PRINTING AS A TOOL

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

Customizing can involve lots of different skill areas and techniques-- the most obvious ones are tailoring and sculpting. Generally, those areas take a lot of practice and perhaps some unique spatial perception and motor skills wiring, so that not everyone may have the inclination to undertake them. However, for some things at least half the job is having the right tools, and thinking to use them. Case in point: There are lots of neat things you can do with a printer.

If you've got a color printer, you can do insignia, signs, props, mini-posters, ID cards... there are a zillion areas you can think of to use these! Even if you've got a crummy printer, it's still probably better than what you could do with paint and a 000 brush. Printers are becoming cheaper, and printing at higher resolutions nowadays. You can even run decal and transfer paper through some.

Getting images is the first step. You can scan these in yourself, or find them on the Internet; The German document below was posted at the Sandbox (I'm sorry, I don't know who to credit.) There are bunches out there, but here's one to get you started:

Having software to manipulate & print from is essential. I do my image manipulation in Photoshop and print from Corel Draw. This system works great because you can specify the image resolution in Photoshop, and when you paste the image into Corel Draw, the image sizes to actual print size without losing any detail. So it's possible to take an image and set it to 300 dpi (dots per inch), paste it into Corel Draw, then set it to 600 dpi and do the same. The image appears unchanged in Photoshop, but is two different sizes in Corel Draw. The limit is the output quality of your printer.

The key to understanding this is to realize that a computer image is composed of a certain number of dots of color. Usually, these are expressed as how many dots wide by how many dots high: For example, a screen resolution might be 640 x 480. A picture scanned at that size will fill the screen. For printing purposes, if you set the resolution of that picture to 72 dpi (?), it should come out of the printer at roughly that same size. However, if you set the image resolution to 300 dpi, it will come out of the printer much smaller, since the printer is capable of printing at a higher resolution than your monitor can display. The printer uses this image resolution information to determine what size the image should print at, within the physical limits of its own resolution.

The most important thing to know about this is that if you've got a fairly big image, it should scale down for printing quite nicely. You don't want to resize the image in your paint program-- that removes information. Instead, you want the printer to do the scaling for you.

The images at Jun's web site can be saved to your hard drive-- however, you will need to set their resolution to 300 dpi before printing them. This will make them come out at a perfect 1:6th scale. If you have other images, you can set any kind of resolution you want-- I think I used either 1500 or 1250 (I forgot) for the Galati patch. I just trial & errored a few, until it was the right size in Corel Draw (use the ruler across the top). Of course, the results you get will depend on your printer's resolution. Most printers now are capable of printing at least 300 dpi, and most can print 600 dpi. I just got an Alps MD5000 which claims to be able to print 2500 dpi-- I dunno; it's hard to see dot patterns when they're *that* small, and my naked eye can't tell the difference. (The Alps is a wonderful printer though since it can print white & metal foils and uses dry, waterproof ink -- it can be used to make decals.)

Along those lines, there are some similar neat tools that you can invest in if you've got the spare bucks: The Singer UE1 (Ultimate Embroidery) machine interfaces with your computer so you can scan images and reduce them to stitching patterns onscreen. Punch the 'go' button, and all you have to do is change threads... (I think) If you've got $800 - $1050 to spare. Also, Sherline makes some nice milling machines which can be interfaced with a computer... Dave Plesic turned me on to this: Roland makes a system which scans 3-D objects and renders them in common non-metallic materials. Ahhhhh... These are drool-worthy toys!

I grabbed these from An Der Front and cleaned them up a bit (and took the liberty of "inventing" the backside of the Soldbuchs, plus a few other things heh heh). They'd need to be resized for printing.

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