Monday, 23 February 2015

ACCURATE Placement of Origin, in Sure Cuts a Lot with a Silver Bullet Cutter.

For those following my quest for an easy Scan and Cut (similar to PixScan in Studio) or just wanting exact placement in WYSIWYG. (For those who have not a clue what I'm talking about, it would be a good idea to read some of the earlier posts - 16th Feb and 20th Feb 2015 - they address issues you will need to be aware of).

I have continued experimenting. The tutorial on the Reg mark method still stands.

For those who would rather do it via WYSIWYG or Origin point, I have found a method which allows precise placement of the Origin. 

If using WYSIWYG, place your design exactly where you want it on screen (the x and y movement buttons in SCAL will place the lower bottom corner conveniently if you use whole numbers) and put the paper in the right place on the mat. 
Put your mat in with the grips down. To do it with them up, leads to too much possibility of the angle not being straight. (Get one side sorted and the other moves!)

Put an empty Silhouette pen in the clamp.
 It is just the right size and has a small hole to look through!
Push the buttons to take the mat in to near the starting point and press the origin.
Go On line and lower speed to 35, go back off line.
Press buttons to get to where you need the origin, looking down the pen. A small torch shone on the mat under it helps.
When in the correct spot, press the origin button again.
Remove empty pen and insert blade holder.
Go on line and put the speed back up for cutting.

Following this method, as long as your scan and trace are good and you check the size, you should be able to do a scan and cut using either WYSIWYG or origin. Of the two, WYSIWYG should allow you more freedom to alter the design once scanned and sized, without compromising the cut.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Drawing Pretty Flowers to Cut Out in SCAL or Silhouette Studio DE.

Most people who use SCAL or Silhouette Studio are able to draw basic flowers like daisies. In this video, I show you how to make flowers that are a little more sophisticated but still easily drawn.

Forgive the abrupt start to the video, I went over the time limit by about a minute, so chopped off the start!

EDIT - I realised today that the design file did not export properly to SVG (24 feb)  -  so I have removed it and replaced it with the SCAL file, a linear SVG and a Studio file..  Please let me know if there is a problem with this one. The Studio file will not have the gradient colours but I have coloured in  a couple just so you can see what they are like.

I confess to finding freehand drawing in SCAL a bit of a pain, so I tend to use InkPad on my iPad for that, but there are many ways to draw flowers using the in built shapes in SCAL.  The secret to nicer looking flowers though, is as much about the colouring as the shape.

Now you may like to colour by hand, either by printing the outline, colouring and cutting or colouring after you have cut the shapes, it makes little difference, which method you choose. Just set the colour fill to white and you will get just the outlines.

If you are colouring digitally for a print and cut, you really want to use the gradient fills. It makes all the difference between an OK flower and a lovely one.

I'm feeling generous today, so you can find the file (SCAL) here for the ones in the video and a few more.

Now while I have not shown how to do this in Studio, the process is pretty much the same and if you are familiar with how the software works, you should be able to do it easily enough. If you really want the Studio file, then use the contact window on here and I will send it to you.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Scan and Cut with Sure Cuts A Lot , Registration Mark Method and Silver Bullet Cutter

I have spent days playing around trying to perfect an easy technique and I think this will be easier for most people than the previous version on my last post - AS LONG AS YOU ARE ALREADY SET UP AND HAPPY WITH YOUR NORMAL PRINT AND CUTS.

Be aware that SCAL and the Silver Bullet need to be calibrated in order to do accurate print and cuts, so if you have not already calibrated, do that before you attempt this.

Here is the base file you need for this method.  It will allow you to use a 15cm Square item of your choice to scan. Be sensible and stash a copy of the file so if you mess it up you still have the original!

Note   Your paper size needs to be truly square and truly sized or this will not work. I was using origami papers, which because of their nature, have to be accurate. If you need to, just use the SCAL software to cut a 15cm square out of your paper in the normal way, to start off.

The file I link, is to be printed only - I used a plain sheet of A4. The format has been centred to page and locked so that you can't accidentally move anything. Print it off as is.

