Sunday, 31 August 2014

Silhouette Calibration.

There are many people who have problems with print and cuts.  A lot of time, it is because of human error but what about when you have done everything possible to get it right and nothing seems to work? The time when you thought you were going to get perfect cuts but they are all slightly off?
Nothing like wasting a load of gold dust ( otherwise called printer ink) to get me mad.

If this has ever happened to you, the chances are you wondered if your calibration was off. Maybe you were too scared to look into it or couldn't find the calibration page.  If so, then you will want to watch this video.

One reason you may need to calibrate is if you are using a home made mat. Why? Because if it is made of a different material, it could be tracking through the machine at a different rate. This will make your cut sizes off.  Most of the time, this will not be noticed but with a print and cut, it may.

To test cut size, draw a 10cm square or 4 inches, with your machine. Measure with a metal ruler. Is the size accurate? If it isn't then the distance calibration is the most likely one to be off. You can see this happening if one side of your print and cuts is fine but the other off - the design is not sized correctly. Sometimes it is wrongly blamed on position.

So how do you calibrate? To start with, your Cameo must be connected and on. Go to the send to silhouette tab and right click in the box. The calibration  options will come up. Click on Calibration and print the page. One page does it all.

The calibration for positioning is the green square part of this page.  Click on the Calibrate tab to send it to the cutter to test.  If your first lines are over the crosses, then that bit is ok. If not, you adjust as directed and move the arrows on your cameo so that the blade housing is over the next green square and try again.  NB the green squares don't print! They are just there to show you where your blade housing should be positioned! (I thought they were missing when I first did this!)

Once those are ok, move on to the distance ones.   Click on the Cut test lines - again, the lines are not printed, only the  markers, A B and 1 and 2.  Use a metal or plastic ruler, not a tape measure, to measure between the cuts made. If they are not precisely right, you can adjust as shown by the screen.
Click on Exit once all is ok, or on the revert if you think you have messed it up!

So that's it. The chances are that if you do have to adjust, it will be by a tiny amount. Maybe it will tell you that calibration is fine. That's when you really start scratching your head!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Glittered Snow Scene Christmas Card - free file

It must be the romantic in me but I love snow scene  cards. I mean, I hate the real stuff, it's usually mushy, dirty white slush in the UK, only when it first falls does it have beauty, that chilly crispness.

No, snow is best left to Christmas cards and the Alps.

So I set about designing a scene that could be cut in one piece. You have to think differently, think about what will be left behind as much as what you cut out.

Once I had my drawing - the old fashioned way, I imported it (scanned) into Gimp and clicked the magic wand to get rid of the bit I didn't want, then filled the bit I did want with bucket colour.
Saving as a jpeg, I imported it into Silhouette Studio to do a trace. It is easier to trace a solid than a line!

I cut the base card, a piece of blue acetate (document wallet) for the backing and the scene in white card. I sprayed the scene with adhesive and glittered it.

Then it was a simple assembly job.  I have included a positioned window on the inside for text but I just hand wrote inside with a silver pen - so that the text does not show through much when the card is displayed.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Making Fancy Shapes the Easy Way - Free File and Video

It isn't yet the Season To Be Jolly but I am getting ready by making my cards. Not for me the final rush, if I can help it. No, this year the key word is 'organised'!

So I figured that while I was at it, I'd share how to make plain, boring outline shapes far more interesting. Do these and recipients will think you slaved for hours...

see the video here  and another here    (forgot to tell you how to do welded ones!)   and files here  See, it must be getting closer, I'm present giving already!

Here is one I made earlier, as they say!  Cut out in white card, glued to a black background and mounted on a plain white card base. Added a few dots to finish it off.

The secret is to start off with a very simple shape. Use a brush stroke from Gimp or Photoshop - Save as a png and import into Studio or scour your fonts for a simple picture font. The simpler the better.

The great thing is the sheer variation you can get, so watch the videos now and get cutting!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Tell me Why are YOU not Using Gimp??? Have you ever SEEN the Brushes you can use?

If you only ever did one thing with Gimp, it would still be worth a fortune for cutters and crafters out there.
Why? Well, apart from the fact that it is fully functioning Free software (no I don't get paid by them, or anyone else) it provides you with a non stop, amazing source of free images for you to use and cut, no matter if you use Windows or a Mac.  If you are a Photoshop or Corel Photopaint user you know all about this and will be happy to ignore this but for the uninitiated, the following may be a bit of an eye opener.

