Saturday, 25 July 2015

A bit of This and That!

It really irked me that I was unable to use a clear plastic successfully, to cut stamped sentiments.
Yes, I can use the table mats (see previous posts) but they don't look anything like the purchased stamps, obviously.

I had tried a plastic that is designed as a window film or outside table cloth (not sure what it was intended for) but it came from the hardware store and was bought by the metre.

Very cheap.  Although it cut really well, it was too thin. I tried glueing it together but that didn't work - although it may if you can find the right glue.

Still, yesterday I had a bit of time on my hands and decided to try another tactic. Out came the plastic again, along with two sheets of baking parchment, the ironing board and iron.

I took the protective film off the plastic, then put two pieces on top of each other.
EDIT- I found later that leaving the protective film on the underside only aids the cutting - it acts as a stabiliser. If left on the top however, it causes problems - so you need take care which side you cut from.

Be careful to avoid air bubbles. I smoothed them out as best I could, then sandwiched them between the baking paper.  It must be the non stick type or you could get in a right mess.

I started with a cool iron and worked up to cotton setting, moving all the time and only for about a minute. When it had cooled, the two layers were pretty much stuck together! YAY!

This I found, cut well on the SB, although you do need a sticky mat for it to keep still.  The result was a good clear stamp.  This one would have read 'You're Special', only I lost the 're bit! Still haven't found it. No doubt it will show up when I'm not looking for it.

 I decided that to make them easier to see, (re above!)  I'd use a permanent marker to draw the lines on top.  BTW, I used a fine marker just down the middle. Makes it look good!

The great thing is that they cling naturally to the stamp block too!  I have used tiny clear zip lock bags to stash them in, with the sentiment written on it. (Note to self, next time do not confuse permanent markers with fine liners that are not permanent!)

 Job done.

 As a bonus, I found that if you cut out shapes and used alcohol markers on them, (without the doubling up) you can make your own window clings.  What fun for the school holidays!

In the course of much trial and error, I accidentally stumbled on something useful. (It happens occasionally!)

For those of you into stamping and use acrylic blocks and homemade stamps/ purchased ones.

If you are trying to keep your blocks nice and clean but end up with sticky residue on them from temporary adhesives -

Find some soft plastic - I buy mine by the metre and I'm not sure if it is for windows or for patio furniture as table cloths, but it is soft, thin and comes with a grid backing (transparent and colourless). Cut it to the size of your block and remove the backing film. It will cling to the block - and to acetate or plastic stamps. So,if you have homemade stamps backed with acetate (which needs temp adhesive for adhering to the block) you will no longer get the residue on the block, making it messy for your purchased stamps.

In future, you can make your own stamps and glue them to small pieces of the soft plastic instead. That goes for any plastic multi piece stamps (so you need not mess around getting them placed each time)  or indeed for the ones made out of foam. (The foam will not cling directly to plastic).

Now, regarding embossing, I found I had two items that produce a pretty effect. Both are shelf liners, they just have different patterns. I put these through my Evolution with some card to see what would happen.

And this one

Both of these I had bought thinking I could make stamps with them. Sadly not. The pattern caused a problem even when used flat side down.  I knew I'd find another use for them though!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Craft Room Products - good or bad?

I was inspired to write this piece because of this thing.

See, it's broken. It came from HobbyCraft in the UK, bought while I was there before Christmas and is, I believe, their own brand. See how most of the tape is unused. This is not the only one I have had that broke. I had 3 of them. All did the same. So I got on their web site a few days ago to tell them. I have not had a reply. Nothing. BIG FAIL!  I don't care if an item cost 50p or £50, I expect it to work. This one does not.

One of my new favourites however, is the set of alcohol markers (TOUCHFIVE).  Here they are in my homemade storage box. (Along with a water brush to fill the empty hole).

