Sunday, August 11, 2013

Health And Safety: The Missing Details

The previous post was meant to be more than just a single photo, there was meant to be some textual content as well; specifically details on how I made the "Beware Of The Trains" sign. Unfortunately I managed to press Publish instead of Preview! So here are the details behind the making of the sign.

While I'm sure I could have bought a Beware of the Trains sign I decided that it was simple enough for me to have a go at making my own; after all it's only two colours, how hard can it be. The major problem is the size of the sign. The sign is approximately 3.5mm wide by 2.5mm tall. This means that the large letters are written in a 2.4pt font! Given that 10pt font is considered small you should be able to get a good idea just how small the letters are. If not then these photos should help.

The first photo really gives a good sense of the scale of the sign, it also shows that laser printed ink actually rubs off quite quickly! To stop this happening I painted on a thin layer of Humbrol enamel satin varnish before I tried handling the printed area. The printed and varnished paper was then stuck to some thin black cardboard (it's probably around 200gsm) and then carefully cut out using a sharp knife.

I made the post from some 0.6mm wire (the same stuff I used on the trees). I cut a piece about 1.4cm long to give me a 5 foot post (at 2mm to the foot that is 1cm) plus 4mm to go into the layout surface. I held the wire in a pin vice while I painted it with Tamiya flat black. Once the paint was dry, I used a cocktail stick to put a tiny drop of superglue on the back of the sign and then glued it to the post. Once the glue had set I gave the whole thing another thin coat of satin varnish. The final step was to drill a small hole (0.65mm drill bit) into the layout and slide the post in.

If you fancy making your own sign then feel free to re-use the SVG file I created (I've included both a white on black and a black on white sign). I did try converting the SVG to a more common format (like a PNG or a PDF) but in everycase the converted file lost too much detail making the small letters unreadable. I'd suggest opening the file with Inkscape and printing at the highest quality setting your printer can manage.


  1. This is almost microscopic. I had a look at Inkscape for drawing. I'll have a go with it. It is free and Adobe Illustrator is no doubt a fortune. From October it won't even be available except through Adobe CC which you will have to hire by the month.
    Chrome opened the SVG file, I was surprised it did.
    I'm very impressed with your artistry.

    1. PS. Mark how many pixels/inch did you print at? Not that I'm thinking of printing miniature writing, I'm just curious.

    2. Strangely enough I didn't specify a dpi level when printing and having gone back and looked I can't find one in the settings dialog either. What I did do was leave the rendering set to vector in the Inkscape print dialog, which I'm guessing means it tries to draw the correct curves etc. and relies on the printer doing as it is told.

      Having said that when I tried converting to a PNG image I tried at 600dpi and the text became unreadable when printed, so the vector printing must be a higher resolution than that.

      As for Inkscape itself, I'd definitely recommend it for vector drawing. It is pretty easy to use (although there are a few oddities that require a bit of googling to figure out) and as you say free! I've started using it as my software of choice for any picture that isn't a photo as the flexibility and ability to scale accurately are really helpful.

    3. Sorry Mark I meant dpi...good job someone is awake. I've only just started playing with vector drawing CS6 seems to be reasonably comprehensive. I just keep forgetting what is hidden where. I was looking for a simpler program to learn on but looking at Inkscape I'm probably better sticking with the devil I've got.

    4. For most things Inkscape is nice and easy to use (and the default save file format being SVG makes the work easily transferable to other apps or the web -- both Firefox and Chrome will display SVG files). The only real problem I've had is with trying to make text fit a curve which is much harder than you would expect it to be, although fairly intuitive when you get the hang of it. As you say though, at least until Adobe go subscription only, probably better to stick with the devil you know -- mind you the saving in software license costs would buy quite a bit of falling down water :)

    5. Mark if you want to get text to fit a curve then I use the pen; pop two anchor points in then in PS use rubber band. It makes the curve flow much smoother when you pop your intermediate points in and push and pull them. Never try a freehand one....that's for experts. Also before typing enlarge the gap between letters (I forget what they call it)Kerning, Kettering or some such and use a simple font like Arial.
      It's peeing down here on and off. I've got wet twice. I'll have a look at it this afternoon. It doesn't matter for N gauge but It should work in 3D to get the cast iron letter effect. In 3D PS. you have to do quick two pass renders to see what you have done. Hardly state of the art but brilliant compared to what was available only a few years ago.
      I suspect you are after oval wagon plates. Draw an ellipse duplicate it do the top half writing on one and the bottom half writing on the other. Then new layer and do the middle writing. When you have them all to your liking just flatten and save. It helps to write down the two radii of the ellipse you first generated and font size. Or save it as a template.
      Bet a pound to a penny I'm teaching Mark how to blow an egg.
      I can see this layout being superb...if you are anything like me you will just see the cuckoos. Nobody notices and those that do should offer helpful tips and advice.