Getting started in sign making

Thinking about making some signs as holiday gifts and not sure where to start.

So for some signs, its obvious 2D cutouts, stacked on top of each other to give a 3D dimensional look.
These could be done with just about any software, 2D or 3D. Some examples:

But then there are more elaborate ones like these that definitely are 3D carved.

So a couple questions to start:

  1. What software(s) are they typically using since alot of the details are 3D organic shapes and not simple vector cutouts?
  2. The signs are typically large and thick. Are they getting thick boards and edge gluing them together to make big slabs?

carbide create is free and can do all of these things. there’s more advanced software for “fancy” that cost $$. You can get a pro license for carbide create for a year for free that can do these 3D shapes just fine (there’s tutorials around here quite a bit)

I don’t know how they do their boards; upto 1" or maybe 1.5" you can get at lumber yards… but they must be glueing stuff for sure to get them this size.


A lot of the thick professional signs are made out of HDU (High Density Urethane). There are some examples on this seller’s site.


So I have Vcarve, Cut3D and Fusion along with Carbide Create that came with the Shapeoko. I’ve been a SolidWorks user for 20+ years so i can definitely model in 3D. However, i can’t imagine folks that do the intricate 3D carved signs are drawing things like trees, animals, etc. from scratch. Are they finding 3D bodies in some format and then piecing the model together in a software?

Also, i notice alot of them at textures to the recessed areas or backgrounds of the sign, how are they doing that?

Finally found a youtube video that helped me understand a little better. Looks like Vcarve might be my ticket…just need to learn how to use it.

Looks like bitmaps are somehow 3D and that’s how they get alot of those features. I assume those are readily found online.

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As an alternative there’s the optional 3D modeling in Carbide Create Pro which is like to that in Vectric Aspire — we are offering a free 1 yr. license:

and here are some links on modeling with it which may be helpful:


with Carbide Create Pro it’s very easy for example to do letters/fonts like this:

happy to walk you through the steps in CCPro if this is of interest


Carbide Create Pro will do the majority of these things, especially with some time taken to learn it properly, it’s very powerful and improving all the time

You will find that most people that make money creating signs like these use Vectric software, Aspire in particular. It’s functionality really lends itself to fast design of jobs exactly like this. The price is steep but in my opinion the time saved during design and efficiency of toolpaths will pay for itself very quickly

I bought a used copy of Aspire 9 fairly cheaply, and could pretty confidently design any of those signs. That being said I would have no idea how to paint/finish them!

Carveco is another good option for this stuff, they use a subscription model which means much less outlay to start with, and if it doesn’t suit you it can be cancelled. I haven’t tried it, but have heard it’s quite popular amongst signmakers

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