Friday, 24 October 2014

Supervectorizer App for Mac. Convert Rasters to VECTORS

As some of you may know, I 'm a bit of a software junkie. I love playing with graphics software and I am always on the look out for new apps that make the most of having a Mac.

I was browsing the other day and came across SUPER VECTORIZER  and decided to give it a go.

Why? Well Silhouette Studio trace function does leave something to be desired at times. It does not differentiate between colours, only tones. That makes tracing some images next to impossible.

I know I could use Gimp, or other full blooded graphics packages to do it, but sometimes I just want the simple option, one window to open, clean and quick.

Super Vectoriser is just that. Only one window opens, like this.

Import your image, select an option or two and save in SVG, Vector PDF, AI or DXF.
That's it, done.  Now how good your result is depends on how good your image is to start with, the settings you apply and the result you want. It would be great for decoupage for example. It will excel at photos to convert to vinyl, or clipart that has colours inside but no interior outlines.

In the image above,I have separated out some of the layers of colour, in a way that would not be possible in Studio.

So there you go, another choice for tracing images .  Don't forget, you need to give the cut line a colour and width down to zero - you don't automatically see the cut lines!

Here  is the video I made that shows it in action.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Vinyl Lettering on Glasses, Mugs and Lampshades- How to get it right!

I know that lots of you like to personalise glassware for special people or occasions, but getting it to look right is not always easy, if the object narrows at one end. In the case of lampshades, it is a very obvious 'truncated cone' i.e., a cone with no point. Drinking glasses are often slightly narrowed at the base.

The first thing to do, once you have chosen your glass, is to clean it. Obvious I know but it needs to be free of grease and fingerprints. Alcohol does a good job. Not drinking it, rubbing it on the glass, that is.

If you have tried lettering around an obviously truncated shape before, you will realise the problem. Lettering around a tube is easy but it is complicated when there is a narrowing at the base. The letters are flat, the object is not. Think about a straight shift dress and what happens when you belt it. You get gathers. Not desirable in this case.

So, you need a template of a cone. There is an excellent site with free templates (for cones and boxes and the like).  It will save to  PDF or SVG - firstly, here is how it is done in PDF for those who don't have designer edition.

Download your pattern from Truncated Cones

 It is a simple measuring job to get the size you need.  A word of caution, although it will import as a PDF, it imports in bits, so group it! Duplicate it and put one copy aside.  Draw an ellipse that matches the curve in the centre, it's quite easy to do. Duplicate that and keep to one side.  This is just a precaution but a good one!

IF you can import as SVG, It is a bit quicker, you can separate the lines to duplicate the centre dashed line, so don't have to bother with the ellipse.

Put text to path after adjusting it to your liking.  You put it on the path by dragging the + symbol to the oval you want to wrap it round. Right click and select 'Convert the text to path'.  You can now delete the (greyed out) line Add a border around your text to make weeding easier if you need to. (Or you could just cut a border around it with scissors!
Cut out the template in paper or card and the letters in vinyl.
Weed the letters and use masking or transfer tape to transfer them to your glass. Cut the whole paper template and insert into the glass as a guide to follow for placement.  If you use a sketch pen to draw it before cutting, you won't need to do a print and cut. Use a temporary marker to mark the horizontal and vertical on both the template and the vinyl to match them up. Remember the base of the glass will put the depth out slightly if your template is inside.

Don't just stick to letters, other designs can be fun, especially  for one off occasions.  Spiders for halloween, hearts for valentines.....

If you want something more permanent, check with your vinyl supplier. Some have even been known to go through the dishwasher regularly!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Inkpad for iPads - Create Vector files on your iPad for cutting. (FREE APP)

Some people never use their iPad for anything more than browsing the net, or reading books. It is a waste of really good technology for those who are into crafting. Many people know there are a lot of photo editing apps out there but not so many realise there are great graphic design apps too.

BTW, I am not sponsored in any way for this, I just think it is a really great app that you should know about.

Thanks to OSX8 and Yosemite, I am now able to record directly from the screen of my iPad, so I have been able to record a brief Video review for you.

