An easy way to cut on scraps

PixScan promises to make it easy to cut on scraps, but it’s really pretty easy now, if you know the trick.

Note: You can use this method in V2 as shown in the video or in V3. In V3, however, you need V3.0.531 or later to have arrow keys, and you have to do one test cut first before you can move the blade with the on screen arrows.

August 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm 30 comments

What we know about PixScan so far

Can you explain what it is?

PixScan takes a photo or scanned image of a physical mat and places it on the virtual mat in exactly the right size, orientation and position. To do this, you need a specially marked PixScan mat and a software module that is built into Silhouette Studio v3.1 and higher. You put your image or item on the physical PixScan mat, snap a photo or scan it, and, once imported into Silhouette Studio, the PixScan technology resizes it, corrects for angles (camera) or stitches it together (scan). From there you can trace or otherwise place cut lines for precise cutting, drawing or designing. The example shown below uses a simulated mat since I do not have one yet. Pretty impressive.

after&before

What is it good for?

PixScan is for cutting out preprinted images that can’t be printed from Silhouette Studio with registration marks for standard Print and Cut. In other words, PixScan is for when you can’t print the marks on the same page you want to cut out of. Examples would be cutting out images from wrapping paper, greeting cards, decoupage sheets, or cutting out images you have stamped and even embossed.

You can also use it to cut from precut sheets, so, for instance, adding borders to or cutting out shaped windows from precut cards. You can also use it to position cuts with respect to the particular pattern on a page, or to cut from oddly shaped scraps.

As you probably already know, certain media don’t lend themselves to printing and/or reading registration marks on. Black paper, for instance, or transparency film or foil or any of the media that Silhouette machines have trouble reading the marks from can be put on a PixScan mat instead. Potentially big benefit here.

We can even combine standard print and cut with PixScan cuts. For instance, print and cut a page of shaped tags or bookmarks, laminate them, then use PixScan to cut around them with a margin so that the laminated edges stay sealed.

Another application would be for designing things at true size, when the original might not be convenient to scan. If you have a gasket to replace, for instance, use PixScan to help you design a new one for an exact fit. Similarly, you could design a cut file to perfectly match an acrylic keychain shape.

Many high end users have issues with the print colors out of Silhouette Studio and prefer to print from Photoshop, etc. That is another good use for PixScan.

Finally, PixScan gives you a way to print and cut a full 8-1/2 x 11 page (Cameo only) instead of having to leave room for registration marks as you do now.

Do I have to update to V3?

Yes, you have to update to V3.1.417 or higher to use the PixScan technology. You can get the update here.

Do I need separate PixScan software?

No, PixScan is built into Silhouette Studio V3.1.417 and higher.

Which machines will this work with?

The Silhouette Cameo and the Silhouette Portrait. The Cameo will only work with the PixScan Cameo mat and the Portrait will only work with the PixScan Portrait mat.

How much does PixScan cost?

The software update is free. All you need to buy is a PixScan mat, which retails for $14.99USD, the same prices as a standard Cameo mat. You will not want to use PixScan mats exclusively though, because the cutting area is smaller than a standard mat.

Do I need Designer Edition?

No.

Do I have to have a smartphone?

No, all you need is a camera or a scanner.

Do I need a special app?

No, the PixScan technology does the photo processing.

Do I have to have a scanner?

No, you can use a camera.

What if my scanner doesn’t work with Silhouette Studio?

You can use any camera.

How do I get my photos from the camera/phone to the computer?

That will depend on your camera/phone or computer. Check online help sources for the most convenient methods for you.

How is this different from just scanning?

When you scan, assuming you save as jpg, you have the image at the right size; but with PixScan you also have it at the right position and orientation on your virtual mat for cutting.

How is this different from Print and Cut?

With Print and Cut, you start by printing your design, along with registration marks, on a blank, uncut sheet of paper. With PixScan, the material you will be cutting is already printed and/or your page is already cut. Both processes rely on having the cutlines in the same relative position to the registration marks on the physical mat as they are on the virtual mat. In Print and Cut this is accomplished simply by printing the marks on the page from within the software. With PixScan, the marks are fixed on the mat itself, and the software interprets the photo or scan you input to determine the correct relative position of the cut lines.

Is this better than Print and Cut?

This is not better or worse than Print and Cut, it simply extends Print and Cut to cover new uses that aren’t practical now.

Can I use this instead of the old Print and Cut?

