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

Silh Studio V3 … Let’s try this again

The folks at Silhouette America have been very busy for the last couple of weeks, heeding what they read here and what thousands of you told them via phone, email and social media about the first release of Silhouette Studio version 3.0.293 (or what Duane from one of the FB groups so aptly dubbed, the Titanic version.) I’m pretty impressed with the way Silhouette has handled this, owning the problems instead of blaming them on us, and reaching out even to those who were, ahem, harsh with their analysis.

I’ve been helping with the beta testing, version after version, sometimes more than one a day. And I’m not the only “real” user that SA pulled into the loop this time. I can tell you that we have been heard and that the most irritating things about the unfortunate earlier version have been fixed. And for those of you that are waiting to hear from me, I say jump on in, the water’s fine. You can download the new version here. Read the lengthy release notes here. Update: Download the new manual here.

SA has pledged to keep on working, so my updated, removed feature list is below. Please let them hear about any of these that are important to you.

-Ability to drag a pattern into a shape from the desktop or a folder in a new document (removed from standard in v2.7, now removed from DE). Now works but only when a document has been closed and reopened.

-Blade advance arrows. This is a problem for Portrait users who do not have arrow buttons on their machines and so, can not reset the origin or cut multiple test cuts. Portrait users, don’t stand for this. It severely devalues your machine.

-Ability to manually detect registration marks. This is a biggie for folks who like to push the envelope with specialty media and oddball techniques. Surely I’m not the only one.

-Ability to drop a file onto your SS app icon to open it. This no longer works, even for .studio files for some reason.

-Ability to import a font from the hard drive to the library. (this was removed from the basic edition previously and has now been removed from DE)

-Ability to open AI files in Mac version (this was never a published feature so SA not likely to admit it was removed or try to restore it)

-Number of color theme choices reduced from 8 to just 3 (changed for Silhouette branding purposes. In other words, its about them, its not about us)

And we still haven’t gotten the 3 biggest things I hear asked for 1) ability to save as SVG and 2)layers and 3)ability to edit keywords, etc for files in library.

Ok, technically V3 has layers now, but this is not the kind of functionality we waited so long for, or the level of polish we’ve come to expect from SA. It is clunky and confusing and, did I mention, upside down. As an example, take a look at a file after I imported a few layered images. You’ll see layers and sublayers, none of which I created, and all of them are named “Layer 1.” So for now, enjoy the other features, and let’s keep the pressure on SA to give us logical, useful layers like the competitors have had for years now. They can do better, and they will, but I’m not letting them off the hook until it is accomplished.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.53.10 PM

Here’s a video from Doodling Debbie that’ll show you around the new update.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hba6M8qM_V4

A note about file types: This new version of SSDV3 lets you save as .studio3 (File>Save or File>Save As>Save As…) or .studio (File>Save As>Save as Legacy(V2)…)version. I plan to save everything as .studio (legacy) unless it specifically contains layers or some other feature of V3 that will not translate back to V2. I hope that most of you will use this strategy as well, to facilitate easier file sharing and to make it easier to go back to an earlier version if you need to. You will need to use Save As Legacy each time you save the file, as using Save alone will save a .studio3 version.

Now let’s get back to enjoying our Silhouettes!

April 16, 2014 at 7:18 pm 69 comments

Character map template for Silhouette Studio

A while back, I posted Character Map templates for Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator. The purpose of these is to make it quick and easy to make a one page reference map of the main glyphs in a given font, especially dingbat fonts. Today I’m adding a Silhouette version to the lineup.

You can download the .studio template here, download the .studio3 template here  and instructions are in the margin of the file, but here’s a quick rundown. As with all my templates, I recommend you store them on your hard drive instead of your library and that you always work from a duplicate. An easy way to do this is to Save as and rename the file as soon as you open it.

Once you’ve opened a duplicate template, click anywhere in the middle of the page. You’ll see a bounding box to indicate that the grid is selected. Click the A button at the top of the screen (not the A button on the side of the screen).

charmap1-1

Select the font you want to map from the scrolling list on the right. You should see the characters change to the new font’s. Label the page by typing in the name of the font into the text box provided at the top of the page. This is optional, but will help you remember which font you are looking at.

charmap2-1

Here’s what a completed page looks like for my 09kutups font.