How?  Brushes, that's how. Forget any ideas you have of 'hair' brushes - you know the ones with handles that you paint with, these are brushes only in that they are tools. Once a brush is selected in Gimp, you can 'dab' it just to get one image or drag it to create strokes. As in wet painting, you can change colours, size etc.

Look at the examples here, from

Weren't expecting those, were you?  Now who wouldn't like to be able to use thousands of free images like that in their card making or other crafty projects, hmm?  Some are non conditional, some are for personal use only.

Now before someone says that these are Photoshop brushes, let me tell you that Gimp 2.8 accepts those quite happily, thank you very much, without having to alter them in any way.  All you have to do is find the folder where the software stores the brushes and drop them in.

So how do you use these magnificent creatures?  Open Gimp, open a new file (choose the size page you want). Pick the brush tool and double click on it, choose the brush you want and click on the page.  Change the size if you can't see it because it is too small or make it smaller if you want, it really doesn't matter. Go to File, Export and export it as a PNG to your desktop or wherever you want it.
Open it in Studio just as you would any other image and do what you want with it. If you want to cut it, all you need do is trace it as usual.

It really is that easy, if you can copy and paste you can do this, if you use Studio, you are quite capable of doing this.

Now, a note for Mac users.  The folder that Gimp uses to store the brushes is one of the 'hidden' files on your system.  IF, like me, this annoys you, it is possible to create a new folder on say your desktop which is more accessible - but you must tell the software (under preferences/folders/brushes) where to find it and restart the software. This would be for your downloaded brushes only, the system ones should not be altered at all.
Here is the video on how to make a new file path. Oh yes, in my video, I clicked on the wrong brush to start with, that's why I didn't get the result I was expecting at first! I blame my glasses.  Note to self, need to see optician...

If you are not confident in doing this  just show this page to a techie teenager and they can probably do it for you!  So what are you waiting for?  Don't be a wimp, get Gimp!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Use Colouring Pages in Gimp and the Airbrush Tool

You can see the video here.

It is really easy in Gimp to take a line image as in a colouring book and make it into individual bits. You can also use the airbrush tool to get the lovely fade effect you get when painting with an actual airbrush - without the mess!
Like this quick example.

In this video I show you how to get rid of the background colour and how to select individual pieces to copy and paste where you want them.

If you need to, you can add a stroke (outline) to your selection when you copy it. Go to edit 'stroke selection' and choose the line width you want.  Like this

It would make tracing easier in Studio, when you have a variation of colours in the fill as I do here.

With these features mastered, the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sweet Treat Maze Card - Free File

I was browsing the internet yesterday and came across some puzzles.  Wouldn't it be great to put a puzzle in a card? To actually make it part of the card?

Here we go. .. Many hours later and I finally have something that is not only possible but doesn't take too much  hard work to make -as long as you have a Cameo or Portrait, anyway!  Other things you will need are some tiny sweets, something like Tic Tacs or Smints  and some thick craft foam. Normally I am trying to find thin stuff but as this only has to be cut in strips, not a problem, scissors will do, or a rotary cutting blade.

This is what I came up with.  (No sweets in this one yet!)  The file is here

The card has a book style spine, to accommodate the thickness of the maze.

The first step is to cut out all the pieces. You need  clear acetate for the window piece.  I have used blue lines for the bits you need to draw rather than cut.

Take the puzzle base and adhere a thin strip of foam to the outside of the drawn line, leaving the gap at one corner for the sweets to be put in (temporarily open) and the permanent gap at the opposite corner for the sweets to come out.  If you look at the photo, you can see I have a small piece of foam ready to close the input gap later. (You don't want to fill the card until you use it).

Don't do what I did and forget to use a coloured card for this. I cheated and added a paper insert...

Add some foam 'arms' to help hold the sweets, in the top left corner and use more double sided tape to add bits of foam in a random way to stop the sweets from just sliding out by themselves. Add double sided tape to the top of the foam edge. You can choose any design you want for placement.

  Once happy with the layout, put the tab Through the small cut in the window piece, fold a bit back and line it up with the gap in the arms. This stops the sweets from getting out before the puzzle is started. When the sweets are added, the tab should rest under them.  Position as needed and seal the foam edges, to the window pane.On that bit, just add some tape to the card but leave the backing on.

Again, don't do what I did the first time and put it in the wrong corner (see, we bloggers get it wrong too!)

Once you have the puzzle you can assemble the card. Use DS tape again to attach to the main card and the same for the card insert, if using. Add whatever decorations you wish. Fill and close the maze with the last piece of foam.

