Finish boards can make or break a presentation. Knowing how to make one well is critical for interior design students and professionals alike. It's a skill I honed through school, but didn't master until I worked in a professional office. It should be stated that there are a lot of good ways to do this, and that standards will vary from firm to firm. However, there are certain techniques and methods that will apply in most offices.
When I was looking for a good example online (the boards I make at work are confidential), I stumbled upon this doozie:
I'm sure the intent was pure, and the finished product might have been lovely, but this board is a disaster. From the brown matte board to the jagged fabric samples...it's completely unprofessional.
A good board should be clean, easy to read, and perfectly arranged. The craft must be impeccable. Never fear though, when I started I couldn't cut in a straight line to save my life. If I can learn how to do this...anyone can.
Here is what I do:
1. Create the board in Illustrator first. Open a new document and select a sheet size. For this example, I am using an 11x17 sheet, but most professional boards will be bigger. Add a company logo and title block to identify the board contents.
2. Measure your samples and create square outlines to represent them digitally. Use the lightest color and stroke that is still legible once printed. The outlines will help you place the samples, but should not be peaking out from underneath after everything has been glued down.
3. Add captions and adjust the alignment and spacing. Arranging the board takes a bit of finagling, and there are a million good ways to do it. Just use your best judgement. In this phase, alignment and spacing are everything.
In the example above, I aligned the top and left edges to keep it looking uniform. To perfect your spacing, hold down Shift as your arrow up and down. The boxes above are shown at two spaces apart and the captions are one space beneath them.
4. Test print. When you're happy with the board and you've triple checked for typos, go ahead and test print. When you have a hard copy, lay your samples on the board and check to see how it looks. You will have to go back and forth to make adjustments and that's okay. Just take your time and get it right before moving on. I find that this part of the process takes me the longest.
5. Print the Final. When all of the necessary adjustments have been made, print the sheet on the best quality paper available to you.
To assemble the board, here is what you'll need:
- Black Foam Core: Make sure its a few inches bigger than your sheet on all sides.
- Rubber Backed Ruler: I prefer the heavy duty ones with a handle because its easier to hold them in place.
- Cork Backed Ruler: For measuring samples
- Cutting Mat: To protect your work surface
- Super 77 Adhesive: This stuff is toxic, but nothing works better.
- Xacto Knife and Box of Replacement Blades
- Foam Tape
- Velcro: The heavy duty kind. We use the one that is designed to keep fire extinguishers attached to the wall.
- Hot Glue Gun and Extra Glue Sticks
1. Spray one side of the foam core. Lay craft paper or newspapers down on the floor (to keep from your shoes getting sticky) and spray one side of your foam core with Super 77. The can says to spray about 8" inches away, but I have had better luck spraying at 24" or more. If you spray too close, the glue will pool up and create wet marks when you lay your paper down. Not good. Spraying at a bit of a distance creates an even mist that won't ruin your print. Just make sure you get enough on the foam core so the page doesn't peel off.
2. Lay your printout in place. Wait a second for the glue to become tacky and gently lay your page in the middle of the foam core leaving a few inches on all sides. Smooth all the air bubbles out and use a little pressure to make sure all the corners and edges are fully adhered.
3. Cut off the edges of the board with an Xacto knife and fresh blade. Tools are everything in this step. The heavier the ruler and thicker the rubber, the better. You need something that is easy to hold in place and won't budge when you start to cut. Always use a fresh Xacto blade when you cut through foam core, a dull blade will tear the foam and make a ragged edge.
Once you have placed the ruler, lightly score along the edge. Repeat the light scoring motion until the board snaps off, about 2-3 times. DO NOT try to cut through the foam in one go. I repeat: DO NOT try to cut through the foam in one go! The blade will get away from you and you'll have to start over. Trust me, I didn't believe my professor when she told me this and I wasted a lot of foam core because of it. The key to a clean cut is a light hand and repetition.
4. Start adhering the samples to the board. Foam tape, Hot Glue, and Velcro should cover most of your adhesive needs. I use foam tape for all laminates, wood, lightweight tiles, and solid surfaces. For the really heavy stuff, Velcro has never let me down. I don't know what it is about it, but it works. For fabrics I use hot glue because tape just doesn't stick. The only things I use double sided tape for are wallcoverings, glass vinyl film samples and anything that has to lay flat against the page. For everything else, use is foam tape.
As I mentioned before, the boards I make are the property of my office and are confidential, but I did a little digging online and found a pretty good (albeit low resolution...I'm sorry!) example:
As you can see, the spacing is impeccable, the alignment is perfect, and everything is clearly labeled and identified. The rendering in the corner helps bring all the materials together and give the client an idea of what the finished project will look like.
With a little practice and the right tools (especially the right tools) anyone can do this. I promise. Take your time and keep it simple. You will get the hang of it.