I love these. So much cheaper than Copics, (there was never any chance that I'd get many of those) these do exactly what I thought they would. They colour and blend really well, I love them!  You wouldn't believe how cheap they are on AliExpress.   Mine came from Etsy but my son did say the postage was expensive. On Ali you can get free post.  They have a fine point and a chunky one and a large range of colours. I am very tempted to get the rest of the collection...:)

My Evolution Embossing machine. Works beautifully, I love it. Easy, simple to use, compact and does what it is supposed to. Brilliant.

My Silver Bullet cutter - what can I say? The Rolls Royce of the cutting world. For people who want to push the envelope, cut the foam and engrave the metal! I have used it pretty much every day since Christmas!

My iPad mini of course and my Mac laptop, I wouldn't be without. Vital tools.

My Logitech mouse is so comfortable to use.

My new Bamboo Fineline Stylus is great! Makes drawing on m iPad so much easier. And I could easily use it to write too.

 The tip is about 2mm

My Iwata airbrush. Capable of much more than I often use it for but I love its engineering. Beautiful piece of kit. I use it with watercolour inks.

My camera, my Panasonic DMC-FZ35.  I've had it a few years now and I am still not inclined to change it. When I do take it outside, it does what I need it to do, very well indeed. 

My Zig glue pens. Do you know, I bought 6 last year and I am still on the first one! Amazing!

My Rapid glue gun. Undecided about this, it seems to need the glue stick pushed through sometimes, so isn't great if you want a continuous flow. It is good for small dabs though.

Plus I have an amazing collection of card making materials, tapes, pencils, paints.......can't think of anything else that has let me down.  

So, no more Hobbycraft dry glue dispenser for me.  BTW - None of this is sponsored!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Silver Tape Card

I have a plastic tub and a covered ice tray that I keep odds and ends in that are left over from other projects. Sometimes the items are not really usable in that they may be bad print and cuts or mistakes of one form or another.

There is a way to use them though and I decided to put an idea to the test and see what happened.

I started out with a small piece of scrap card and covered it in glue. I then sprinkled on some of my tiny cut out bits.

Next, I took some silver DIY tape and cut it into bits. It was my intention to peel off the backing but it was far too fiddly, so I glued them on, overlapping, instead.  Now I could have used one piece or even tin foil, probably doubled up to make it strong enough.

I let it go over the edges because they can be folded behind when it's done. This would be a great bit of fun for kids to do.

Then for the magic. I ran it through my Evolution embossing machine. This is how it comes out, with the addition of some alcohol markers!

Now, at this point I had no idea what I was going to do with it, so I got a card base out and put my thinking cap on.

The lightbulb lit up and so I cut my piece more or less in half.

The addition of a bow, a sentiment and I had the basis of a good card - but with the addition of a bit of number 75 marker (Dark Blue Light) around the edge of the sentiment and a few bits of bling, I think the two cards I made, turned out rather well.

The next one I did on an airbrushed base and I added yet more shading to the sentiment.

So there you are, another way to use up your remnants!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Beary Big Splash! Creating an Outline Drawing.

I wanted to create a design of a teddy falling into water and making a big splash. While I was doing it, I decided it would make a good tutorial. There are complications that may not occur to you until it is too late!

One bear about to get very wet!

It was my intention to cut him out and colour with markers, so I thought I would explain  how to modify the idea to do that. I needed a cut line on the outside but drawn lines for ease of adding shading by hand.

The bear is made up of several shapes fitted together but that means that there are lines in it that we don't want to print or draw, so we need to get rid of some.

 Your first instinct may be to go in with the eraser but STOP!  You really don't want to do that. It will cause all sorts of trouble and you will be tearing your hair out at hours wasted.

No, you want to make a copy first and make a union to give you a clean cut line.

Once you have that, go to objects/lock and lock it down.  It's protected from any mistakes. Now, with your second copy (make another one to be safe!)  you can erase the lines you want cut, while leaving behind the ones you want to draw. Zoom in real close to do this, it makes things so much easier.  Work on one section at a time to avoid it looking far to busy. Try to work from the back of the image to the front - the bear's left arm largely won't be seen, while his right one will be.

When you have what you want, group them.

Then, go to Path/ Simplify.  This is VERY important when using the eraser as it creates hundreds if not thousands of nodes!  Change from Cut to Pen.