As an alternative, you could use flat decorative buttons as the obstacles in the puzzle, or cut out fancy foam shapes with dies.  Sadly, the Cameo won't cut foam thick enough for this.  I have also seen cute wooden cut outs, they would be fun to use.

I added a frame, arrow and decorations to the front but you can choose your own design elements according to the occasion.  This one is just a simple prototype, if making for a specific person it would be great to theme it with them in mind.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Gimp - Select by Colour. Video tutorial

Here is the link to my video on using 'Select by Colour' in Gimp.

I honestly think this software is brilliant and did I mention, FREE?

There are many times when using images, clipart or whatever, that we Silhouette Studio users would like to select a trace by colour but that is not possible in a lot of cases. The Studio software trace function does not trace by exact colour and cannot differentiate between say, a light blue and a light orange. So for that we need something else.

So if you wanted to cut out the heart clip art below, in its different colours, you can do that with Gimp.

  You can vary the sensitivity of the selection tool, cut, copy, paste, to get the results you want. You can paste as a new selection, a new layer etc, the choice is yours.

If you want to, you can select bits and add a 'Stroke' (an outline, to you and me) to them.  Simply go to 'Edit' and 'Stroke Selection' and decide how thick you want your line to be and what type of line you want.
 Like this. Not only can you do piece cuts but if you want you can then create stencils by repeating this process as necessary.

All in all this tool is amazing. Don't forget that you adjust the properties of the tool by double click or going to the tool properties in the bar on the right of the viewing pane (the first one in the above pic, to the left of the yellow one).

Gimp will not save as SVG but you can save the pieces as PNG files in their individual colours and then simply trace the edges.

If you have not tried Gimp before, I strongly encourage you to do so. Once you get the hang of it, you'll not regret it!

Monday, 18 August 2014

A Starry Blue Christmas Card - Free file

I must be on a roll here, another Christmas Card. Apart from getting my own stash ready, they are always used up eventually.

You can get the file here. I've included a couple of elements that I have not used but that you may want, a different sentiment and a stencil. In fact the card is versatile, change the sentiment and it could be used for anything from a 4th of July card (red sentiment!) to a Birthday.  

The mass of stars was created by drawing an irregular puddle shape and a few stars. I then grouped a few stars, changed the centre of rotation and used the rotate copy function to get more. I then ungrouped them, selected the 'puddle' as my selected area and nested them. 
The next step was to put them on the edge of the card base, go into point edit mode and add points along the edge and manipulate them to get the effect I wanted.

I made an offset of the basic card shape as a background. For the sentiment, I made a donut shape as a hoop, wrote the sentiment vertically, ungrouped and then moved them into place and welded the lot together..  So there you have it, a simple but effective card that does not take long to make. 

Change the colours for a completely different effect.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Christmas Window Card with Free File.

I know, it is the middle of August and here I am doing Christmas cards. Normally I would shudder at the thought but if you have a lot of people to make cards for, then you need to start early to avoid panic.

The trees were made from images from Altogether Christmas  who very generously allow downloading of many designs for personal use.

I don't, but since I am doing a blog to give you a design, I thought I'd better do it now rather than later. Keep it in your stash or until you need it.  I have not put on a sentiment but you could easily do so.

This is what it looks like and here  is the Silhouette Studio file.  Please note, my cut settings may be different, please check them before cutting.

So how is it made?

I started off with the base cut out and a scrap of torn paper as a guide for the sky. I used an airbrush but you could use a sponge or spray mists.
I added a couple of light blue streaks for snow. Note that I have taken the design onto the back of the card too and I am doing 2 cards in one go.
I've added some stars too.  (The stars on the trees can be blanked off on the stencil with masking tape.) Trees in the foreground will be bigger and darker than those in the distance. If you don't want to paint them in, cut them out in a range of tones and sizes.
While waiting for it to dry, I stuck some acetate onto the back of my window frame and some double sided foam tape onto the edges of that.

Using an acetate cut of the window frame, lined up with the top right edge of the card and some texture paste (you could just use thick white acrylic paint) I added snow to the lower left corners.

The stencil is then lifted and the paste allowed to dry. Then I stuck the frame on the front of the card.

Please note, stencils if made of acetate, need to have spray mount on the back, to stop movement and ensure no paint leaks through.

Lastly, I added a red paper insert, just to tidy it up.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Gimp - Tutorials Designed for Crafters rather than Photographers or Web designers!

