Merry Dragon pub sign – part one

Each year we do a special display piece for our friends at Coastal Enterprises. It will be displayed at the International Sign Association show in March. These folks manufacture Precision Board – the high density urethane board we use to make many of our projects. We discussed this year’s feature project and decided a little pub sign would be just the ticket. I whipped up a sketch which was enthusiastically approved.

I found a font I liked and tweaked and modified it to suit the little sign. I did this work in Illustrator. I then imported the vectors into EnRoute and began building the routing files.

I drew up three separate boards using the drawing tools. It was important they be three separate boards as I wanted to use my new wood texture collection to heavily modify them.

I first made these three boards into a relief. I used a value of 0.5″

I started with the centre board. I first applied a wood texture bitmap. I used a little bigger number than usual to make the grain more pronounced – 0.25″

I then imported a modifier bitmap from the same collection. This would warp the board. Once again I used a fairly big number 0.4″ as a modifier to create a more dramatic effect.

I checked the front view and could see the effect the bitmaps had created.

In the side view the effect was apparent. The board had warped – just as I had envisioned.

For the next board on the right side I opened two bitmaps. One was a modifier designed to bring out the weathered effects of the woodgrain. The other was the woodgrain itself. I sized them at the same time to ensure I could easily line them up. They would be applied one at a time.

I then applied a third bitmap to this same board. Knowing that white affects the relief and black does nothing I knew it would effectively twist the board.

The third board received a flat grain bitmap.

Flat grain boards in real life will often cup and so I then applied a bitmap to achieve this effect.

I checked the front view to make sure I had achieved what I desired. All was good.

It was then time to turn my attention to the lettering. I started with a raised border which was created as a separate relief.

I then drew a rectangle vector under the boards which I made into a relief. I combined this rectangular relief with the board reliefs.

I then duplicated the board background relief and flipped the copy for the back side of the sign.

The letter outline was then merged highest with the front and back of the sign.

The lettering was added by modifying the board relief using the bevel tool. This made the sign file ready to tool path and send off to the MultiCam.

The sign faces were routed from 1.5″ thick 30 lb Precision Board.

The sign will be comprised of four layers of 1.5″ Precision Board. The centre sections has pockets routed into them to allow a 2″ square tubing frame to be laminated inside. The slots along the bottom are where the 1/2″ thick steel sign bracket will be pocketed. It will be welded to the square tubing for a secure mounting.

Published by

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

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