Friday, 30 January 2015

Click Blade Holder for the Cameo or Silver Bullet/ Craft Robo, Cougar

One of the main problems with getting a decent cut when using a Cameo or Silver Bullet or other plotter, is our desperate wish to get as much use out of a blade as is humanly possible. As one of the great expenses in consumables, buying disposable blade holders is a major cause of this reluctance to change blades.

Disposable holders are expensive, can only be purchased in select shops and are not environment friendly!

Now many have swapped or tried to swap to a CB09 holder, often from China as an alternative. I'm not going to knock them, they work perfectly well if you get the right one but they are manually adjusted, they have no numeric guide and can be fiddly.

Having swapped to a Silver Bullet cutter recently, it came with a manually adjusted holder and I ordered a Click Holder for ease of use. I tend to have different thicknesses I need to cut and ensuring a manual reset to exactly the same depth I was using was hard.

The good news is that there is one made that will fit the Cameo too. Available from Thyme Graphics, a reputable company in the UK.

While not cheap, it is very light and does come with the blade of your choice (and they are high quality blades).

I asked about post to the States and postage would be £12.75 - expensive but it is an insured and signed for service. Obviously if in the UK it would be cheaper. Maybe, you could get together with some fellow crafters and order a few at a time to make it cheaper.

Once you have one of these, you can choose where to buy blades and therefore how much to pay for them. A worthwhile investment I think.

Update  I've had the holder for a while now and remain very pleased with it. While most of the time it does remain on the same setting, it means that when I do have varied materials to cut I can repeat the setting needed without fiddly adjustment.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Update of Sure Cuts a Lot to V4.011

Quick news flash-  it can be downloaded from here.  This is a screen shot of the latest updates and what they have achieved. At least they are coming thick and fast, so well done!

Hopefully, among the transform fixes is one on the rotation problem. That will be brilliant!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Silhouette Studio, Sure Cuts a Lot, Gimp, iDraw Tutorials

Just a quick word today.

As some of you will know, I have done many video tutorials but not on just one type of software and I found that my youtube channel was getting a bit untidy. I figured that if I found it difficult to navigate, then so would you!

So, I have organised my videos into playlists, according to software used. This means that you should be able to go to my channel (see link above,) and pick from a playlist to watch if you have a specific interest. Those that fall into no particular category have been left as they were.

I shall add new videos to the appropriate list as they are made.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

iDraw V2.5 New Feature Clipping Paths

Clipping shapes to paths is a great new feature of iDraw, but what is it?

For those not so familiar with heavy duty graphics packages who may not have a clue, let me explain.

It is a way of putting objects into another shape and that outer shape cutting through any shapes that are not fully inside. It can be very useful but sometimes after you have done it you wish you had changed a bit...

Well, now you can. Because although the objects will have been clipped to fit, each object is STILL fully editable!  See the video here.

To this

 To this

See, change the shape, change the colour, you can still do whatever you want to the clipped shapes.

Have fun with it!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A Few Changes!

A New Year, a new cutter, new body..just kidding, only the first two apply!

I've been having a few blog issues, so decided to have a revamp while trying to sort it out.  So, things may keep changing for a little while, or they may not, I've not decided.

One of the problems has been that my Subscribe button went faulty. Actually, it went missing. So I tried deleting the gadget to re install it. Only my blog dashboard is telling me I still have it, even though it doesn't show up! Go figure. I've also lost my Pinterest Pin. Don't know where it has gone. Thrown a wobbly and got stuck in a cork board maybe.

Anyhow, I have managed to get a different subscribe button and I hope that works. Please let me know!

I'm busy working on tutorials and designs, so keep watch for those. Anyone with suggestions, please use the contact box and I shall see what I can do.

I had hoped to post some more SCAL 4 tutorials and I shall. The reason they are not being done at the moment is not that I have a problem with using the software to design per se, I can use the tools pretty well, it is that the software itself has been having major tantrums on my Mac.