It has been a while since I did much regular, serious image editing,  many years since I used Corel to any degree. 

Using a Mac, I have to go over to the dark side to use it and I try to avoid doing that. A while ago I tried to use Gimp but found my system did not like it, I could not get it to work but I recently tried again (V2.8)  and all is well! Yay! 

So I have set about learning it but instead of learning all of it badly, I wanted to learn bits of it well. You know that quote, about Jack of all trades, Master of  none?  Do I really need to know how to do hefty photographic stuff? No, not really, I am not a pro photographer and never will be. My camera takes good enough pics for me, so basic editing is all I am likely to need.

What I do want to do is use it for craft purposes, making papers, cutting out images from backgrounds, maybe doing some text work, that sort of thing.  There are some great, powerful tools in Gimp that are fun for us crafters to be able to use.

I have started to make some tutorial videos on Gimp, starting from the very beginning.
Have you had that feeling of panic, 'Well I've opened the ***thing, NOW what do I do?' Then these videos are for you. 
 They will all be on my Channel, Createinspain.  Each one is going to be short and focused on only a little bit at a time, with the intent that you can learn that bit and learn it well before moving on to the next.  Then if you need to go back, you can, without having to wade through too much unwanted stuff.

There should be little difference if you are using Windows or a Mac except in how files are accessed.

So here we go - Gimp for the clueless!  How to set up so you can follow along with me.

Video number 2 is here  How to open a page or image and Brush Basics.

If you want to know when new videos come out, subscribe to my channel and you will get notifications and if you have anything nice to say, please leave a comment!  I don't edit videos, so if I fluff it up then so be it, I'm only human!  If I really fluff it, I start over....

It is worth noting that I do expect you to be able to close a programme down, but that's about it.  As I said, this is for the clueless. Bite sized chunks for easy digestion!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cutting Mats for Art Work with Cameo and Video Tutorial on Text in Studio

As most of you will know, I don't just have one crafty hobby, I have several and one is painting. I paint in watercolour or acrylic which is cheap enough, the cost is in the framing.

Generally I only do small works, partly a space issue and partly cost!  However, framing for even the smallest of  art is expensive but often if you go to car boot sales or such you can find a frame you like going cheap or one you can renovate.

The next problem you encounter is the 'mat' - the inner card frame that is designed to set off your painting or photo. Whatever frame you have bought may or may not have a mat, it may be discoloured or the wrong colour, or damaged or just the wrong size for what you are doing.

Well, the good news is that you can now make your own mats up to  the 12 x 24 inch size at least, on your Cameo.

If you want to do it, I suggest you buy some watercolour paper that is fairly heavy. My pad is (I think) 160 gsm or 300 lb and the Cameo cuts it just fine.

Design your 'window'- that's pretty easy and centre it to the page.  You can choose any shape you like!
The next step is up to you but professional framers make the window ever so slightly higher than that, leaving a bigger border at the base. Something to do with the way the eye works.

When you have your mat cut, you can decide if you want to raise it a bit off the painting. If you do, you can use pieces of craft foam on the back to give it height.

Now, if you are really serious about your art you will know all about acid free this and that but to be honest, for most home artists this isn't so much of an issue. I've never bothered about what I use other than the paper and have no problems. If you want to make your art last 50 years or so, you may want to just use another layer of the watercolour paper if you want a thicker mat.

Of course, if you wish, you could add text to your mat, either in pen or vinyl, to personalise it even more, or even paint your mat to change the look. See the link for Video tutorial on how to use text function in Studio.
Just use some imagination and you will be amazed at what you can do!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

PixScan - a Feature of the New Studio Software V3.1.417

There has been a new version of the Silhouette Studio software launched recently and although some of it was about bug fixes, the main event was the arrival of the PixScan feature.
Pixscan is available to anyone using the latest version, the free one or the Designer one and appears to be in direct competition with certain ( relatively)well known printer manufacturer!

I did mention this in my last post but only very briefly.
So what is the downside of the new PixScan? Well you have to buy a PixScan mat, that has very specific registration marks on it. It is supposed to retail at the same price of the normal mats but that will depend on where you live and if you can get them without being ripped off by the retailers or Ebay re sellers!

The concept of PixScan is that you place artwork on the mat, scan it (may need two passes due to size)  or take a pic of it and then use the software to line it all up, add an auto trace or manual cut lines and then use the same mat to send to the cutter. I am ignoring the scan function as my scanner is not recognised by the software.

