Before you can transition from a newbie to a veteran crafter, there are some tricks of the trade that some first time craft enthusiasts may not be aware of when they first go to use adhesive or iron-on vinyl with their Silhouette or Cricut machine. Now, I understand there are instructions placed in these machines for a reason and yes, I do read them…sometimes. But there are some things even the experts can leave out when explaining how to achieve your goal of cutting out the perfect design so for those crafters out there, here’s a little pre-cutting help.
Vectorize. This is probably the most important thing you should know going into working with a Silhouette cutter. I have worked with both Cricut’s and Silhouette’s. In my opinion, I like Silhouette better. Its software is much easier to load up, you can easily download images straight into the program, and you don’t need any cartridges or extra stuff just to do one project. Moving on…before you start a project you HAVE to be certain your design is a vector art. If it’s not and it’s just an image (JPEG, PNG, etc.) it will cut a big square, not your design. Not sure how to do this or where to do it? You can either purchase designs through Silhouette (they are already vectorized), or you can make a vector using Adobe Illustrator. There are lots of different programs out there to achieve this but my favorite is Adobe Illustrator.
If you already know how to do this, feel free to skip ahead. Here’s a brief overview of what you need to do:
Step 1: Open Adobe Illustrator, go to “File>New” and open a new blank document.
Step 2: Go to “File>Place”. This will prompt you to open your image file.
Step 3: With your image opened, move your image off the white blank background (I do this because once the trace is removed, you’ll be able to see only your design) follow this link for further instructions: http://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/using/image-trace.html
Step 4: This is now technically vectorized, however for Silhouette you have to remove any “grouped” layer and the “compound path”.
Step 5: To do this, go to the layers icon along the right-hand side (it looks like a stack of papers and says “Layers” when you hover).
Step 6: Open the layer’s drop down menu and you will see “compound path”. Click on compound path and go to “Edit>Compound Path” and click “release”. This will remove the compound path.
Step 7: Next, go to “Object>Ungroup”
Step 8: Also, make sure your design doesn’t have any fill or stroke. It needs to only be the outline before you export it as a “DXF” file. “File>Export>AutoCAD Interchange File (*.DXF)” *Keep in mind that your design will be CUT out, so if you have lots of tiny lines or details, it’s going to make it very difficult to pull off your carrier and apply.
This all may seem pretty extensive but I’m the kind of person who can’t settle for just any vector image. If you have your heart set on a specific design and it’s not a vector, I’m telling you this is the best way to do it. It’s a win, win!
Here’s examples of what your file starts as, should be converted to, and how your vector image should look in Silhouette Studio:
Keep Your Cutter On A Table Top or Flat Surface. I live in a small two-bedroom apartment sized house. With two of us, two cats, and husky-retriever mix, there’s not much room for crafting so I have to be creative when it comes to where I begin my projects. I thought putting it on the floor, on a floor RUG for that matter and the rug fibers didn’t hold as much texture and resistence as a solid table top, so my vinyl kind of slid around when actively cutting.
Make Triple Sure Your Cutting Mat (or Free Standing Vinyl) is Secure Under Holding Bar. When it’s not, you get this effect…lopsided, swinging vinyl as your cutter tries to create your design. It ends up looking like this hot mess:
Test Different Sizes Before Application. If you’re trying to cut a design for a very specifically sized item, like a wood block or frame, be sure to test different size options before applying. The sizing on Silhouette may say this many inches by this many inches, but after measuring my design after its cut, the real life thing, it was slightly smaller than what I entered into Silhouette. So, if you have the extra vinyl to do so, maybe get a general idea of sizes, and test 2 or 3 to make sure it will all fit onto your project. These ones below are way too big!
Do Not Apply Your Vinyl Free Handed. This is a big one. Save yourself the stress and frustration of placing your vinyl exactly…super…perfectly…perfect and then, “ah! It’s uneven!” Get some masking tape or even better, transfer tape. All you have to do is place the tape onto your perfectly aligned, cut designs. Peel off (letters attached now to the tape), and apply to your frame (or whatever you’re sticking it to). You may have heart surgeon hands and can make perfect placements, but for those who don’t this is a crucial step.
Now, I don’t think this looks too terrible, but you can definitely see how my words toward the bottom are offset. Transfer or masking tape is definitely the way to go. I am a little bummed this didn’t turn out as well as I planned but I went with a bigger sheet, so I have plenty left over to give it one more go! Don’t worry, I’ll post this finished craft project again, this time without error! 🙂
Not everyone encounters these same problems their first time around, but I think this can all be helpful to those who do! Hope these tips help you in your future crafting endeavors! Be sure to check back each week for more blog posts at HappyCrafters.com and project tutorials, or check out our Facebook and Pinterest page for even more project ideas.