All you need do is line up the outer cut line and the inside drawing lines and group and you are done.

It sounds hard but really isn't if you follow those steps.

So what happens if you just go in with an eraser? You end up with loads of open and broken paths and you then can't get a decent exterior cut line. I learned the hard way! Believe me when I say this is easier. Much easier.

I made a video which you can

Here is a card I made with the file. It is hard to see in the picture but the bear is actually shaded.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Faux Stitching

One of the effects that can be used to add a bit of oomph to a card is Faux Stitching. Like in the cards below from my previous post. (I have them bagged to keep them clean)

Maybe you do this the old way, with a pen and a ruler but there is no need to. You can make a stencil in SCAL that does all the work for you, to use time after time, or even make an embossing plate from thick card to give a different look.  Neither do you have to stick to rectangles or circles, add a stitch border to any shape you want.  Some shapes are easier to manage than others but with a little bit of alteration you should achieve great results.

Use a glue pen with a stencil and foil the stitching, or even glitter it. Emboss then colour the stitches with markers. They don't even have to be all the same colour! Or you could use a thin ribbon or twine to actually thread the holes.  Of course you could also just print it, if that is convenient.

Here is the Video on how to do it.

So have some fun playing around with it, and see what you can do!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Simple Floral Card and Some Cards I Made Yesterday.

I made 4 cards yesterday.

This one was done with an altered image from Freepik . Great little owls and fun to do.

Then I did these, one after the other!

Those little owls get everywhere!  The middle one was made from pieces I had cut already, the leaf frame is a favourite design of mine. I covered a simple white version in white glitter. The last one is hand drawn flowers on an airbrushed background, with a hand written sentiment.

So today, I decided to do some more flowers and came up with this one.

I'm loving the markers I got. Such fun to use and so quick and easy. The sentiment I had already (made in a moment of surprising introversion!)  It could however be anything, from Get Well Soon to   
a New Home card.

The method was a little different. I chose a background and glued on a sentiment. I have some plastic sequins and scattered a few a bit randomly. I glued them in place, let it dry (very important) and then ran it through the embosser to 'embed' them into the card. I then added double sided tape to adhere it to a card base.  Only then did I draw simple petals and curly stems. I know it is unrealistic, don't worry! I left the leaves plain because I like them that way.  I just thought the effect was pretty. I hope you do too!

Edit- More cards, similar theme.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Freehand Drawing for Cutting - iPad Apps to Use

I like to use SCAL4 for designing to cut but there is one area that I just don't get along with and that is freehand drawing. Sorry, I'm used to a brush, pen or pencil that actually touches the surface! I no longer have a drawing tablet as such but I do have an iPad Mini.

Bigger than a phone but not too big to take with me if I go away. I use it everyday for reading in bed and also for drawing apps.

There are A LOT of drawing apps. Many are aimed at children, who I think, should be taught to hold a brush first but that's another matter.
So I had a look at my iPad and these are the apps I have. The ones listed with a * support a stylus, the others don't.  Now by supporting a stylus, I mean actually recognising a capacitive stylus. If you need more info, go to the iTunes store and check the app itself.

In no particular order:

Inkpad - Vector drawing

My Brushes Pro *

Touch Image Manipulator

Sketches Pro *

Bamboo Paper *

Paper by 53 *

Concepts *  Saves as vector but not in a way that is very useful to cutters.

They all have their good points. I love Inkpad but as yet no stylus recognition.

My Brushes Pro uses brush marks, some of which are easily traced, some not.  Great for doing flourishes.
TIM - I think this one has been abandoned re updating.

The last three are great for sketching and writing - even if saved as a JPEG, you can trace easily if you need to.

So, I wanted to show you how a simple drawing done on the iPad can be made into a useful cut file.
I've made two videos, one deals with the drawing in Sketches Pro and the other what to do with it in SCAL.

Here are a couple of photos, I cut out the images made in table mat and then tried it out to emboss - you could of course emboss with the Silver Bullet too.

