Friday, 29 May 2015

Draw and Cut Figures - Cheat!

For crafters who like to use figures in their work, there are of course options of tracing ones found on line. That can still be problematic if the image is not clear. There is another option.

I came across a couple of Free fonts the other day at

Not your usual sort of fonts at all, these are fashion plate fonts! The beauty of this is that there is a pre made cut line, should you want to cut figures out and colour them by hand.

Here is the link , they are by Lauren Ashpole - Thanks Lauren!  Now you only get the outside line but you could draw details in quite easily or use the figures only as a base for your own outlines.

There are some children's figures and I think male too.

NOTE  You may want to check the number of nodes and go to Path/Simplify if there are too many. Watch out that you don't over do it and lose too much detail.

A bit of fun for children too and budding fashion designers!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Spiral Tool - New in SCAL4.026

I've just posted a brief video on this tool, new to SCAL 4.026.

It's a very handy tool for making flourishes and all sorts of patterns, either for cutting, printing or drawing. As with other tools, you need to alter the attributes to the way you want them. Pretty straight forward and a lot of fun!

What you need to remember  though, is that this can be combined with other effects and tools to get very different results.

Firstly, look at replicas of the same shape and what they can do. Place some with lines joining and choose 'Object to path' under the path menu.

Unite them and use an offset to create a cut line around your single lines.  NB I've put this in line view only so you can see the effect easily.

Take note, the nick in the line at the top of the bottom curl is because I (deliberately)  did not have my lines lined up properly. To create a smooth outline you need to have your lines joined end to end. You can see that the possibilities for curlicues is endless!

The object ON path menu provides for even more options by adding shapes to the spirals - and thus creating more than just straight forward edges. Hearts, circles and stars can create some lovely effects, or adding spiral forms to in this doodle.

It is one of those tools that is worth getting to know well, play around when you have time to spare and see what it can do. Borders and frames, flourishes, the choice is yours but it does play well to the strengths of the Silver Bullet and it's ability to cut very fine detail. Vinyl cuts with this would be fun.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Another Material for Stamping

I managed to get my hands on some 2mm plastic strip meant for making strip curtains for chilled rooms and the like.

As you can see, it is clear, a slight blue tint. At 2mm and very tough, it is at the top end of what can be cut with the Silver Bullet. If you have any other machine, you can probably give it a miss, as it will be too hard to cut.

Even with the SB it took a 60 blade at full extension, a force of 150 and five passes. Now it may be that it could be done at a higher setting but I was trying to make sure it didn't dance a jig on my mat. I used a speed of 200 - slowing it down too much didn't make it any easier, a bit of speed was needed.

Here are some more bits I cut, along with my spacer for size reference! I don't think it would be good for more delicate designs.

On the plus side, it is thick enough to use for key fobs if you want to - just make a hole for the ring. I think it is possible to get it in different colours...

If there is enough demand, Thyme Graphics (UK)  may consider selling it. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Ribbon Flowers

 In the past I have tried to make ribbon roses and come up with some bad, ugly things. I don't do bad and ugly, so I was not impressed with myself. That isn't to say I know what I want them for, I don't, but I don't like to admit defeat either.

So the other day when my 'recommended viewing' on YouTube came up with a video by a lady called Donna, I just had to watch it.

To be honest, I didn't hold out much hope, but felt that it was worth a few minutes just to make sure.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised! For the first time, it seemed obtainable, the instructions were clear and it looked simple enough.

Out came my ribbon supplies to give it a go.

The first couple were quite hard - but I think this is because I was using a narrow ribbon. It is easier to learn the technique on a wider ribbon and graduate down to thin ones!

I tried thin organza ribbon, satin ribbon, soft paper and paper ribbon (the two silver ones).  Bet you can tell which was the last one I made! I'll give you a hint, it's the best one.

So thanks to Donna and daughter, for that great video!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

SCAL 4 Print and Cut Settings

I made a video a while ago on Print and Cut but it concentrated mainly on how to use it with the Silver Bullet and lining up etc.

Print and Cut with SCAL and my Silver Bullet is very successful. I've got very detailed cuts from it but the other day after months of not doing any print and cuts, I was having problems getting my registration lines to print. Much head scratching and naughty words ensued. Why couldn't I get it to work any more? What on earth was I doing wrong?
Dawn from Thyme Graphics supplied the answer and it was so obvious, I've got sore shins from all the kicks I gave myself.