When you look at the file, you may notice that the square is less than 15 cm, 14.706cm, to be exact.
This is because there is a difference in the size on screen and what is printed from my printer. The result for me is a print, with registration marks of a 15cm square. YOU MAY FIND YOU NEED TO ADJUST THE SIZE FOR YOUR PRINTER but then again, maybe not. Mine is a Canon Pixma 3550. If you need to adjust it, scale in percentages till you get it right then save the file. In order to get the registration marks and square to print, I  put two squares on top of each other.  One is a print line, the other is a cut line. Once the paper has been printed, the cut line can be moved away( cut and paste to a new page in the design so you still have it)  and if needed, used to cut a piece of your design paper. Again, make a copy of the adjusted file and store in a safe place.

By now you should have your A4 paper with a square and reg marks printed on it.

Next step is to cut out your 15cm square - by hand or machine. Accurately.

Black out the corners of your square paper. This is important as it gives boundaries to the scan and makes it easier to size. I tried using a border, but it was a bit of a pain to do and this works better.

Scan your paper and set the image to trace. I'm not giving you a tracing lesson here but make sure the corners are traced!

When happy with your trace, check the image size. It will most likely be a bit under 15cm square, so adjust the scale to make it 15cm square.

Centre the scanned cut lines to the square (if you have not moved anything, centre to page will work).

Place your A4 sheet on your cutting mat. Use a little glue (I used a temporary spray adhesive)to stick the 15cm pattern onto the sheet IN THE EXACT POSITION OF THE SQUARE.

Then all you do is set the software to print and cut, use your built in laser to read the registration marks and cut as usual.

Later today I intend to work out the size I need for a larger paper, so that I can actually cut out a whole A4 sheet. I'll post the file for that when I'm done, in here, so they are both together.

I think you will agree that the results are pretty impressive.  It is my intention to use the file to make a mat specific to the function, by transferring the marks to a plastic mat and doing away with the need for a sheet of paper each time.

EDIT - If you want to cut scraps, just stick them onto the 15cm square and scan them just as you would a design paper!

After playing around a bit, I made this file For individual reg marks. Cut the squares in Black Paper and the 'L' shapes in White Card. I made this prototype but it will show up better if a white 'L' is lined up to the edge of the black square.  The layers will help you line it up with the edge of your A4 or whatever. There is a tiny notch in the outer 'L' shape for the laser to line up with.

As long as you have your paper and the  size on the screen correct, you should be able to put them on the mat around the paper edges and be able to cut the whole sheet.

So, the process for that, is scan your full page (with corners blacked out), trace and then make sure the size is accurate - i.e. 29.700 x 21cm for A4.
Pretend you are going to do a print and cut but omit the printing. Put paper on mat, with your pre made reg marks and use as normal. Do your best to line up the points well, it makes all the difference!

NB, if using larger paper, make sure to use a suitable mat size and position it so that the carriage can go completely from side to side without going into 'pass' mode.
Please, don't ask how I know about that.....:)

Monday, 16 February 2015

How I Scan and Cut with SCAL4 and Silver Bullet - It is Possible!

This is a technique for cutting out images that are already printed, such as images on purchased card or paper. Often purchased papers have embellishments, individual shapes that are fiddly to cut by hand, or maybe you want to cut out your own drawings.

I have spent several days trying to get a good result, this has worked for me. Try it and see if it works for you too.
You will need a laser pen. I have one because I have cats...:) I put it in a Cameo pen holder! The dot is actually very small but hard to photograph! It has to be one with a centre point, obviously.


Put your designer paper onto the cutting mat and in SCAL, make a rectangle that is at least half an inch smaller all round than your scanner can cope with. IE if you have an A4 scanner, you want to cut a rectangle that is smaller than that.

On the corners, use a marker pen to really darken them, like this.

Scan the paper. I find that for me, PNG saves as the actual size, while JPEGs will be huge images, bigger than the mat!

Trace the scanned image in SCAL,  adjusting if needed, making sure to capture the corners. This is important to make sure the whole image can be lined up. For some images you may want or need to do a manual trace.

