I am considering a summer job in a camp, but part of the job description is to make signs, announcing events/trips etc.

This is well within my ability to do, but I'm not sure where to start. I am fairly good with computers, but currently lack the knowledge to do what I need to do.

I could use Microsoft Word/WordArt, but I think they're looking for something more professional. (Who can't use WordArt??)

Therefore, I ask:

  • What tools/programs are suitable for beginners and powerful/flexible enough to produce quality signs?
  • Where can I find (preferably free!) courses in both graphic design in general and sign-making in particular (i.e., not web-design, CAD, or 3D imaging. I'm not up to those... yet)
  • What books should I read?
  • Any tips for the beginner?

Related post

  • 2
    Hi there! Nice question. I think maybe you should open a new one for the second point in your list, the how to work with sign-making in particular, because it would attract a different group of answers. Just an idea.
    – Yisela
    May 25, 2014 at 23:56
  • @Yisela Thanks :) ....which point do you think should be made into a new question? May 26, 2014 at 3:26
  • This looks useful....found the link somewhere on this site (re: "courses in graphic design in general") May 28, 2014 at 4:44

3 Answers 3


What tools/programs are [A] suitable for beginners [B] powerful/flexible enough to produce quality signs?

To address what is suitable for beginners is going to be a complicated discussion because it would depend on what you find to be an issue. One would say that Illustrator would be the best suited because the amount of resources are available.

Where can I find [preferably free!] courses in both graphic design in general, and sign-making in particular (ie, not web-design or CAD or 3D imaging....I'm not up to those...yet;)

It would be hard pressed to find "free" courses because you are basically asking someone that has put in the effort to learn design to spend their hard earned time to teach you and that simply isn't logical. Same rule applies to sign-making. However, I would suggest possibly picking up a vector program like Inkscape, that is free, and learning how to do things.

What books should I read?

That would probably depend on what program you are going to use.

Any tips for the beginner?

Expect to only get in return the amount of effort you put in. Try to come up with ways to practice in design. Don't be afraid to take advanced designs experts have done and challenge yourself in understanding what they did and the ability to replicate it. At this time you are your best client and by that I mean come up with an idea and learn how to consolidate your time and design.

Now some other points. From experience in the sign world I would advise learning a vector program since you mentioned you will be doing signs. So this tid-bit may help:

  • Inkscape: Its a free vector program that has a robust community and focuses on vector.
  • CorelDraw: Is another popular alternative to Illustrator that a lot of sign companies use because it can aid in the design of lighted signs and its ability to scale.
  • Illustrator: One of the best vector programs that is very popular in the community and a lot of sign companies use it to develop signage and even vehicle wraps and digital prints.
  • InDesign: The best print production software for stationary or small jobs when typsetting is needed.

As stated by Ryan be honest. You didn't go in detail if this position needed experience but I would imagine that any company looking for someone to handle their signs would expect some design and software knowledge of some-sort unless its an internship in their sign shop if they have one.


I'm only going to address this point

Any tips for the beginner?

Isn't it a bit of an oxymoron to say "Well within my ability to do" followed by "I'm not sure where to start."

As far as advice - apply to the job, discuss their needs in interview. Speculating does you and them no good. They'll either think you have enough of the skills they are looking for or won't. My sister took a job in administration once but also had to make flyers after claiming she knew how. Even with me trying to guide her she was fired. Be honest with yourself and them to avoid the same. If they need a lot of signs they'll hire someone else. If they only need one or two and think it can be done in any application then they'll consider you if you have the other qualifications.

Sign design is a different animal and in many ways is CAD. If they're looking for true sign fabrication. However, I don't see a Summercamp needing signs like this. They probably need some one page flyers to put up around the place, signup sheets, a piece of paper the kids can bring their parents to invite them in for a day. Stuff like that. This however is just speculation which is why you need to speak with them if they give you an interview.

  • Thanks for the advice! As for the oxymoronism (?) I agree...I was just trying to point out that I (think I) have the ability, but I just lack knowledge [what tools to use, how to use them etc] May 26, 2014 at 3:09
  • About speculation for job requirements: even though I don't know how to make signs now, I have until August to learn...do you think that is enough time? May 26, 2014 at 3:10
  • You don't even know what type of signs they want though so how will you learn? Do you have access to a CNC machine? A vinyl printer/cutter? Seriously, just call them up and ask what type of signs. I really think its going to be basic flyers in which case yes you can learn by August. Use a different phone if you're that paranoid about asking a question about the job opening.
    – Ryan
    May 26, 2014 at 12:21

Inkscape is the best graphic design for beginners software to use; when I first started to learn graphic design that's the program I did use and still use at this moment, because it's easy to use, it's fast and it's free plus it creates vector images.

  • +1, thanks for your answer.....as it turns out I turned down that job offer in lieu of a better one, so I put my studies in graphic design to the side for the moment....will definitely consider Inkscape if / when I ever return to graphic design! Sep 28, 2014 at 2:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.