You can, but there won’t usually be an advantage in doing that, and there may be some disadvantages. For instance, in standard Print and Cut, you may already have a cut line, whereas with PixScan you have to create one. (You can combine the two methods, of course, but that adds to the complexity).

Do I still have to trace?

Yes, you still have to trace to get the cutlines. If you need to brush up on tracing, make sure and check out my Tracing without Tears video series.

This video specifically about tracing stamped images may also be helpful

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo38Hx7BjaE

How did they get the cut line for the bicycle in the promo video?

In my opinion, that cut line was manually drawn. There is no line in the original to trace and no software that I know of can trace an imaginary line.

biketrace

Can I use it with an SD?

Sorry, no, the SD uses different registration marks and there is no mat or programming to support it.

Do I have to calibrate my camera/phone?

If you are not using one of the smartphones/tablets that has calibration data already built in (see list below) to Silhouette Studio you will need to do a one time calibration of your camera. It involves printing a test page, photographing it and importing it into Silhouette Studio. Complete instructions can be found on page 35 of the manual (find the manual under the Help menu in Silhouette Studio). I recommend you visit this blog post from Debbie where she shows you exactly what a successful calibration photo looks like.

What smartphones/tablets are supported without calibration?

  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Apple iPad mini
  • Apple iPhone 4s
  • Apple iPhone 5c
  • Apple iPhone 5s
  • HTC Desire 300
  • HTC EVOV 4G
  • Nokia Lumia 520
  • Panasonic DMC-TZ55
  • Samsung GT-P3113
  • Samsung SM-T230
  • Samsung SPH-L720
  • Samsung WB250F, WB251F, WB252F
  • Sony C6603

I can’t update, are there alternatives?

Yes, for cutting and stamping here, for cutting from scraps here. There are also a number of smartphone/tablet scanner apps such as Genius Scan and Turbo Scan that can correct photos for more accurate tracing.

A good video that shows the PixScan process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj4HGLIAFd8

August 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm 30 comments

Stamp and Cut with Silhouette Studio – Reg Mark Method

stampncut

A lot of times I don’t post things because I assume you already know them, and later find out you don’t. The hoopla over the PixScan mats has shown me that many of you don’t know what you can do with the mats and software you already have. So I am going to post this, in case you don’t want to wait on PixScan, and because this will help you understand how PixScan works. One of the benefits to the Pixscan will be to cut out stamped images. But as you can see here, it’s already pretty easy to do that.

The pics below show what the video couldn’t, but won’t make any sense without this video.

The blank stamping canvas has only registration marks

IMG_4337

Fill it with stamped images. Tip: You can even emboss them, as long as its dark enough for the scanner to pick up.

IMG_4338

After scanning it and saving as a .jpg, load it on the mat

IMG_4340

Using the cut file I prepared in the video (above), these were my results

IMG_4341

Even I had forgotten how well this technique works

IMG_4342

PixScan works similar to this, except the marks are on the mat, and the mat is too big to scan so you either have to stitch together the images or use a photograph instead. You won’t get as clean a trace from the PixScan method, but you also won’t have to use a full sheet of your stamping paper, so there are tradeoffs.

There are other techniques we use that are even more similar to the PixScan technology, like when we use a “jig” to cut an 8-1/2 x 11 page using a 12 x 12 page with reg marks and a letter size cutout. But the more complicated our methods get, the more room for PixScan to improve upon it, though, so until we know how well PixScan works, we may as well lay aside our homebrew methods for a bit.

photo of the “jig” I use for cutting preprinted items of for printing and cutting a full 8.5 x 11.

IMG_4343

Also, for tips on tracing stamped images to use with this technique or with your new PixScan mat, check out this earlier video

 

 

August 3, 2014 at 4:44 pm 54 comments

Making the most of Dafont.com

Making the most of Dafont.com video and written tutorial. Tips and tricks for using everyone's favorite font download site.

Most everyone knows you can download awesome free fonts at Dafont.com, but it’s got some other features you may be missing out on. Here’s a list of some cool things you can do at Dafont besides downloading:

1. Preview fonts with your own text

2. Customize the size of the text and number of fonts per page

3. View different cases of your preview text

4. View/download a character key

5. View all the variants of a font

6. Filter for commercial use OK fonts

7. Find fonts by the same designer

8. Find fonts in the same category

9. Browse fonts by category

10. Browse fonts by designer

11. Filter for foreign features

12. Create your own categories

13. Learn how to install fonts

14. Get help identifying a font

15. See the newest uploads

16. Sort by popularity, name or date

dafont1-1

dafont5

dafont3-1

dafont2

dafont4

Take a look at my Robots category for an example.