In the position menu box, put in whole numbers to move the image to make the bottom right corner align with a square on the mat. It does not really matter which one, but it does make sure it is obvious if you have accidentally rotated or skewed the image.

Set the paper into a corner of your mat as in the image.

Put a laser pen into the blade holder grip. Make sure it is vertical because if not the spot will not be in the right place. I use a bit of tape to hold the button down.

Line up the laser just inside the bottom right corner of the paper.  I really do mean JUST inside. Putting it actually on the cross lines, the cut will be off - or at least that is what I found. I find it easiest to have the grip levers in the up position, then put them down one at a time when I have the mat positioned.

Set the origin when the laser is lined up. Now you can do the cut, make sure you select 'Origin' in the cut setting box.

The good thing is that once you know that origin is correct, as long as you don't switch the machine off or take the mat out completely, you can use the same method to cut more printed papers, just by lining the bottom right corner to the correct square on the mat after you have done your trace.

Embossing with the Silver Bullet and SCAL 4.016

The Silver Bullet is well placed for embossing all sorts of materials because of the pressure it can use.  Some things emboss much better than others. Metal foils emboss easily, thick card is harder. The pressure used will be trial and error but I would decrease the speed to around 200 at first to avoid tearing. You can always increase it later.

To set the machine up for embossing you need to have some form of foam pad (fun foam will do) under the material to be embossed - unless embossing on leather, when you won't be likely to need it.

Have your foam slightly smaller than your embossing material and tape it to your carrier mat. Tape the material over that, hinging it on the mat itself, so that you can remove the foam without moving the embossed design. This won't matter if you are not cutting the outer edge but if you are, DON'T move the design off the mat, or remove the mat, until the cut is done! The cut is done after the embossing is finished.

As normal, use your spacer to set up the embossing tool. Place your rollers away from the material and foam, you don't want those imprinted! Ask yourself which side of the material you want to see in the finished product and make sure to put it on the foam with the correct side down.

To practise, start with a lower pressure and then either repeat or raise the pressure to get a clearer emboss. Some card will need the highest pressure, some very little. Experience is the key. I recommend doing 2 inch square samples and keeping them in a note book, along with the settings used -  the speed, force and repetitions.
A typical sample would be a letter inside a square with a border. Do the same design for all samples for a good comparison.

The smaller the head of the embossing tool, the more pressure is exerted on any one point, so if the material is more delicate you may want to use a larger one.

To cut metal foils (anything heavier than BBQ foil)  with a blade is likely to wreck them very rapidly. You can use a diamond tip engraving tool to cut them or leave a space around to cut by hand.

Video on Software Settings

I always use my machine to set the speed and pressure, it avoids more errors as it is easily seen.

In the software though, you must set embossing lines to pen, both in the Style window and in the 'Holder' section of the cutting page. If you don't, nothing will happen when you start the cut and you will be wondering why!

Don't forget to make the outer line a cut line (Style menu)  if you want to, the software will then prompt you to change to a blade after the embossing is done. This will also allow you to remove the padding.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Objects to Path - New Feature of Sure Cuts a Lot V4.015

I am currently doing a happy dance!


We have been waiting for this feature for so long and now we have it!   Praise where it is due, SCAL 4 is pushing forward, not resting on it's laurels.

This is an impressive feature and although I have made a video of the basics, I've not yet had the time to explore it fully, it has literally just been released.

Another change is in the Stencil Bridge Tool. It now works in both ways, the easiest way to explain this is with a picture. The words were identical  - then I used the tool to alter them. 

In the left version, all the letters are now joined up - if you were cutting out vinyl, this could be very useful. In this instance the word was boxed and the path excluded before using the stencil bridge.
The second one the bridge was applied to the standard word to open the closed forms of the 'e's and 'a'. This one could be cut to act as a paint stencil.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Gradient Fills in Sure Cuts a Lot 4

I recently did a video on airbrush effects in an iPad app, Touch Image Manipulation.

Well, this time, I am going to show you how to get a similar effect on shapes within Sure Cuts a Lot 4.
While not as easily adjustable as a brush, the radial gradient fill in SCAL 4 is pretty good and it does save on the process of masking and importing etc.

