on Reorder Loops in the Edit menu.
A screen dump allows you to print out any dialog box in any Windows program. In case of a disk crash or other serious computer problem, it is recommended that a record of your Wizard default settings and your plotter driver settings be created using a screen dump. To make a screen dump of your plotter driver settings go to Plot Manager/Device/Setup/Advanced. With the cursor anywhere in the dialog box, press the Alt and Print Screen keys at the same time. This will send the image of the dialog box to the Windows Clipboard. Then open any word processor (e.g. MS Word), paste from the Clipboard and the dialog box should appear on the screen. Print it and keep it in a safe place in case you need to reconstruct your plotter driver.
The file size limits for e-mail attachments vary with the different Internet service providers. The most common upper limit is 3 MB, but some are only 1 MB and others may be even smaller. If an e-mail message is returned because it's too big, there should be a message indicating what the size limit is.
There are three possibilities: (1) You are trying to put neon tubes in a group, (2) the loop directions are not correct, or (3) the design is scaled too small for the tube to fit. Neon tubes can be created in a line of text that has been created in the Wizard or in any object identified as a "Graphic". If the selected object is a Group, the neon features are disabled. To allow the objects in a Group to be used to create neon tubes, you must use Ungroup to separate them into individual Graphics or you can use Combine to make them into a single Graphic. Do not use Break into Loops because it will separate any inner loops (for letters like B, O, P, etc.) from their outer loops preventing the program from positioning the tube centerlines correctly. To understand the following, the Show Loop Dir(ection) function in the View menu must be checked. The directions of the loops (clockwise or counterclockwise) and the sequence in which the loops are drawn must conform to the following rules for the neon and certain other features in Neon Wizard to work correctly. For all text characters and graphics, all the outer loops must be clockwise (drawn in blue), all the inner loops must be counterclockwise (drawn in red) and all inner loops must be drawn before the outer loops. With the Show Loop Dir checked, any loops drawn in black are unclosed loops (the exact positions of the start and end points are not identical) and must be closed using the Vector Editing or Loop Editing tools in Neon Wizard. The direction and the sequence in which all loops are drawn for any Graphic or line of text can be made to conform to these rules by selecting the Graphic or line of text and clicking on Reorder Loops in the Edit menu. The Auto Tube Layout feature will not function correctly if there is not enough room inside the letters for the neon tubes to fit. Whenever you use this feature, you must scale the design to full size. For example, if a design calls for 14 inch tall characters but you have the letters scaled to a height of 2 inches, the Auto Tube Layout feature will not draw the neon tubes in because there is not enough space.
Although it is not as critical as the object type and loop direction issues, the general quality of an imported or vectorized image can degrade the quality and throughput of the resulting neon tube design. By low quality we mean loops that are not closed, curves that are not smooth, redundant vectors that should be removed, lines that should be perfectly vertical or horizontal that aren't, etc. If the image is clean and sharp with a minimum number of vectors and the curves are all arcs or Bezier curves, the throughput and quality of the results should be consistently good. If, on the other hand, the curves have been broken down into chords (short straight lines that approximate the curves) or if the shape is not smooth, it may take more time to create the neon tubes, more editing may be required and it could take longer to plot the tube patterns because the plotter must process more data. Scanning low quality artwork, using a scanning resolution that is too high or too low, or using an Image Style in Neon Wizard's Vectorizing function that is intended for smaller, more detailed artwork can result in rough data that has too many vectors. The lower the resolution you use for scanning, the fewer vectors will be in the vectorized image, so use a low resolution but not so low that important details are lost. For the vast majority of artwork, the "Medium" Image Style when vectorizing in Neon Wizard will give the best results
When you use the Auto Tube Layout feature to create two or more tubes per stroke, the positions of the tubes are based on in-lining the centerlines of the tubes a constant distance from the boundaries of the character. For fonts that have perfectly uniform stroke widths, the neon tubes will be uniformly spaced throughout the characters. For fonts with "thick and thin" stroke widths, the innermost tubes will be closer together in the areas where the strokes are thinner and further apart where the strokes are thicker. For "thick and thin" fonts with two or more tubes per stroke, it is necessary to manually adjust the positions of the tubes to make them uniform across the stroke width. As a practical matter, very few of the popular fonts used for channel letters have perfectly uniform stroke widths. For example, Helvetica Medium, which may appear to have uniform stroke widths, may have a variation in stroke width of up to 30% within a character. So with any font the uniformity of the tube spacing should always be checked and edited as needed.