 There were serious issues with SVG importing that were causing my computer to crash completely and even things like copy and paste were malfunctioning. After contacting support, I have a new version and so far it appears to be behaving better. Still a few glitches but definitely better. To be honest, it would be hard for it not to have improved, it was so bad. Apple must have had enough reports to paper a wall.

The Silver Bullet continues to amaze me, I'm getting some custom made embossing tools made up soon, so I can do some card embossing projects. I had some embossing tips already and know a guy who can set them in a steel holder for me. :) A Man who Can, so to speak. I can hardly wait! I had a go with a mock up version and it was brilliant.

Friday, 16 January 2015

iDraw - New Update V2.5 Repeat Pattern Feature

For those not familiar with iDraw, it is a great vector drawing program.  It is also available for the iPad as well as the Mac.

The latest version has some great new features.

One of these is the ability to auto create your own repeat pattern fills from objects, imported images, shapes etc.
Once you know how it is really easy to do and lots of fun. You can have a great time playing around with this. It's a wonderful feature for paper crafters who may want small pieces cut in designer paper.

Have a look at my video and then you will realise that it would be only the work of moments to create small swatches of patterns on one sheet, to print and use in cutting machines for your projects.

Of course, nothing to stop you printing off large ones either..:)

Another way of doing it would be to start off on the iPad version, using a stylus to hand draw and then transfer to the Mac, something that the new Hand off feature allows you to do.

I've done videos on iDraw before, so if you have not seen them you may want to have a look through my Youtube videos and watch them, I've just put them all into one Playlist - iDraw Tutorials.

iDraw is truly is a great piece of software!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Vinyl Cutting Hints and Tips

At some point in your cutting life, you will want to cut vinyl. Would you like the good news?
Vinyl is easy to cut. The bad news is that it can be hard to handle, what with being stretchy, strong and sticky. That means it will stick where you want it to and where you don't!

I have to confess, that most of the time I cut vinyl it is because I am glass etching. Like on this mirror.

So how do you make sure you get a great finished result rather than a dose of frustration?

Firstly, choose the right vinyl for the job. There are a couple of main brands out there that cater for every possible need. I can't advise specifics, since I have been using vinyl that is unbranded, that came with my previous (second hand) cutter.  It may be stating the obvious but if you want vinyl for outdoor use, you must make sure it can cope with it or your project won't last long.

Be prepared to set aside a small sample to test cut. Check your blade - for intricate cuts you may want to change to a fine one or at least a new one.  Cutting through the top while leaving the backing untouched is a fine line but one well worth finding.  I always use a mat under it, some people don't. If you have a big project it may not be possible to use a mat, which makes this testing even more important.

Prep your surface. It needs to be clean, dust and grease free. I even go over my placed vinyl for etching with an alcohol swab to make sure there is nothing between my etching paste and the glass.

So, you've got your surface prepped and the vinyl is cut. Now comes the fiddly bit, the weeding. There are tools that make this easier. Dental picks. Get some off Ebay cheaply. Warning- these are sharp!

Now the whole point of weeding is to get rid of the bits you don't want. Make sure you realise which bits those are! It is easy to think one thing when it really should be the other.  

To weed easily, start with the smallest bits, those are the ones which get forgotten. Weed by pulling towards yourself, from inside the bit you want to remove. (My photo is not quite correct because I needed my right hand to take the photo). If you have bits like the 'v' shape to the left of the pick, make sure you pull away from the inside bit or you will be fighting the bit you want left behind.

Quick Tip - If using a mat, use masking tape around the edges of the vinyl to help keep it in place. When done, take it off and have it sticky side out - so you have somewhere to drop the weeds.. like this.

So much easier than catching them on the desk or on your fingers, the stickiness  makes them adhere to that instead of the pick.