So I have made a video tutorial on how to use it. I find radial fills much more useful than linear fills.

Above is an example of each, in the right colours the radial fill is great for giving a 3D effect to drawings of people or animals for example. Rosy cheeks would be obtained by reversing the fill in the oval - with a little adaptation of colours, while in its current form it could be used on rose petals.

The colours are changed by clicking the pointers and then the colour button, then you slide the pointers to get the effect you want. Any unwanted pointers can be dragged away.

With a bit of imagination, you can get some brilliant results. 
TIP -  make the colours a bit darker than you may need, you can always alter the transparency later!

When you have the result you want, you can save it by clicking on Add Preset.

So there you have it, another option to use, it's great to have choices!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

How to Put Colour into Line Art, Stamped Images or Colouring Pages

Although I have never been a Stamper, I am aware that many, many, people are heavily invested in stamping. Not only in time but in money and space! Stamps have never really appealed to me since I am into designing my own images but with the dawn of electronic cutting machines such as the Portrait, Cameo and Silver Bullet many stampers are converting their stamps into cut files by scanning the images into software and tracing.
What that does not do for them is sort out the colouring of the images, unless they scan a coloured image in the first place - but that limits the use. Often those stamps will be given away or thrown out to save space.

Others like to use line art to cut out and much is freely available but has the same issue.

So how best to add colour? There are several options.

The first is to simply add colour in the cutting software but this often will  not produce the effect wanted, blocks of solid colour or  simple gradients are the most likely options.

Hand colouring is a great option if you are artistic and have the supplies. The cake on the card here was hand painted on a blank shape. All you really need are some water brushes (convenient hollow handled), Pentel make some good ones, some kitchen towel  and a small palette of watercolours, or some water-soluble  crayons. The secret to getting that soft edge is to start by brushing the area with a damp brush. Then, pick up some watercolour on the tip and work from the outside to inside. Wipe excess water and paint off on kitchen towel. The paint will bleed into wet areas, so work on one section at a time, say the top of the cup cake and then the wrapper.

The last option is to use a piece of software that has brush effects in it. Software for cutting is Vector based, SVG, vector PDF (think dot to dot). Raster (JPEG,PNG etc) based software is also sort of  dot based but in a different way, dots of colour forming an image by clustering together. This is the sort that  realistic brush effects use.

There are many desktop graphics suites that will work in this way, some for Mac and some for Windows. However, for small embellishment files, I do like to doodle around with my iPad. I can use my fingers or a stylus to 'paint' directly on my screen.

One such is an app for the iPad called Touch Image Manipulator, available from the App Store for £0.79. Yes, that's right, under a UK pound. Here's a short video I made, that shows you how it works.

EDIT there was a tech problem, here is the new video!

Basically you can import your image from your photos. Then you can use fancy brushes to colour in the design. The great bit with this particular one is that it has masking ability that is soooo easy to use that even novices can colour with panache. You can choose if you want, to have a printers bleed, just to make sure there are no white areas, just 'grow' or 'shrink' the mask to get it where you want it.

You can paint with your finger or stylus without worrying about accuracy. 
You can get that soft airbrushed look quickly and easily. One of the advantages of using this method is that you can re size your image at any time, and print, rather than get your paints out for every design. I expect there are android apps that do the same.

TIM allows you to import an image from your photo album or create one from scratch.  All sorts of paint effects can be added. Just play until you see something you like! Once you have finished painting it, it is saved as a raster image, so if you started with an SVG(vector) line image, the two put together in cutting software will make up a print and cut. If you rely solely on a raster, you will have to trace it as normal in SCAL or whatever to get the cut lines. Generally, I email the images to myself and then save them in a dedicated folder. It means I know where to find them later!

Believe me, you can have hours of fun with this, your stamped images will never look boring!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Shaker Card - a lightbulb moment.

Now you have to keep this very quiet. No whispering...I have a special friend in the UK with a Birthday coming up on Valentine's Day.
A bit like having a birthday at Christmas, I would think, it all gets rolled into one.

