I received my PixScan mat and have had a chance to play with it a bit. So here’s an update on what we know now about PixScan:
-The mat is thick. .019″ thick according to my calipers. Nearly twice as thick as a standard Silhouette mat (.010″) and almost as thick as a Cricut mat (.022″). This is important because some of us had come to the conclusion that using Cricut mats was what was causing problems when we cut vinyl without a mat. I for one, had sworn off Cricut mats, but obviously need to rethink that.
-The mat is opaque. This is an unfortunate design choice because it makes it impossible to backlight the mat to get a better photo.
-Taking a calibration photo can be a challenge. You need to light from the side so that you don’t block the light when you hover over to take the photo, which has to be from straight above. A great tip is to mount the calibration page on a wall and take the photo from a more natural position. Magnets on the fridge would be an easy solution if your kitchen is well lit. I am hearing from a number of people who simply have not been able to calibrate at all, receiving repeated error messages. The Silhouette Plus forum is building a library of calibration images so you might want to check there to see if you can download an image for your camera. Also don’t forget that some devices are precalibrated (see the list in this blog post).
-The PixScan software if pretty accepting of the image photos (different from the calibration photos), but since you still have to trace the images, a better photo (in focus, and brightly lit) will make the job easier.
-In terms of accuracy, results are all over the map. Some people are getting very impressive results, while others (even knowledgeable ones) have a good bit of “white sliver” showing. This doesn’t surprise me because there are so many variables. I can’t get my mat to lay perfectly flat, for instance, and I know that throws off the correction. I expect this to be a bigger issue as mats wear.
-PixScan, as we expected, is simply not as accurate as standard Print and Cut. SA recommends using an inner offset to eliminate white slivers. I would recommend either an inner or standard offset and a design that is forgiving of minor mismatches. If you demand pinpoint accuracy, PixScan is likely to disappoint you. And don’t spend a lot of time tweaking and point editing your trace because it isn’t going to be worth the effort.
-Mat loading position is essential for getting registration marks read. The left edge of the mat should not cover the mat loading guideline on your machine. Don’t be surprised if you have to try multiple times. Hopefully this will be corrected in a software update.
-PixScan works fairly to very well with a camera, but not with a scanner. It is difficult if not impossible to get a proper set of scans that will automatically stitch together and in the process you expose your scanner bed to mat adhesive and your mat to possible creasing from the scanner lid. Detailed instructions might help, but there are none available to date.
-The PixScan layer can not be toggled off to make it easier to edit trace lines. Another example of poor implementation of layers in V3 that I hope will be corrected in future versions.
-My advice, scan your image without the mat to obtain the cut lines as you would do without PixScan, then use PixScan to determine the correct position for those cut lines. This adds steps, but gives you the best of both worlds for an overall less frustrating experience and better results.
-In my opinion, Silhouette’s PixScan technology has rendered the Brother ScanNCut obsolete. Kudos for a great idea that makes Silhouette’s otherwise mediocre software a player again.
-Despite the issues mentioned above, I am excited about this technology and the ways it expands what we can do with our Silhouettes. I’ve already been putting it to use and will be reporting on the things I think it works better than existing methods for.
My image photo of scrapbook paper on the PixScan mat using precalibrated iPhone 4s. Note that the image photo needs to include the entire mat, but can be from an angle.
As imported and interpreted by PixScan
Cut lines added by tracing (no offset applied)
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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
Fill it with stamped images. Tip: You can even emboss them, as long as its dark enough for the scanner to pick up.
After scanning it and saving as a .jpg, load it on the mat
Using the cut file I prepared in the video (above), these were my results
Even I had forgotten how well this technique works
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.
Also, for tips on tracing stamped images to use with this technique or with your new PixScan mat, check out this earlier video
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
Take a look at my Robots category for an example.
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
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.