Please don't be too critical, it's the first one I've done on this and it feels weird! I'm sure there are  many features I missed out - for example it will do all the usual stuff you can do with paths, like welding etc and I forgot to mention that!  Talking to myself while using my computer is bad enough, now I have to talk to my iPad!

This app is simple enough to use while still giving you plenty of features to design with.  If you are used to designing in Studio, you won't have a problem understanding all the tools. Your finished work can then be saved as a VECTOR image, just right for cutting. You can email it or send it to the cloud, whatever your preference is, export as PNG, PDF or SVG.

You can import photos/images/clipart to trace (handy if you use them as a basis for painting) to give you a sketch to work from, or cut out bits to add as embellishments. The really nice thing is that you will be using the touch screen. I have a conductive pen (cheap one from the Chinese store) to use instead of my fingers.
I couldn't remember how much I'd paid for it or if it was a freebie - I  just looked, and  it is FREE! How often do you get things that good for nothing?

This app would be really handy for anyone who has SDDE ( the basic edition of SDE does not support import of SVGs)  or anyone who has not only a Silhouette but another brand of cutter as well. SVG's are commonly used across the board.

Just think, you have the freedom to play while on the bus or train, or just sat on the sofa with a coffee.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Point Editing in Silhouette Studio

I've been asked to make a tutorial on point editing. It is an issue that many crafters shy away from because it seems so scary. It needn't be!

In Vector drawings, your pictures are made up of points, joined to each other with lines. Like dot to dot puzzles on steroids. Because these dots don't have to stay in the same place, and the lines between them can be changed from straight to curved, rounded to flat.

Now, it is important to know that the 'nodes' or 'points' are the grey or white squares ( the white one is the one selected by clicking on it) . The line or 'path' that shows up deeper red, is the one that you can alter with the menu. The blue squares are 'handles'. Move the blue squares and the node stays in place but the line changes as you do so. 

The context box in Studio shows all the options you can use and they are pretty self explanatory.

Why would you need to mess around with nodes? Well, it may be that you want to draw an odd shape. Or perhaps you have traced something and the trace needs tidying up. Or maybe you have a design with way too many nodes that takes forever to cut and you think it would be better with some taken out.  Sometimes text needs node editing to weld properly or just to make it look better. Occasionally you may find you have bought a design that you want to or need to modify. Node editing is your friend.

Once you have mastered point editing, you will wonder why you ever found it so hard, I promise!
Moreover, it is pretty much the same in every graphics package you are likely to use. They may have different terminology but the procedures will be the same.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

My Letter To Silhouette America re New Cameo

I sent an email to my contact at Silhouette -

"I feel so sorry for all the software guys, I really do.

Just when the software is improving so much, the hardware department seem to have been asleep for the last few years. Snoozing under downy quilts. Dreaming sweet dreams.

I am not the only one who is sorely disappointed in the new release, forums are seething with indignation.

Pretty much only cosmetic improvements, oh and by the way, didn’t get a newsletter, never have had one, even though I’m signed up for it…

The powers that be should be really thankful to the software guys because I’m that close to getting something like a Zing or a Silver Bullet and the only thing stopping me, and probably others is the ease of use of Studio. (So that’s why they won’t let us save to SVG..:)  The software does what I want it to, I could just do with being able to handle thicker, denser materials.

An increase in force would have been nice, being able to emboss or engrave, even if it meant bringing out a totally new machine, a Pro version if you will, for a few more dollars.

I was looking forward to telling hubby what I want for Christmas, a nice big box to open with excitement. Instead I’m going to go shopping….

It looks like the hardware guys have given up or can’t be bothered to keep up with the competition, it was a sad release.

Not your fault I know, but perhaps you can pass this on to whom it may concern. "

Here is the reply ------

"Thank you for your feedback! I'll be sure to have it relayed to the appropriate departments and teams.

To clarify, the new CAMEO is a product reset. The machine has only been around for 3 years and we felt that there were some little things that could be improved. If we were to have increased the size or cutting force or changed the machine in some dramatic way, it wouldn't be the CAMEO. As such, we were just improving upon the existing CAMEO with this particular update.