Anyway, I have designed a lovely card that I wanted to tell you about but I don't want her to know so I'm hoping she won't be reading this.

You may know the opening scene from Love Actually - where his character is trying to make a new version of 'Love is all Around'? When he can't get the old song out of his head for long enough to sing the new version? When he lets loose a string of expletives?

Well I felt like doing a Nighy the other day.

To start with, I wanted to go to Aldi, hubby was out and the car wouldn't start. So I did a rather long walk (1hr 45 min) up hill and down dale to get some card and paper. If it had been food or any other non essential I would have left it but this stuff only comes in a few times a year...

 I had an idea for a birthday card for a friend who has one coming up soon. A relatively simple card. Would anything do what it was supposed to? No.  Although I had put some acetate on the mat and stuck it with tape, it moved. Grrr. Then, the next time i went to cut it, there were cuts where none were supposed to be. Grrr! I took my specs off and scrutinised the screen. There was an object on the mat that was barely visible....

So, I was making a shaker card. I had the acetate in place, added a strip of foam tape round it and dropped in some bits and pieces. Put on the second layer, and shook it to move the bits of sequin and glitter. Only to find I hadn't taken the backing tape off and I now had glitter and sequins all over my desk, my clothes, the floor - you get the picture. I knew I shouldn't have bothered to clean the craft room.

Rectified that and put the acetate back. (Enter expletives of choice.) The foam tape was too thick and all the bits sunk to the bottom of the card. The stupid thing is, I've done that before, I should have realised it was the wrong stuff!
Took it all apart again and replaced with normal double sided tape. 
Finally finished the card several hours later than I should have....

However, I then realised that I wanted another one but had no acetate left. Far too cold to go for another walk into town and the shops would be shut for siesta. Hmm. What could I use instead?

I suddenly thought of my hubby's  supply of laminating pouches but when we found them, it was obvious they would not be transparent. I then hit on an idea and took one off to the craft room and fired up my heat gun. A few minutes of CAREFUL warming and the pouch was beautifully see through!
Now in case you are wondering why not put the sequins in it and then heat it - tried that and got a load of air bubbles and of course, it no longer shook!

So here is the finished card. You can find the file on my Design Shop page.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Knockout Feature in Sure Cuts a Lot 4.014

I have just posted a video on the Knockout effect of SCAL 4.014. It is a great new feature that acts a bit like a cookie cutter and has a myriad of uses. From things like this

To making window cards with ease.

Below is a list of the recent changes in SCAL software. There are many improvements that make a big difference to the functionality, from SVG importing fixes to the new eraser ability.

I do sadly, still have an issue with the software crashing from time to time, so I am careful to save any intricate work as I do it, just in case but in general, I am happy to report that SCAL is getting better.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Use of Sentiments in Card Design

So what are sentiments? They are the written words on your card, the greeting part if you will.

You may think that it is very simple. 'Happy Birthday' and that's it, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes it is but sometimes you want something else on the front or  even nothing. You can ruin a perfectly good card with a boring sentiment or liven up a plain card with a great one.

Does the design even need a sentiment?
Here is a card that does not have one. After all, I'm going to write inside it!

The design is so busy that it would be way too much to have a sentiment on there too.

Even if you do need one, it may not always be obvious what it should be.
This card has an entirely different approach...

while with this card, I went for a slightly non traditional sentiment...

So, as you see, with a little thought, you can ring the changes, even for a Birthday.  So next time you make a card, don't just add the sentiment as an after thought, after all, it's the thought that counts!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sure Cuts A Lot V4.013 Now Available

The company has been very busy fixing things and adding new features.

In the latest version there is a new Knockout feature that can cut shapes through multi layers and give a gap to them at the same time. A very useful thing for certain designs.
Also, they have improved the eraser function to act like the one in Studio, where you can have the design open or closed and choose how the eraser works on it.

I shall be making a new video very soon, probably at the weekend, I have a friend staying, so am busy making cards with her and video making has needed to be delayed.

I have added some more designs to my Design Shop today, so drop by and take a look. They are in SVG format but also are supposed to be ok for Design Space if anyone is using that. Any other formats needed, just contact me.