You can buy a special cable that goes from USB to parallel (Centronics). We have successfully tested the following brands: 1. iConnect Linx 2. Best Connectivity We had no success with the IOGear brand we tested. Keep in mind that when using these adaptors, you must configure a generic printer driver (WPD port) to be used as the interface between the Wizard and the plotter/cutter. It will not work if you try to use LPT1, LPT2, etc. The port name will start with "USB" and the description will have the word "Virtual" in it somewhere. There are USB to serial adaptors also, but we are still testing them and have none to recommend yet.
Check the Height setting in the Setup section of the Plot Manager. The Media Height should be the net usable width of the material that is loaded on your plotter (usually the nominal width minus about 2 inches). If it is set incorrectly, you will have horizontal panel marks going across your plot screen. If you do not have panel marks across your Plot Manager screen, and your plotter is cutting across your design, call Tech Support for further assistance.
Most plotters use 1000 or 1016 as the number of Units/Inch in the Advanced section of the plotter driver. Some Gerber plotters use larger numbers (e.g. 2540 or 5080). For any particular plotter there is only one correct value. The size of the plotted image is directly proportional to the Units/Inch setting. For example, if a plotted square should be exactly 10" X 10", but it measures 10.16" X 10.16", there is a very good chance the Units/Inch setting is 1016 when it should be 1000.
Most plotters currently used in the sign industry have a "castering" or "following" knife which has a small offset between the axis of rotation of the knife and the tip of the blade. That offset requires a correction at all corners to insure that they are sharp. When castering knives were first introduced in the 1980s, the required corrections were in the design software, but after a few years most of the plotters had the correction built into the plotter firmware, so it was not needed in the design software. If your plotter has the corner correction built in, the Knife Offset in the Advanced section of the plotter driver must be set to 0 (zero) to insure sharp corners when cutting vinyl. If your plotter does not have the corner correction built into the plotter's firmware, the Knife Offset in the Advanced section of the plotter driver setup should be set between 0.015" and 0.030". If the Knife Offset is not provided in your plotter's firmware, it will be time well spent to run tests on some small letters to get the offset amount exactly right.
The only parallel port on the laptop is used for the Wizard security key, so I don't have a place to connect my printer. If your laptop was made in the past few years it probably has USB support. The Wizard can now be used with a USB security key. The cost to exchange your parallel key for USB is $125.00 plus shipping. (The old parallel key needs to be returned to Aries Graphics) If the USB ports on your laptop are being used, you can attach a USB hub that will add additional ports for about $30.00.
If the Coordinates setting is now configured for Absolute, change it to Relative and that should fix the problem.
The plotter driver in the Wizard has provisions for a "Page Length" which can be set for any distance. Based on integer data limits that applied to many early model sign plotter/cutters, it was necessary to break the pages into lengths of 30" or 60". For plotter/cutters made in the past several years those limitation do not apply, but short Page Length settings can be used to help reduce tracking problems that can happen when a plotter is racing at full speed from one end to the other of a long sign design.
We have fixed this problem in the 5.1 maintenance releases posted after February 27, 2002. If you have a serial connection to your plotter and are experiencing problems, please download the update from the Upgrades page.
In the Export Bitmap Image dialog box there is an option to set the Bits/Pixel at 8 for gray tones or 24 for full color. If a color bitmap you exported from the Wizard came in as gray tones it was probably because you had 8 Bits/Pixel selected.