I'm not the only one with a little confusion though, so I thought I'd set the record straight.

If you want to print anything with the registration marks, DO NOT USE THE 'PRINT AND CUT PRINT' setting for the line style. I know, it sounds odd, you'd think it was the right one, wouldn't you? My logical brain certainly thought so!

Well, it isn't. You use it only for items on a print and cut page that you want to PRINT ONLY.
Like the sprinkles on this cupcake. You may want to cut the cake and the icing shape but leave the sprinkles as a print, so that's when you'd use it.

Another pitfall, is having drawings on the work area, outside of the page. If you look carefully at the screen shot below, you will see that the registration marks are around ALL of the work area. To stop that, go to the cut settings box and check the 'cut selection only'.

So here is the low down.
Before doing your first Print and Cut with your Silver Bullet, calibrate your machine. You only need do it the once.

The 'Cut' style will give you both  the print and the cut and registration marks.
The Print and Cut Cut will give you the cut lines and reg marks but no image printed.
The Print and Cut Print will only allow printing of the selection, no cut lines or reg marks.
Always check the Preview!
Always Print from the Print and Cut option in Cut Settings - if you want registration marks.
Make sure the registration marks fall within the printable area.

If you are still having problems, check that your cut lines are being selected - they could be under the layer you have highlighted.  For example, if you do an image trace in SCAL and choose add image layer, there are two layers or more, cut lines and the printable image, and the cutter only 'sees' cut lines.
Sometimes, you will find an image is cutting multiple times over, even though you have set it for a single cut. If that happens, check your image again.
 Often on tracings, there are multiple colour layers of cut lines - unless you look at the layers you may not realise it.

So that's it, you should be sorted! 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Thread Dispenser, Sewing Kit, Small Gift Idea

Paper craft is just one of my hobbies, I do many other things. One of them involves needles and threads and I have copious supplies.
There are times though when I just want to take a few bits to another room and do some sewing while sat on the sofa. Of course, what happens is that my cats immediately go scatty, playing with my cotton reels!

I've come up with a nifty solution, a small, decorative box. The clever bit? Not only can it hold 4 standard reels (or about 9 of the skinny ones, but you can use the decorative holes to hold the different colours of thread!

While I am talking boxes, here is what I do for score lines. I use an empty, cleaned out biro in my cutting machine pen holder. I put the pressure way up and this is the result. Nice neat scoreline that does not break the surface of the patterned card.

This is the box flat. The base is made of overlapping flaps to make it quite sturdy when glued or taped up.

Now I wanted the pattern on the top flaps to show, so I put panels on the other side and used this side as the inside of the box.

It could be used for cosmetic pads

But this is what I needed and I can keep my threads safe from paws..

I've altered the pattern in the file, just a bit, I've not re cut it, but the pattern should now be more centred on the lid so it should close with them lined up (at least that is the theory!) and it has a centre hole.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Design Box cards in SCAL4

I love box cards! They are fun, fold flat (ish) and can be plain or highly adorned. For those who like bling, there is plenty of scope and they are always well received. If you read my last blog post, you'll recognise this one.

What I didn't tell you in the last post, was how to go about designing the box bit. This one is plain - but there is no reason why it should need to be if you want something with more 'wow' factor.

However, what you really don't want to do, is spend hours designing each individual box, when there is a much easier way.  Certain parts of the design are stable, and if you know how to put the elements together, you can knock up variations in just a few minutes. I'm talking about making the flaps super duper fancy, things like that.

Often when something is designed, variations and their ease of application is not at the forefront of our minds but if it is, we can make things so much easier.

Here is what I mean.  These are the basic parts of a box card.  Make them and store as a page in your project design and COPY and PASTE to where you want to use them.  The Video to go with this blog explains the process of putting the elements together.

The oval is decorated using the object to path tool, sized to fit the square and welded to make a panel. More objects can be placed around another oval to make cut outs.
The panels are duplicated, flap added,overlapped and welded (using the Union button).
The score lines are then sized to fit and lined up using the Position and Size box. The video also explains how to make the score marks properly and how to use grouping and naming layers to help.
The result is a basic method that allows you to infinitely vary the finished result without having to start from scratch each time.