Once your design is weeded, it is time to apply it. It is possible to buy transfer paper but you can also use masking tape, dry wall tape (see picture),

 removable sticky back plastic (sold for book covering), or even adhesive sprayed cellophane. Just make sure the adhesive is a temporary one or you'll get into a right mess!
Don't even think of trying to manoeuvre it by hand, it won't line up and will look unprofessional.

It's a good idea to mark the centre points both of  the edges on the item and on the design to make sure it goes on straight.
Apply the design carefully, making sure to remove any air bubbles. If it is a flat project, an old credit card is handy for smoothing out.  Make it easier by starting in the middle and working outwards. Take your time, don't do it when you should be doing something else, that is a recipe for disaster.

Above all, have fun being creative, that's what it is all about!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Silver Bullet/Cameo/Portrait Comparison

OK, as promised I have made a video showing some of the features of the Silver Bullet. Only when I had finished, I realised there were a few things I'd forgotten to mention. Of course there would be! Have you ever tried holding a camera in one hand, talking (and trying to make sense), while demonstrating something? Talk about multi- tasking! So forgive the shaky camera work please and the tongue tied ramblings...:)

So here is the control panel. With the Silver Bullet, you can control the force and the speed from here as well as from the software.

The carriage showing where the blade holder will be located, easily tightened with the screw.

There are four of these pinch wheels, although most of the time you only need to use two..they can be moved to change position against the grit shaft there, to ease wear on the mat.

Like many Silver Bullet users, I have chosen to buy a Click Blade Holder as an extra. I don't need to explain to Cameo users the advantage of these!  NB - Thyme graphics sell one suitable for the Cameo too.


One of the main differences in functionality is that with the SB, you can alter the pressure to a much greater degree, leaving you more wiggle room in blade depth. It will happily cut anything from tissue to mount board. Unlike the Studio software, there is however, no ready set guide by numbers. There is a learning curve that you must travel, to find the best settings for your materials to create your own.

A really big difference is the option to cut in 'What you see is what you get' (Similar to Studio) or to use the Origin mode, where you set the actual blade where you want it on your material and the cutter will use that as the bottom right corner of the design.

It can cut much more than a Cameo can cope with. But let's face it, so it should, as the price is not comparable. You would need to be a keen beginner to jump right in with an SB and even then, you may get too frustrated to get to grips with it. I'm happy that I had a Cameo first. This is more like a bike with the training wheels removed. It's silly to try and directly compare the two, it's like comparing a Mercedes to a VW Beetle. Both do what they are supposed to do but they are very different animals and while you could learn to drive in a Mercedes, you'd probably be safer starting in the Beetle!

That said, it has only taken a couple of weeks for me to be able to do pretty much anything I would want to - but I am one of those people who does not give up until I have mastered something.

I know many will be keen to learn about print and cuts on this machine. How are they done? What is the software like?

There is a SIMPLE process in SCAL4, guided by the software, to calibrating the machine before you do a print and cut. It will take a few minutes but once done, that's it. There are some numbers to note down and these stay the same for your machine, no matter what computer you use, they don't change. You make a note of them and keep them safe. If you change your computer you just plug in those numbers and it will be back to normal.
Basically, it calculates the distance between YOUR laser and YOUR blade, so it knows where to cut.

When it comes to doing the print and cut, you use computer keys/mouse to move the carriage and laser to the dots on the registration marks. There are three, two at the top and one bottom right.

You do the lining up and then the machine starts cutting. Very accurately. Incredibly accurately. Notice that the registration marks are in relation to the design, not the page size. It isn't necessary to have a whole sheet of paper just to do one small design. Put the paper anywhere on the mat as long as you guide it to the registration marks.
The Silver Bullet is fast and quiet. I haven't even tried it on the fastest speed yet. I don't need to!

Another difference is the use of a spacer to elevate the blade 1.5 mm above the material you are cutting. Insert the spacer under the blade but over the mat and material to adjust the height. It only takes a moment but improves cut performance. For thick materials there is also the option to turn off the 'soft landing' of the blade. Normally that soft landing is what helps preserve the life of your blade by not giving it too much of a bashing at the star of a cut.