The most common reason that plotters do not plot the data being sent by the Plot Manager is that the communication link between the program/computer and the plotter is not correct for any of the following reasons: (1) the correct port has not been assigned in the Plot Manager (e.g. COM1 should be COM2 or LPT2 should be LPT1), (2) the plotter driver is not the correct one for the plotter, (3) the language expected by the plotter is not the language the software is sending (e.g. the plotter may be set up for DMPL but the software is sending HPGL), (4) the security key is not on a dedicated parallel port (i.e. a peripheral is attached to the back of the key or another security key is attached to the same parallel port), (5) one or more parameters in the advanced section of the plotter driver has been changed from the correct setting, (6) the plotter is not "on line" and ready to receive data, (7) the serial cable is not internally wired per the specs required by the plotter, (8) the parallel or serial port is not configured correctly or the correct driver for the port has not been installed correctly, (9) there is a problem with the plotter.
Color Vectorizing is the process of converting color bitmap images into vector images which are separated by color. This process works well if the original image has clean artwork with spot colors that can be clearly differentiated. This process does not work well with full color photographs that have very gradual color changes and blends, since the software is trying to find the edge between two distinct colors. One approach to making a bitmap file more suitable for color vectorizing is to import the image into an image editing program, and then convert the image to a finite number of colors using the Posterize or similar feature. This feature will enable you to select the number of colors, which the color vectorizing feature would then more easily be able to diagnose.
The main purpose of the vectorizing function in the Wizard is to convert a graphic design into its component vectors for cutting the design on a vinyl cutter. For both monochrome (black and white) and multicolor designs, the higher the scanning resolution the more faithful the vectorized image will be to the original artwork but the more nodes or vector handles there will be in the vectorized image. Although fidelity to the original artwork is obviously important, the time it takes to edit a vectorized design and eliminate any unwanted vectors is also important. If a design does not have a lot of small details, it will often take less time overall to scan the image at a lower resolution because the vector editing phase of the job will be much easier. For multicolor artwork, there are two other issues to consider. First, based on our purpose as stated in the paragraph above, it is important that all the colored areas be as uniform as possible. "Fountain Blends" that have continuously changing tones will not give good results and should be avoided. Secondly, if the artwork was created by traditional "process" printing techniques, the colors may not be what they seem. For example, if you look at a gray area with a loop or other high powered magnifying lens you will see many small cyan, magenta, and yellow dots, but no gray dots. If you scan that kind of colored artwork at a lower resolution than the original was printed, the individual cyan, magenta and yellow dots will be averaged to the overall color your eyes see ? in this case gray. If the original was printed at 600 dpi and if you scan it at 150 dpi, you should get uniform colored areas when you vectorize the colored image. But if you scan the same image at 600 dpi, the results will generally not be what you need. So, the rule is to scan the image at about 25% of the printed resolution or as low a resolution as possible that is consistent with the details of the design. In some cases it may be necessary to go back to the source of the artwork and request that the original artwork be printed at a higher resolution so that the scanning resolution can be higher.
When you are using the vector edit tool, the "vector handles" between all the lines and arcs will have one of four possible shapes: (1) a small black square, (2) a + symbol, (3) a hollow square, and (4) a black square with a white + symbol in the middle. The latter three shapes are slightly larger than the first. The small black square indicates that the angle between the ends of the adjacent vectors is greater than the Tangency setting in the Tools menu/Options/General/Vector Editing. The + symbol indicates that the angle is less than the Tangency setting. The hollow square is the Start/End point with an angle greater than the Tangency setting. The square with the + symbol in the middle is the Start/End point with an angle less than the Tangency setting. To show how this works in practice, set both the Tangency setting and the Curve Resolution setting to 1. If the Helvetica Medium letter O has + symbols at all the vector handles including at the Start/End points, all the vectors are tangent to each other to within 1 degree. Click and drag on any vector handle until it changes shape (to a black square or a hollow square). This can be a very useful tool for cleaning up an image that has been scanned and vectorized or tuning up a customer's logo.
