Design Software

“In prosperity prepare for a change; in adversity hope for one.”  —James Burgh

When times get tough, everyone thinks about economizing. That doesn’t always mean not spending anything.(That just makes a recession worse.) But it does mean optimizing your spending. Recently, we’ve looked at little-known, inexpensive (or even free) software. This month, we’ll look at getting the maximum potential out of software you probably already have, both by understanding all of its features and by adding upgrades.

Adobe Creative Suite

Let’s start with something everybody has—Adobe products. Adobe is the undisputed king of the design world. Not only does it make the premier design software, but its friendly method of bundling the software into a variety of packages allows for large savings over purchasing individual pieces.

If you have an older version, you probably are noticing that it doesn’t do everything you need. Before you think about buying another piece of software, look into upgrading your Adobe products. Every version has some amazing new features as well as lots of minor tweaks and improvements.

Onyx PrepEdgePro

OK, so you have Adobe CS4, but sometimes when you get files from the clients, they have font errors, color issues or other problems that are a nuisance to open and repair in the native software. Onyx RIPs are commonplace in the large-format industry. They are well-known for their versatility and reliability. But did you know that their PrepEdgePro add-on can perform full editing to PDF files? It can also tile, add margins, do spot colors and color correct, all without ever leaving the comfort of Onyx.

Wasatch SoftRIP

Other high-end RIPS also include many built-in features that can make editing and file prep easier. Wasatch SoftRIP has many design features that makes adjusting your image before ripping very easy. With simple setup, intuitive workflow and powerful printing controls, SoftRIP saves you time and money while producing excellent quality color. Some basic features that help to edit your image within SoftRIP include size/crop, rotate, mirror, titling and repeats. SoftRIP has an advanced arsenal of color tools that enhance its functionality.


SignLab started life as a software tool for cutting vinyl, but as the digital printing industry grew, SignLab grew along with it. Even the basic packages have editing and layout capabilities, but the higher up the ladder you go, the more features you get. A tiered pricing structure means that the customer only has to pay for the features that he or she needs (or wants, not always the same thing). Perhaps adding another level to your current package is all you really need.


Or maybe you already have Adobe CS and a basic RIP but are missing some of the features of a high-end RIP. That’s where software like PosterWorks comes in. PosterWorks offers an unlimited number of imported artworks on the layout; positioning; layering; overlay of vector type with a transparent background on raster image information; cropping; resizing up to 500 x 500 feet; variable panel sizing; variable gaps, bleeds, overlaps and margins; 90-degree rotation; automatic nesting of multiple slats; or tiles on a larger master panel to save paper.


This magazine has featured many articles on the value of color calibrated systems. When a shop’s scanners, monitors, printers and media are all calibrated properly, it can mean a tremendous savings in time and material. These calibration systems typically have been expensive, time consuming and technically difficult to use. Pantone comes to the rescue with ColorMunki, an inexpensive and easy-to-use system that is ideal for small shops. It allows calibration of the entire workflow system and precise matching of spot colors with the spectrophotometer and included software.

Digital DesignWare

And, finally, save time and money by spending a little with digital libraries. Illustrators and photographers are expensive, but they do create unique individual graphics for your clients. Not all clients can afford that in these hard times, so clipart and stock photos can be the next best thing. Digital DesignWare (formerly Digital Auto Library) features a huge variety of vector clipart. Its big claim to fame, however, is its extensive inventory of vehicle outlines. These are a must for anyone working with vehicle graphics. The time and money that these accurate vector shapes can save is inestimable. But that’s not all—Digital DesignWare now has 3-D vehicles that can be manipulated in most common 3-D programs. Imagine giving your clients a 3-D fly-around of your latest design masterpiece.

Plan for the future and make the most of the present. Optimize your software spending by looking carefully at what you already have and determining what you really need.