I hope you will find them useful!  I did a heavier emboss after but it is hard to get a good photo of it! It actually looks better in the flesh.

Video One

 Video Two

Concepts, is, well, totally different. It has it's uses but I don't really think cut files is one of them. Saves as vector if you wish, but only creates brush strokes as lines. Some nifty tools in there though!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Freepik - Great Source of Free Vector Images

I just love it when I come across a great source of free images. It isn't that I necessarily will use them as they are but they can be a wonderful source of inspiration.  So most of the time, I don't worry about them being vectors.

Sometimes though, I can understand if you want a quick solution to a design issue, or maybe  you want some practice material, or just don't have the right image for an important project.

I wanted to do some practice colouring. Yeah, I know, I paint, I draw etc. But sometimes, even I am feeling lazy or just tired! I've got my new set of markers and need to practice, I'm not used to markers these days!

So, I found Freepik. Wow! loads of beautiful vectors! Aren't these adorable?

 Free to use as long as you credit them as the designer.  What I didn't want though, was the images in colour. Now it is quite likely that I could find some outline drawings on there (I confess I didn't look) but I thought it would be handy to show you what needs to be done in SCAL if you have similar coloured images and want to use them for colouring.

Video  on how to prepare them for hand painting or colouring.

Rather than print them out, I prefer to put a pen in my holder and draw them with the SB in permanent marker and then colour them. Some printer inks run when you colour in, not clever.
So let your imagination take you where it may....
These were not centred up in the offset but they were only for practice.

So here are a few cards made with Freepik birds... They have been added to and some may have been altered to make them suit the cards.. The flowers and other graphics are mine.

In this one, the owl has been cut to hug the banner.

An occasion worth celebrating!

The use of a porthole adds extra interest.

My one and only die is used to showcase the owl and my own drawing.

Enough of owls already! Time to ring the changes.

In my case, I only wanted the outline drawings but the birds were nicely coloured already if you just wanted to print them.

So, many thanks to for all the lovely graphics and inspiration!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

My New Markers

I have just received a gift of a set of 80 'Touchfive' alcohol markers. Not from the company, I hasten to add, from our elder son.
Again, it was not so much of a hint as a 'This is what I want, here is the link!'  You should realise that my family, while accepting of my crafty inclinations, has no understanding of them or supplies needed!

Anyhow, I finally got my hands on them and I am really pleased. I requested the 'animation' set and I am perfectly happy with my choice. I especially wanted some skin tones and this set has plenty.

I decided that I needed to organise them, they did come in a black fabric, box shaped zippered bag, but I wanted to be able to remove markers without others moving around and to group them in colours.

It was an easy choice between making my own and buying off the shelf. Cost wise, buying was ridiculous, more for the storage than for the pens!

This is where they came from, taking just under 3 weeks.

This is my solution.

 Each pen is separated by slotted forms, then boxed in a 5cm wrap and the whole outer box is 16cm square. I modified the lid to form a raised base. Markers are best kept horizontal.

The colours are true to the caps, with one end being a thick wedge, the other a finer point.

Now I know that they may not have the same colour control as for example Copics, but I am a hobbyist and the price outweighs that consideration. It won't matter to me if a shade is not exactly matched on replacement..for a professional illustrator it may.  However, they seem to be fine, good colour, nice and wet and I am very happy with them.  You can choose sets or make a list of your own colour choice. From my point of view, I was not likely to get many Copics - so blending colours and shading would be hard. With these, I do have lots of colours in different shades and tones, so that is not a problem.

So this is a quick trial, the card is not great for this and as yet I don't have a blending pen.
I'm not used to colouring in!


Here are some practice owls, courtesy of - I downloaded them and altered them, so they are not quite as they are seen on the site!

And a card. The background was painted with my airbrush using watercolours. Hard to see here, but the bubbles are embossed so they stand proud, I coloured them with markers. some of the plants are drawn on the card, then I did another layer fixed with foam pads to raise it.