When you vectorize a bitmap image, the vector image and the bitmap image are exactly lined up with each other. If you click anywhere within the boundaries of the overlapping images and you happen to be very close to a vector, the program will probably select the vector image, but it may select the bitmap image. If it selects the bitmap image and you click on Plot Manager, the program will send the bitmap image to the plotter whose only vectors are those that define the rectangle around the bitmap. The solution is to click with the left mouse button anywhere within the two images, drag whichever image the program selects and move it (e.g. up and to the right) and release the left mouse button. Then click on the F3 key which toggles the colors on and off. It should then be obvious which is the vector image and which is the bitmap image. Select the vector image and send it to the Plot Manager.
This refers to older keys. USB keys are now sent out. There are two potential problems that arise when peripherals use the same parallel port to which the security key is attached: (1) interference with the operation of the key caused by data being sent to the peripheral devices which can ultimately cause the key to fail and (2) interference in the operation of the peripherals caused by data sent between Sign Wizard or Neon Wizard and the key. Both of these problems are eliminated by using a dedicated parallel port for the security key. "Dedicated port" means that nothing is attached to the back of the key and no other security keys are attached to the same port.
A hardware security key is required to run all full functioning levels of the Wizard. The demo versions include all the programs' internal functions, but the output functions are all truncated and do not require a security key. If you are trying to run a full function program and the hardware security key is not attached or if it is not functioning correctly, you will see the Hardware security key not found! Message. There will also be a code number following the message indicating the probable cause of the message. There are several possible causes for these error messages. One reason may be that the parallel port is not set to the correct mode. If you are installing Sign Wizard or Neon Wizard for the first time on a new computer, the LPT ports should be set for the SPP or STANDARD mode in the BIOS or CMOS. Inexperienced users should be very careful attempting to change these settings. Other parallel port modes (EPC or EPP) are known to prevent the software from accessing the security key device attached to an LPT port. By far the most common reason for the Hardware security key not found! Message is that the key has not been attached to a dedicated parallel port ? a printer or plotter was connected to the back of the key or a security key from another program was attached to the same parallel port. There are several ways to isolate the security key and avoid this problem which may otherwise interrupt your production at a very inopportune time: (1) If your computer does not have another parallel port available, you can install an additional parallel port in your computer. Plug and Play parallel ports for use in both ISA and PCI slots typically cost about $30 and they can usually be installed without the help of a "computer expert". (2) If you are connecting a plotter to the back of the key (using a parallel communication system), your plotter may be equipped with a serial port (in addition to its parallel port) which you can use to send data from the Wizard. If you switch from parallel to serial communication, be sure to use the serial cable provided with your plotter or one that is approved by the manufacturer of your plotter. (3) Aries Graphics now supplies security keys that use the USB (Universal Serial Bus) system which has been supplied on most computers built in the past few years. The number of available USB ports can be easily expanded with a USB hub. This is a good solution if you're using a laptop computer since it is usually very difficult to add an additional parallel port to a laptop.
Yes, there is a charge for version upgrades. Please contact us or your local sign supply distributor for more information.
The programmers at Aries Graphics are always busy working on new versions of the Wizard or fine tuning a current version. New versions, with a higher first number in the version identifier (e.g. from 4.1 to 5.0), generally have several new features that have been developed. There is a charge to upgrade to a new version that is usually about 20% of the retail price of the program. Current versions in which minor changes have been made and any known bugs have been corrected are available to customers at no charge.
No, the 5.1 upgrade is free to registered users of version 5.0 as a download from this Web site. Click here to register. You may also download the User's Guide Addendum from the Support page as a PDF file that you can view and print. Preferably, you will want to upgrade to version 7. Check Interactive Pricing for your cost.