A vinyl cutter plotter, frequently referred to simply as a plotter, is a piece of computer equipment frequently used for signmaking. A vinyl letter machine may be large or small and can be used to cut out vinyl sign lettering and other graphics, to make everything from bumper stickers to billboards. The vinyl used is like a decal material, with a vinyl facing and adhesive backing attached to a paper liner. Certain types are more durable and made to withstand exterior use. Heat-transferable vinyl, such as for making T-shirts, is also available and can be used with plotters.
While lettering was often stenciled, hand-painted, or hand-cut from vinyl in the past, a vinyl cutter plotter does the job much more accurately and efficiently. It doesn’t require an artist to make simple signs or wall lettering, just some basic instruction. A true artist or designer will obviously be more versed in space usage, color theory, and other important factors, but being able to cut lettering with a vinyl cutter plotter makes many simple lettering tasks simpler and more attractive than other alternatives.
Some of the more compact versions of the vinyl cutter plotter can be used with a desktop computer and printer. These versions are affordable and useful for small businesses, schools, clubs, churches, and even for use at home. Signs, posters, exhibits, and wall art can be created by typing in verbiage or adding graphics. Instead of paying top dollar to decorate or advertise, lettering and graphics can be done in-house, without the dreaded stencil and spray paint signs that tend to look less than professional.
Of course, there are also commercial versions of the vinyl cutter plotter as well. Some of these machines are very large and can cut lettering large enough to letter entire walls of large buildings or be applied to huge billboards. Commercial plotters tend to cut quickly, not to mention accurately, and allow for simple adjustments that improve spacing. Various fonts, or letter styles, may not space certain letters accurately, and this can be adjusted with a process called kerning.
The vinyl cutter plotter is still in use in many shops but many are being replaced by wide-format ink-jet printers. Imagine a huge printer capable of printing, or even mass producing, a banner large enough to cover a billboard. These printers are also able to create more in depth art and graphics as well as reproducing photographs, which a plotter cannot do.