I have messed around a bit and found the way of using them that suits me best. I tend to pick out 2 or three markers for any given section, depending on how big it is. No point in trying to squeeze three colours into a tiny area!
Starting off with the darkest, kind of goes against the grain for a watercolorist like me but it works out really well. Decide where you want the shadows and do those. then go over the light area and extend over the dark bits to blend.  No blender pen? No. Looking closely at what happens on the card, it is obvious that the wetting caused by the application of another colour (no matter what it is), reactivates or loosens the ink enough for the different colours to blend together. If you really needed to, you could use a cotton bud dipped in alcohol to take some colour out if you make mistakes, some card will take this rough treatment and some won't. Bearing in mind that it is so hot here at the moment that ink dries instantly (pretty much!) I am impressed with getting blends at all!

On a different topic, in my last post, I talked about my new embosser but didn't show you what it looks like, so here it is.
I just love it!
This was cut from a table mat and then used to emboss some silver card...

So easy and effective too!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Embossing Machine - the Evolution Advanced - NOT Sponsored!

Hubby is in my good books. He bought me an Evolution Advanced embossing/die cut machine.

Now, don't get me wrong, hubby would have had no clue as to which one to buy, I just sent him a link. No use throwing hints, hit him with a certainty. Much better results.
Perhaps you are shocked that I even wanted one but hey, I love gadgets as much as the next girl (or in my case, middle aged woman).

The Silver Bullet does a fine job of cutting, so although the machine came with a free set of stack dies, those will largely stay in the box. True, the SB can also emboss but there are some cases where the material is better for having all over pressure applied.

I had done my research. I only wanted a small, compact machine. I don't really want to emboss A4 papers, so that was not an issue.
I didn't want to have to stack loads of plates together.
I didn't want to have to buy embossing folders.
I wanted adjustable rollers.
I didn't want thick acrylic plates that creak and crackle as they are rolled through.

Now one thing that sets the EA over all the competition for some people will be the choice of buying a motor to run it, rather than use a crank handle. Not a problem for me but I understand there may be many crafters who would find this indispensable.

I'm not going to go into much more detail about the actual machine, you can look it up and find the web site. What I will say is that it works, beautifully, quietly, smoothly and does exactly what I want it to do. The only problem I had, was opening the base to get the handle out. My, that was stiff!
When the base is locked down, the suction on it is STRONG. I could probably lift the table top with it.

Now for the interesting bit!

How to use it without buying embossing folders. You need something with some thickness to emboss. However, depending on what you emboss, maybe not much.
One thing to note.
My method was to put my embossing item on the base, cover with paper or card and then add the rubbery mat under  mat B.  If the material is thick enough, the rubber mat may not be necessary, or you may want to use a thinner piece of craft foam or plastic. The answer is experimentation.
AT NO POINT DID I MAKE THE MACHINE STRUGGLE. Quite the opposite, in my tests it seemed I was using a very gentle pressure.
You could also put the rubber mat on the base, add the card then the embossing item then layer B. Your choice, but it works. This one was a thin card frame cut on my SB. The yellow card is heavy card.

I discovered that even really thin acetate stencils would leave an impression. Even tiny cut out shapes you buy (like sequins) work.

 Especially on foil card!

 Lovely! Make patterns with a hot glue gun on a piece of card. Let it dry. Dust with talc and brush off excess. That is so good, it will impress into thick watercolour paper. I have, though, discovered that if you do a glue pattern and then use foil, it sticks. Which may be a result you want....or not! Strange, since the glue had been left for over 24 hrs. If I'd wanted it to stick, it wouldn't have!
Sorry, the photo is not good. Looks better in reality!

But it did give me an idea..
It also makes a great way of using the press on foil, either with writing or having sprayed glue through a stencil...

Like with this gold fish...

Pieces of netting.

Even stamps I have made out of fun foam will work on paper.

The stamps I made out of the  Dora Explorer table mats - dual purpose!

This was on 250 gsm card though.

On kitchen foil scraps

 This is just the beginning. So basically, if you can cut it out, you can emboss with it.  And if you want, you can combine a stamped image with an embossed one.....aaah, the possibilities!

I'll post an update when I have played a bit more!