Bitmap MAGIC!

More than five years ago, just after I learned how to use bitmaps to create textures in EnRoute I was eager to see just what I could do with them. I was also looking everywhere I could to find inspiration. I needed to know what worked and what didn’t.  One source of inspiration was my collection of old National Geographic magazines. I would san in the old photos and see what the images would do in the program. Eventually I figured out what worked the best and how to tweak and adjust them to work even better.
On one such search I found a picture of a fossilized fish. I remember getting excited to give it a try. I scanned the picture and pulled it into Photoshop. I adjusted the contrast and added a few bits. Then I created a quick vector file in Illustrator and drew up the vectors for the circles and lettering around the edge. I imported the files into EnRoute and then set to work. 
The basic file was simple. The circle was made into a relief. Borders and lettering were added as a modification to the relief. Then the magic was about to happen with the bitmaps.
The fish was added first. The black did nothing while the white of the photograph was raised by the 0.15″ I specified. Grays were in between. I layered a second bitmap called splotches over the entire file to add a little more texture. This was done very subtly with a numeric of only 0.05. It didn’t need much to make it effective.
What amazed me at this early stage of the game was just how fast the process was from start to finish. From the time I found the image, edited it, built the file, sent it to the router, ran the file, painted it and mounted it to my wall was just under an hour. The paint was still wet of course but the file was done and amazingly so!
It was pure MAGIC!

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Dan Sawatzky

Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force in the sign industry. He and his wife Janis are owners of Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation – a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional theme signs and environments. They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks. Their work has garnered numerous international awards and Dan’s articles appear frequently in the sign trade publications. Dan and his crew also host Sign Magic and Sculpting Workshops in their studio a number of times each year with attendees coming from around the world. For more information please visit

3 thoughts on “Bitmap MAGIC!”

  1. I created the vectors for this file in Illustrator. It could easily have been done in PhotoShop as a bitmap and then added to the relief at the same time as the fish in EnRoute however.


  2. Yeah, this is one of the projects that really made me stand up and go "ahhhh…." about what could get done with photos and texture. This is in my top 5 favorites list of Dan's signs. I have to admit, though, that the "True North Sub Shop" is still #1. That was the sign that made me drive to B.C. from Illinois.

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