EDIT - If you have a hard time adjusting the overlapping sides before welding together, there is another option. Duplicate them as in the video with no gaps and line up the bottoms. Then just make a narrow vertical rectangle the same height (6.5cm in this case) and over lap each join, then you can weld and know they are exactly the width you needed.  This means that your individual top pieces can be sized to the full width - just check for any overlap of your decorative edges.

BTW, if you wonder why I do the pieces individually - it allows you to make more sides if you wish for hexagons etc!

Friday, 8 May 2015

3D Box Card with Lights - Cut File Included

A long while ago, I bought a cheap string of battery powered Christmas lights. Don't worry, I've not even thought about the 'C' word yet, but I was thinking of those lights. Cost me all of €4 for 30 LEDs.

I did have a use in mind, but they weren't quite right!

Anyhow, they were cheap enough for me to think of playing around with, and while my hubby knows of such things, I can barely remember enough of my physics lessons to wire a plug, so it was going to be a case of trial and error.  Plus a bit of reading on Google about LEDs and making a circuit..

Other versions I have seen on line concentrate on making circuits in flat cards with foil or metal tape, this one is a bit different.  Wouldn't it be fun to put lights in a card like this one? (No, there are no lights in it, but imagine!) So this is the type of card I'm going to show you how to light up. Sorry, but the design features you will be doing yourself!

Now I discovered something quite handy. I can chop one or more LEDs off my string of lights and the string will still work! Isn't that great? It's like an octopus re growing a limb. In fact, make a few of these cards and the remaining string will be just right for what I bought it for! (Lighting up a big quartz rock our elder son gave me).

Along with your design elements you will need:
Wire strippers, a string of battery operated LEDs, a 3v button battery, card, sticky tape, double sided tape, scissors, magnet or flexible magnet sheeting (only 2 cm sq) imagination and a sense of fun.

NB, you can also do this with unwired individual LEDs, but you will need wire and tape to connect them together to form the circuit.  Single LEDs have a slightly elongated positive wire, so you will know which one is which! Just make sure to connect positive ones to positive ones...

The following directions seem long winded  because I want to make it so easy for you to do. In reality, it will only take a few minutes.

So the basics of this is that you cut the wires, somewhere in between the light bulbs. I chose to cut 3 off. You get a short string of lights.

On one end, you need to strip a couple of the plastic ends down (just under 2cm) to expose the wires. There are special tools called wire strippers that do this.  Now you need a 3v button battery.

One side is positive, marked with a +, and the opposite side is a negative.  You'll find that you need two wires, one to go on each side of the battery. If you try and it doesn't work, either turn the battery over, or swap the wires. It will only work one way. If you have an end with 4 exposed wires, find two that work and trim off, and/ or cover the others with tape.  You should now have 3 LEDS in a string, that will light up when wires are pressed to either side of the battery. Yes?

Now to the card. I have made a small hole in the back of the file for very good reason - for the wires. Move it nearer the top if you want, depends on the length of your wires.  Cut it out and decide which is going to be the inside. In my case both sides are patterned but I want to see more of the blue  in this mock up - so that will be the INSIDE. I did put some decor panels in the file but no hole in that back one - it's easy enough to poke a pin through and wiggle it a bit. If using decor panels, put them on before you start doing anything else!

Thread the stripped wires through to the back of the card. The picture shows the INSIDE of the card.

Only the stripped wires are pushed through.

You can tape the first LED in place on the inside. Now it is important to place the lights before assembling the card, (unless you are planning to put them on the back of your cut out embellishments) because it makes assembly much easier.

I used double sided tape to construct my card, it's quick, clean and easy. Add tape to the side flap and both ends of the inner 'straps'.
Optional - you can cut slits from the bottom of the straps to about half way up, to wedge in the wires.

The slits are optional but if you know where you want them, you could add some slightly thicker ones to the file.

If you don't do that, you can just tape them in place. Choose which side of the straps you want facing forward, and stick the left sides to the open card.

Place your LEDs to face different ways (on the straps) and secure.
Much easier to do this with the card still open!

 To assemble the box part of the card, secure the right side of the back strap to the side flap.
Get the idea?
Secure the right side of the front strap to the inner right side of the box, making sure it is evenly spaced. Finally adhere the side edges to complete.
Nearly there.

For the back workings of the card - Cut a small piece of double sided tape and place it under one of the wires.