There are also a range of extra tools you can buy, for engraving, embossing, punching. 

The SCAL4 software is not as intuitive as Studio but the bugs are being ironed out of the latest version and it is quite useable for most things. If there is a problem with it, I can easily design SVGs in other art programs and import it but it is improving, even this rapidly after Christmas.

One of the nice features of SCAL4, is the library. It stores projects, shapes (loads) and fonts - enabling you to see large versions of fonts in a window rather than have you squinting at a tiny pane. Save files into it or export to your desktop.

The Silver Bullet is available in different width sizes, so if the Cameo is not big enough for you, it may be an option. I agree with what I have read, it may not be the first cutter you buy but it may well be the last. It is a work horse, a machine designed and built to keep going all day if need be, it is solid, sturdy, robust. It takes some effort to learn how to use it, it is not the machine for occasional users, it is for those who cut on a regular basis and want the best cut they can get.

I love mine already!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Cheaper Crafting.

  • Don't be afraid to scour unusual sources for your materials. Here in Spain, I don't have a choice, nothing appears to be where you think it should be..
  • Raid your old make up for nail polish you don't use. It can be used  to make lovely accents on embellishments.
  • Spray adhesive - I'd go mad without this. I use one designed for machine embroidery but re positionable  spray mount or temporary spray mount are fine. I use it to refresh my cutting mats, sticking fine detailed stuff - believe me, once you have this, you wonder what you did without it.
  • Hairspray. Never use it on my hair but it is great for setting prints that are likely to smudge. You can even use the sparkle ones to add a twinkle to your cards!
  • My LIYU blade holder, came from China, and takes the usual Roland blades. No auto adjustment but very useful all the same. Similar to the CB09 holder that is often mentioned, mine fits the Cameo perfectly. It is made in different sizes and you can choose blade angles.
  • EDIT - if you want a blade holder that still has the numbers, there is another one you can buy in the Uk, from here. Not as cheap but more user friendly and you will still save in the long run.
  • Artist inks and cheap spray bottles. Make your own colour sprays. Add some decent pearl paint and you can get sparkly ones too!
  • Reeves make a pearly paint additive, sold in a tube, that can be added to watercolour or acrylics to make them all sparkly!
  • Hardware stores often sell vinyl more cheaply.
  • Make your own cutting mats from the flexible plastic table mats found in many household stores. I have at least 6 in various sizes. (The spray adhesive again!)  Here is a link to a file for a 12 inch square mat. All you need do is load up a large piece of transparent tough plastic (often sold as flexible chopping boards), put in a permanent marker and away you go. When marked up,line it up with your old mat and use the old one to draw the correct edge size on your new one. Keep the marked lines on the underside of the mat. Size wise, you are only limited by the size of the plastic you can find and the machine you have. 
  • Raid the boot sales for ribbons and notions.
  • Save your scrap card in one place and ALWAYS go to it first, to see if any is usable in your current project. Make it a practice to trim scraps and put away, straight after crafting sessions.
  • Use normal, cheap sticky back plastic (book covering) for making disposable stencils. Cuts like butter and no clean up later.
  • Check Aldi and Lidl for art supplies - their supply comes from a big German manufacturer and is of excellent quality. Only comes in a few times a year though!
  • Spray varnish on some plain card makes it nice and shiny and takes no time to dry.
  • Raid the DIY stores for big rolls of coloured tapes, I don't know what they are used for in DIY but they are great to do small items like lettering.
  • Adapt pens for sketching, wrap fun foam around thin ones to make them fit.
  • For longer life stencils, cut out from document wallets from the stationers. Washable, cut easily and they don't tear.
  • Make your own Cameo 'Scrapmat'.  Files here

For a Limited Time Only! File Folder Share!

As any regular readers will know, my cutting started off with a Silhouette Cameo.