While we would of course love any existing users to update to the newer CAMEO model, our focus continues to also be on bringing in new customers who are just being introduced to the Silhouette. We asked ourselves whether users would prefer to continue to have the same CAMEO as we started out with, or if there were some improvements we could make to the CAMEO model. We felt there was room for improvement on some of little things and so decided to make adjustments to those areas.

Again, it wasn't intended to be a new machine. Just an improved version of what many have already come to love and enjoy. We recognize that there are many existing users who have a wish list of other features that they'd like to see on new alternate cutting models, and we're still exploring those. We know there are users who like to update to newer cutting models from time to time. We understand the disappointment of some of the existing core group of users and we're sorry for any frustration experienced with our attempts to provide some little updates to the existing CAMEO. Please know that we continue to think of you as well and are continuing to work toward newer features and technology. :)

Please of course feel free to continue to relay any feedback you may wish to share. We're genuinely happy to hear it! I do sincerely appreciate you and all you continue to do to support Silhouette! :)"

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The 'NEW' Silhouette Cameo

According to 'Scrappy DIVA', today, a new version of the Silhouette Cameo is announced. Unless the information is flawed, sort of new. Cosmetically new.
It has a little blade to manually cut off vinyl rolls. A storage compartment for a spare blade holder. A USB port instead of an SD card slot. A slightly more obvious edge guide for the cutting mat. A sprung design roller for avoiding damage to delicate  materials.
The main thing is a touch pad screen and 'sleep' function.

I'm a gadget lover and I can't think of a single excuse to trade mine in for the new model. That's sad.

So much improvement in the software design stuff but this new machine should surely have had more cutting force, ability to emboss maybe, SOMETHING to get us users excited. Wifi connectivity perhaps
Sorry Silhouette America but I am sorely disappointed. I really wanted an excuse to trade up, the thought of a nice big box under the Christmas tree perhaps, the anticipation building on Christmas Eve...

Oh - and so far, I have found no mention of it on the Silhouette America site.....even though I am signed up for news letters and updates. I've never had a newsletter, come to think of it!

My advice to anyone thinking of getting an electronic cutting machine would be to find one of the old stock if you can get a good deal on one. Unless you are really keen on USB ports and touch screens, that is.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Flourishes in Silhouette Studio DE3.3.277 with Free File and Video

Making flourishes is not that easy  if you draw them in Studio. Although it can be done with a lot of node editing if you are inclined to do it that way. Sometimes I do it just for the fun of it but then I'm odd that way! There is an easier way of designing them.

The old fashioned way. Sort of.

Well, it starts off the old fashioned way, at least!  Use a fine tipped pen to draw some flourish components, scan them and import into Studio, or if you have a chisel tipped pen, you can try tapered flourishes. Out of all the pens I have, I don't have one!

Use the 'low pass' in the trace page to trace them, individually if need be, but most can be done all in one go.

When you trace, you will get double lines. Some you will want, some you won't. Release the compound path and ungroup everything. Delete the bits you don't want. Group the bits back together as you wish.

This is the basics. For more info, watch the video linked above. You will be amazed at the variety you can get just from a few simple lines. The video also gives tips on some extras.
NOTE These flourishes are suitable for sketch pens, not cutting.

Your free file is here.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Borders around Corners and Saving Files With Picture - Silhouette Studio Free File!

It can be very frustrating trying to get an even border around a rectangle if you don't know a trick or two.

I've made a video to explain a simple way of doing it, also covering making a straight border. The secret is to make the fancy bit of your pattern into a compound path first. Second step is to make some duplicates and to put them on the CORNERS first! It's much easier to do it this way, filling in the straight edges afterwards.  Here is a free border file.  NOTE - I made it very large but you can resize it however you like!
The inner cuts are not designed to be symmetrical  but it still looked pretty, so I kept it!

Going through loads of files when they don't have images attached is a pain in the wrist.
Opening and closing loads of files till you find what you want is a waste of crafting hours!