Check which wire needs to go on the bottom and place it on the sticky tape.

Now stick the battery on, it will grip, no problem.

Now cut out the magnet material

The Silver Bullet cuts that easily!
and use the magnet over the other wire and battery to complete the circuit. Make sure to keep the plastic coating out of the way, you want all the wire in contact with the battery.

Hard to see the light is on in bright sunlight, but it works!

Using this, you can switch it on or off. If you don't have any magnet material, just use a piece of masking tape to secure the second wire. It can be lifted off to disconnect the circuit.

Lights, camera, action!
 Now your box is ready for all your design elements. Try making some of them from transparent papers or cellophane, attached to wires or thin strips of acetate and position as you wish but check that you can still fold the card flat without damaging them.

The  basic file is here (amended for the second time, last time I managed to erase the score lines!)  For a card that I would send, I'd just lightly score with a normal line, the amended file has a normal line, not dashed. 
EDIT  To shed more light,  I found I wanted my lights a bit higher, so I made the wire hole an inch higher - I've  altered the file. I also noticed an error in the small decor panels, I have fixed it.

Here are some new pics of one I made today. I couldn't resist making a proper one!
These are the stages of making the flowers
I've also done some two layer leaves with vegetable paper and patterned card.
The main card is actually made of hand painted watercolour paper, the decor panels are Crelando Romantico, bought in Aldi or Lidl! It's even textured and double sided.
Not easy to get a good pic, but you get the idea!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Help Needed!

Normally, I am the one providing assistance to my readers. This time, it's your turn! Yup, the tables are turned and I am asking YOU for help, or at least opinions.

For those of you who use Inkscape to design cut files - what is your favourite feature? What does it have that SCAL does not? What irritates you about it or SCAL? What features do you really want?

I'm asking all this because software takes planning. It's easier for a programmer to put things in place if he knows what you want most, before he starts writing code.

Don't get me wrong, I am not employed (by anyone!) but I have a mission to make cutting software as useable as possible, as good as possible and as fun as possible.

The makers of SCAL are listening, trying to find out what we really want for the next big release, so now is the time to tell them!

For my wish list - to increase functionality
Nesting feature and/ or a spray can for objects

Calligraphic brush strokes

To be able to drag the centre of rotation to another point, instead of having to use a window to adjust it

A 'Spiral' tool

Cut by line/object colour - with the ability to select a cut mode for them. That was one of the best features in Studio. It isn’t that you can’t do it in other ways (layers and such) but it is easier to do as you are drawing.

A dedicated crease/score under cut mode - that then prompts you to change the pressure. I hate to think how much card is wasted because we accidentally forget to separate score lines! Most of us use the cutter to change pressures because they are so variable.

A dedicated Emboss also under cut mode.

A new manual that covered all the features!

Ideas For added VaVa Voom- the icing on the cake
More control over my workspace - colour choices, ability to dock windows where I want them.  For example, there are people (although I am not one of them) who are left handed and would probably appreciate a reversed work space!  

The effects box comes up in the centre - usually right over what I’m working on. I often work in the beige area and then move things over to the cut area. It’s annoying.

The ability to in some way, calibrate my screen size to actual size and save it as a zoom preference.

I’ve been looking at the way that Inkscape operates as compared to SCAL and one thing in particular pops out.

In Inkscape, if I choose to apply an effect/colour etc, it applies it and I can immediately go on to something else. In SCAL, I seem to spend a lot of time clicking ‘OK’ and closing boxes down. It makes it appear clunky even though the functionality is there.

Do away with the ‘OK’ button in most cases - there is a cancel button - if I don’t want to apply it I can use that. Assume if I click off of the box, I am happy with what I did, and if I change my mind, I can use the back button anyway.

So what would you add to that little lot?  Add your comments below.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Free File - New Baby!

Now I am not a royalist but I know many are and the news yesterday of a new Princess being born is big news in the UK.

It's all I needed as an excuse to have a play and I came up with this design, a cut out to put on a card or in the window to announce a new baby.
I've been fair and included two versions, one for a girl and one for a boy.

Congratulations to all those with a new addition to the family, not just the famous.

New Baby file

It is in both SVG and SCAL format.  (The holes in the letters are there, I just forgot to weed them!)

Here is a video  I made on how to put text to different path types.