I have really enjoyed learning all the ins and outs of designing and sharing what I learned with you.

However, having recently changed over to a Silver Bullet, I will no longer be generally, designing in Studio. I'm keeping up to date with the software but will be designing in other programs and saving files in an SVG format.

Because of this, I am offering a file share of previous Studio files that I have created. It will be for a VERY limited time as I shall be emptying my dropbox to clear space. So, if you want them, grab the files while you can!

Links to two sets of files


For those of you with the Designer version, you can import SVGs to cut, but it is worth noting that they may not always come out at the same size and you may need to alter that.

I'm going to be concentrating on this blog so will not be on the Silhouette Plus forum too much, and also taking time to create more video tutorials. Busy, busy, busy!

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Stencil Bridge feature and the Wrapper Effect in SCAL4

I made a short video on the new Stencil Bridge feature in SCAL4.

EDIT - 12 feb - 2015  This feature has been updated see  (I know the title is something else, but this feature was improved at the same time, so I tagged it on the end.

This is a great feature and well worth knowing about. Who knew that something so tiny could be so useful?

Transform all your fonts into stencil fonts so easily you'll be doing it just for fun!

The Wrapper Effect is another fun tool and very useful if you like to decorate household objects.

Many things from mugs and glasses to vases, need images to be manipulated to look right.
This tool does just that with only a few clicks of the mouse.

So there you go, two things to love about SCAL 4, especially if you are into lettering things!

Sure Cuts a Lot Preferences - Check them!

I've made a brief video on SCAL4 preferences. The latest version as of today is V4.008.

If you are new to SCAL 4, you may find this of interest. Preferences can be useful but can also be causing you issues that leave you tearing your hair out in frustration!

Also, how to see picture fonts properly and how to select tiny items that are close to others.

Basically a few simple things to make your designing life easier!

I'm hoping that the newest release will stop the Mac crashing but I have to test it well first before I can find out. I will be the first to sing its praises if it does.

The rotate menu is still causing issues of objects rotating again when you press 'OK'. For the moment, use the handles to rotate things.

I will get round to making  video of the Silver Bullet in action soon, just need an empty house to do it without being disturbed!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Silhouette Studio NEW RELEASE NOW OUT! and SCAL4 Bugs

A new version of Silhouette Studio has been released

For those of you who have had issues with hanging chads in some of the previous Version 3 issues, this should be a great improvement.

V3.3.437 - 5 January 2015
  • Mac Yosemite support
  • Overcut feature brought back from V2 (Preferences > Advanced) to prevent small uncompleted/uncut portions of select images
  • Save As Legacy shortcut implemented - CTRL+ALT+V
  • UI animations for panel rendering now adhere to animation settings
  • Minor Tiling feature improvements for tiling layout and rendering (Business Edition only)
  • Stamp media size (for Stamp Mat) to default in Landscape
  • Maximum page width limited to 12 inches for Business Edition Cut Preview to ensure proper display of actual possible cutting area
  • Orientation checkbox under Media Layout Settings in Buiness Edition to allow cut job to be rotated by 90 degrees when desired
  • Bug fix for tracing registration marks when enabled
  • Bug fix for exception when cutting/pasting layers
  • Bug fix for display error with header bars from Silhouette Design Store
  • Bug fix for select black & white PDF file rendering (Designer Edition only)
  • Updated German and Japanese translations
  • Minor bug fixes

For users of Sure Cuts A lot

Version 4 continues to cause me problems. (Apart from shutting down my computer and numerous other glitches.)

The latest discovery is a fault with the rotation command in the menu (the handle rotation is fine.)

You can rotate to a desired angle, select 'Apply' and it does it. Only when you click 'OK' to set it, it reverts to what you started with!

Ah, what would I do with myself if all my software worked as it should? :)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

As Promised, a Look at Sure Cuts A Lot 4

I've made a brief video on SCAL4.