So how well does it work? I really wanted to try it out but have no mat. Hmmm, we shall see about that.

The short version of this story is that I did, by a long and convoluted process, manage to make a replica of the PixScan mat. I got it so close to the original that my designs are only out by a couple of mm. Bearing in mind I had little to go on in the way of measurements, I was surprised to get that far.

Here, you can see on a portion of my mat, that I have managed to cut out an owl but it wasn't quite perfectly  lined up.

However, assuming that the manufacturers mat should be better than my mock up, the results should be very impressive indeed!

It is worth noting that the 'trace' function of the software has not altered so will be no better or worse than what you are used to but this feature means that you should be able to draw on a scrap of paper and have it cut round it with very little effort or cut designs from your favourite paper without resorting to scissors!   For the frugal, the PixScan can be used to scan in your scraps so you can use them up with not a bit of waste!

For your first try, you need to take a photo of a registration page, a page of dots that is printed from the software. You can use a camera or a camera/tablet phone. Some are already recognised by the system so this step can be skipped.
This has to be in good light, preferably lined up straight on with no shadows.
Once that is done and loaded back in, you find the software should be set up to correct for any curvature of the lens ( think about it as lenses fixing your eyesight)  so that the image will be straight and true, allowing you to take photos of the actual mat without distortion. You then take a photo of your art, on the mat and load it, it thinks for a minute and then either accepts it or refuses, if perhaps it is not bright enough for example. In some cases, you can correct the image yourself and reload it.

So, you may be wondering if I am going to offer you a file for the cheat's version. The answer is a resounding 'no'.

Why?  Because if this mat sorts out the accuracy issues, it is well worth the money you will pay for it.
Most other manufacturers would have made you pay more for the software and Silhouette have given it free. Such generosity should not be abused. Silhouette have listened to customers who wanted this feature and put a lot of work into getting it.  Due to my location, I shall have to wait a while before getting a genuine mat but it should be worth the wait.

Well done, Silhouette, I think you have a winner!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Fix for Alignment Tool in Silhouette Studio and an over view of PixScan

I found a bit of a glitch in the Alignment tool so I've done a work around for it. You can see the video here

The new PixScan feature looks great.
What do I think of the latest software?

Generally I'm pretty happy with it. I only wish that us Europeans could get the mats at reasonable cost, without paying  what would end up at twice or three times the price - and get them now.  Here in Spain I can't even find a mention of them, let alone order one.

The new version still does not recognise my particular scanner, so where some people will choose importing from that, I had to use a camera. So I have managed to get that bit to work but can't do anything else because I have no mat.

The release notes can be found here for those who want to know what the differences are between versions.

Many will be relieved to know the roller bar now appears again in the window, handy to have and the filling objects with digital images has been repaired.
I've yet to do any serious road testing to find out if anything else has changed much but I am shortly to start on Christmas stuff, so ....

Monday, 4 August 2014

Anniversary Card Freebie

I've created a simple but effective card for the man in your life. Well, you could give it to a woman but I have made it so that it isn't too twee or feminine for the guys!

You can find the Silhouette file here

It is a small card but if you select everything and drag the corner to re size, you can easily change the dimensions.

After cutting out, apply adhesive to the inner frame, including the letters and stick some plastic over the window. (There is a rectangle for this in the file).

Apply double sided tape to the outer edges of the front of the card (the folded part).
Pile some hearts or sequins in the centre, away from the tape. Remove the tape backing and carefully, line up the window of the card with the front of the card.

Quick and easy!  Use whatever colour theme you wish and if you want to go overboard on decorations then feel free!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Caddy with Handle / How to Avoid Mistakes!

Sometimes a design comes out as you expect when you cut it out. Sometimes it doesn't, it is all part of the challenge. Sometimes you simply make errors when constructing a project, especially in the 3D area.

Here is a case in point, a handy little caddy that I made to put some glitter pots in.

Spot the not so deliberate error! Yes, I lined it without thinking that the sides were going to be stuck over it. 
The idea of this box, is to make two and stick them, back to back to make one caddy. The file is here if you want to download it.

Here is where I made the mistake.....

What I should have done, is put the sides together (at the back) after putting all the tape in place. Then I should have put the lining on and finally stuck the dividers in and completed the box.

The last stage is to put tape on the back and stick it to its mate, like this....

Sorry, you'll have to buy your own glitters....:)  So the moral is to think hard about your method of construction before you do it!  If you want something fancier, you could always make a border to put around the top or add a 3D flower or two.