July 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm 11 comments

Using Laura Worthington fonts with Silhouette Studio

There’s an exciting development in the type design world and that is that a few designers are starting to fully map their OTF fonts to Unicode so that they are more accessible to those without Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and expensive design software that has been required in the past.

Laura Worthington is not only one of our favorite type designers as diecutters, but she has taken the lead on this. Her information on accessing all the special characters in her fonts with Windows is here. I took this a step further with a video on how to use her fonts in Silhouette Studio for Windows.

Update: I already made this video twice, but I keep finding mistakes and things I should have added as I explore this topic more and answer your questions. Please note the following

The prerequisites (shown and discussed at the beginning and end of the video) should be:

-Any Windows version of Silhouette Studio (even V2 standard, contrary to what I say in the video)

-Fonts coded for Character Map (or fully mapped to Unicode)

-Desktop font purchased, OTF version installed

On the Mac side, some of my earlier techniques are no longer working because the necessary web app has been discontinued. The method Laura recommends does work with Silhouette Studio but, like mine referenced above, is also quite contorted. My research has led me to believe that the best solution for MacOS 10.8 (or 10.9 with Silh Studio basic) is a $9.95 app called Ultra Character Map, but since it only runs on Mac OS 10.8 or better, I haven’t been able to test it myself yet.
If you run MacOS 10.9, I’ve just discovered a new free solution. Drag and drop characters from Font Book’s Repertoire view into a Text Edit document. Then copy that from Text Edit into Silh Studio DE with an active text cursor.

Another Mac option is Inkscape. In Inkscape you can enter Unicode values into a text cox directly by typing Cntr-U first then the code. So  you would use Font Book Repertoire view and hover over the character you want to determine the Unicode value, then type it into Inkscape. When you are done, convert text to path (Path>Object to Path) and then save as SVG for import into SSDE or as DXF for import into SS basic edition.

UPDATE: Gioviale by Laura Worthington is on sale right now at Mighty Deals.

So far the only other fonts I have found that are fully mapped are from Yellow Design Studio. You may know them from the beautiful Melany Lane font. (They also designed Thirsty Script but as far as I know it is not fully mapped)

Here’s a freebie you can try out: Gist Upright

June 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm 27 comments

Latest Silh Studio Update

Version 3.0.531 was released today and I have run it against my list of more than 3 dozen bugs. About a third have been fixed, about a third have not been fixed and about a third will take time to investigate. I have also found a few new bugs in this version, which has not had the thorough beta testing the last version had. I still see no advantage of V3 over V2 that is worth the additional clunkiness/bugs and would advise most people against updating for the time being.

May 27, 2014 at 5:15 pm 53 comments

Grad overlays and a revised opinion

I spent some time working on graduation projects recently and made some custom backgrounds I wanted to share. Problem is, your school colors are probably different, and somebody would be left out. My solution was to make some transparent overlays so you can put your colors beneath to show through as the color of the lettering when the overlay is on top as shown in this screen shot. Hope you enjoy using these!

Overlays shown atop 4 different colors

And if you need more help, here’s a video on using the overlays that will make things clearer. And another post with more overlays and information here.

Right click above and choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As” for 2014 grad cap overlay tile

Right click above and choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As” for 2014 grad cap overlay tile

Right click above and choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As” for 2014 grad star overlay tile

Right click above and choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As” for 2014 grad star overlay tile

Now for the bad news, After I got these made, I discovered that PNGs don’t maintain their transparency once you put them in the Library. Yet another item for the “removed features” list. But these will work fine if you drag them from your hard drive or merge them to your mat. A lot less convenient if you don’t have DE. Sorry about that.

In fact, in working on a number of projects with V3 (SSDE 3.0.343 to be exact) over the last week or so, I found that while a lot of the design issues were resolved, the software is slow, buggy and just generally frustrating. So I’m retracting my recommendation regarding upgrading to V3. I just don’t think the meager new features are worth the trouble. I am hard pressed to think of a project that wouldn’t be easier in V2. Silhouette America is still working, and I’m still hopeful we’ll get resolution. Let’s keep reporting the issues we find, pressing SA to fix what’s broken and deliver a meaningful upgrade.

May 7, 2014 at 5:03 pm 19 comments

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