I have been using it a lot over the last week, getting to know what it can do or can't.
I'm not very familiar with the previous version but I'm told that this interface is new and improved.  From a Silhouette Studio point of view, it does pretty much the same. A few extras, improved tracing capabilities and supporting export to other more common formats.

All in all, not bad, a bit less user friendly but not too hard to get to grips with if you want to bother. It still seems clunky to me and the interface is boring. I have a Mac, I get annoyed when software interfaces look so old fashioned.

Having said that, it falls flat on it's face in one respect, at least for me, as a Mac user. It causes my laptop to crash. I can be doing something and then, my system closes down for no apparent reason. This is not something that Silhouette Studio ever did. Or at least not unless I gave it too much in the way of graphics to swallow. Whereas, in SCAL4, it will crash on me without any pattern fills what so ever!

Now, giving the benefit of the doubt, it is fairly new (this version) and I am sure that the developers will be spending the next few months getting rid of pesky bugs and improving things.

I had hoped that I would just be able to use one piece of software for design and cut but that is not to be. I have other vector creation software that I can happily use and will do so until the kinks are ironed out.

One annoyance that I found was a box that came up to tell me that the info had been sent to the cutter.  
Well of course it had. The item had been cut! It comes up after EVERY CUT and you have to close it to do anything else. Grrrrr! I really don't need a pop up to tell me that!

Moving objects off the mat was problematic. Items would move off the mat to the work area if I used my arrow keys but not with drag and drop. Hmm. 

Today, it cut something that was not even on the mat, had never been was like a ghost had taken over. Annoyingly it wasted some heavy plastic that I was planning on using for embossing plates.

So. my verdict is that while it may be ok for some, I'm giving it a miss apart from sending files to my cutter - my Silver Bullet is brilliant but sadly not compatible with Studio!

EDIT   - NEW VERSION OUT - there is now a tick box in the new version V4.008 (may have been there before, if so, I missed it) that is in preferences, that constrains items to the mat. So that problem is solved now it is unchecked.

The latest fix is also dealing with the inability with a Mac to use some glyph fonts properly, as well as other fixes.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Amazing Print and Cut with Silver Bullet Cutter!

Just had to share this..

Considering the size of this, it cut perfectly accurately. Even the toes! Sorry for the lousy pic, evening artificial light...

And here is another

Not bad hmmm?

Things I Really Love about my new Silver Bullet!

Having got my Silver Bullet on Christmas Day, I have it seems, been totally buried in websites, forums, and on line in general, learning as much as I can. Of course, I have been playing with the actual machine but I am one of those people who actually reads manuals first. Honest!

There are many things I love about this machine. It is so quick, so quiet and amazingly powerful.

I love that I can put something on my (virtual) mat and then choose any place I want on the actual mat to cut it out. Basically, you set an origin (which is where you want the bottom right of your design to be) and it will cut it there. Simple. Or, if inclined, you can set it to WYSIWYG - something I rarely do.

You can still set your mat size to any you want - standard or custom. It can be your actual mat size or paper size.

Should you  find your cut isn't deep enough, just press the repeat button and it will do the same cut again IN THE SAME PLACE!

There were times with the Cameo that I did a double cut but most often I would find it wasn't in EXACTLY the same place as the original, so I avoided it.

I love the fact that a print and cut does not have to mean I waste a load of edge space.

I love that with most of my paper sizes and card, I can just put it wherever I like on the actual mat and know that it will be cut where I want it.

I love that it has 4 Pinch Rollers. Ones that REALLY grip. Believe me, that mat is not moving anywhere I don't tell it to (even when I use only 2 of them). They are heavy duty pinch rollers.

I love that it can cut fine things superbly and yet still cut fun foam! (Note to self, must get some more stuff to test on it!)

I love that I have so much control over the functions, hard to explain but that is why this machine can do so much more. A steeper learning curve, yes - but well worth it.

My thanks go to Dawn at the company linked above, for her assistance in helping my hubby to get this for me!