Now, I'm sorry for all you Windows users as this may not be possible for you, but Mac users can attach a screen shot to  Studio files so that you can browse them more easily. Do this as a habit when creating files and it will make life a lot easier. It saves having to take a photo and resize it and you don't need to keep a copy in the file unless you want to. Your screen shot can be quite a small file too, saving your disk space.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Glitches in Latest Version Silhouette Studio (Mac using Mavericks)

The latest V3.3.277 is pretty good but still has a few oddities. I emphasise, the software is good but there will always be things to be fixed or improvements to be made.

As a Mac user, I usually add a screen shot to my design files,(using the file info box) so I can more easily find what I want.
If I do this with a single design on my desktop say, then when I double click it to open, it comes up with an error message saying that I have no software selected to open it and I have to manually choose to open with Studio.
If I do the same thing with a group of files and put them all in a folder, I can open them as normal. Very odd! I have reported it.

I also found I was having trouble with dragging a bounding box around objects to select. Sometimes all would be got and sometimes not. I sent screen shots and file to Silhouette to see what the problem was.
In this particular case, there was a minute blip outside of the mat area. I couldn't even see it when zooming right in, it was that small! It was only by selecting ALL and right clicking to separate the pieces, that a tiny thing showed up with a bounding box. We're talking a single pixel or something! No idea how, but it must have got made and combined into part of the design, causing problems.

At present, importing Vector PDFs seems a bit hit and miss. Again, this has been reported. The new functionality should mean that if you have a Vector PDF, Studio will import it to have cut lines already, without tracing.  I have some software that export as PDFs and they appear to be vectors but Studio is not reading them. EDIT - My fault in the case in question - there was a raster image in it!) I hold my hands up, my mistake!  It's hard to know sometimes, what an image is made of!)

It would appear that most Studio users use Windows and not Macs, so if you are a Mac user and are having issues, please comment and  I will do my best to seek an answer for you.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

NEW Version of Silhouette Studio software - V 3.3.227 Designer Edition

For the majority of users, this version is not too different, mainly bug fixes.
However, there is a NEW FEATURE that is worth knowing about, especially if you do a lot of print and cuts.
Here  is a brief video.
The Shade Effect Feature
It allows you to change the colours of all the fills (except colour fill) so you can personalise your patterns or correct any photos that you want to use, without having to use a different piece of software.

I think that this well be a very useful function.

Now, about that exception. The Shade Effects work on all the other fills because they are images, whereas normal colour fills are not.  So there is an easy way round this to get all the colour variation you want. Find an image anywhere on the internet that has a flat fill. Make a selection out of it and save it as a jpeg. Add it to your Pattern Fills in the usual way -  now you can select it as a pattern fill, but of course it will have no pattern - you don't need it to! You will now be able to make it any colour you want by playing with the Shade Effect tool, so you only need do it once. It's easy to use, you're going to love it!  I suggest making swatches of the three primary colours, red, blue and yellow. From that you will be able to get pretty much any variation of shade you want that isn't in the colour swatches already in the software.

NB With this version of the software, you only need to drag your image /colour swatch into the pattern library to save it. How easy is that!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Chain Link Card Tutorial with Silhouette Studio Designer version - Free file.

Chain link cards or braided cards are very pretty and also impressive. They are also very easy. It's a win /win situation!

I've made a video of how to create your own but the construction needs  a tiny bit of explaining.

This is what the card looks like. Pay attention to the spine of the card, this is the chain link bit.

To form the chain, the bottom link is removed, the 'links' folded down, working from the bottom up and tucked under the moon shape below.
The link from the bottom of the card is saved and used to stick onto the top of the card, completing the chain.

There you go, not hard at all!  Here  is the file.  So go ahead and experiment with the method and see what new shapes you can use!  The video also shows how to create a similar border to the one shown here. Here  is another one, made with a flower shape. The effect is different. You can even make them into panels. These panels can then be used to make lanterns.

EDIT :  If you want, you can use a marker to colour the INSIDE rings before you fold them down on the outside, giving a nice contrast.