You can print the page, print it to PDF or just glance at it temporarily for reference. If you want to be able to use the characters after you uninstall the font, click the center of the page again to select the characters, choose Object>Convert to Path, then save the file.

And if you want some suggestions for great dingbats for cutting, here’s a great place to start. Ten Great Dingbats for Diecutting

April 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm 20 comments

Silhouette Studio v3 first impressions

Silhouette America released version 3 of Silhouette Studio and Silhouette Studio Designer Edition this afternoon and I managed to get it downloaded and installed before the now traditional server crash. The feature list is indeed impressive, headlined by the edition of layers to the Designer Edition (really? this is a DE feature? Even free Cricut software has layers, but I digress.) Users of the Silhouette Connect plug in for Illustrator and Corel Draw will find this new version familiar as it shares a new (but still kinda ugly) interface design and many features as well. But the new features come at a high cost, namely backward compatibility. And stunningly, SA did not create a new file extension so watch for tons of confusion in the days ahead.

This page is being frequently update so please check here and in the comments section for additional information.

Warnings for those who have updated

If you create a file in SS3 and someone with V1 or V2 tries to open it, they will get a message that an update is required before the file can be opened. You can only open V3 files in V3. Please consider marking the files you create in SS3 as such.

Note: At this point I do not anticipate problems with files in the Silhouette Online Store because those are not created in any version of Silhouette Studio.

If you use V3 to open a file that you or someone else created in V1 or V2, there are some significant issues as well:

-*the cut setting will be set to Card Stock, regardless of what it was before

-*there is no more Cut, Cut Edge, Perforate or Perforate Edge or No Cut so any of these you set will need to be re-set using a new method. Some combinations are no longer possible.

-*registration marks will be switched off and any adjustments will be lost.

-*dashed lines that were set under Line Styles will cut as solid lines.

What I really like

Nesting in the DE version – this is brilliant!

Select by color – yes!!

Adjustable pivot point in DE is now off by default, but can be activated when you need it. This is a change I asked for, then had to ask to back it out, so I am very happy about this change.

The arc tool is pretty sweet, but an option to draw a sector would have made it perfect.

SVGs are generally easier to use, especially layered ones. No more ungrouping and setting cut lines, before you can even get started.

Pasting text from the clipboard into a text box (what a novel idea!)

The foggy area outside the page is gone, making it easier to visualize designs off the mat, create tutorials, etc. Not as good as just letting us toggle the red line off, but nice.

Ability to pause between layers.

What they did not fix

*The eraser still freezes just as bad, major fail here. But the good news is at least you won’t lose your work since there is auto-save now.

*You still can not add or change keywords or descriptions of files in the library.

~*You still can not turn off the cutting red line or adjust it for a machine you do not have connected.

~*Goofy defaults like High Pass filter on under trace and offset to a quarter inch are still there.

The manual – that’s right, the same one that’s been outdated since 2012 has made its way into V3.

And of course, you still can not save as SVG (not only that but the v1.9/2.0 workaround has been greatly diminished since v3 files can’t be opened in these versions)

What were they thinking?

*Cut by color is by line color, not by fill color. This is just craziness. The work required to cut a Silh Store file or an SVG (that isn’t pre-layered) either by color or by layer is ridiculously and artificially high as you have to either manually place each piece on a separate layer or change the line color of each piece. Feature fail.

Layers are upside down. That’s right, in the layer window the top layer is on the bottom and vice versa. I wish I had a witty comment, but seriously. I am speechless.

Two freehand drawing tools – too smooth and not smooth enough. Give us something adjustable, please, our Wacoms are waiting!

Shadow tool – as in flat shadows only … the 1980s called, they want their design element back.

*PDF Import – This imports all PDFs as bitmaps that have to be traced, even if they were perfectly good vector files to begin with. Far cry from PDF import in MTC and SCAL.

Page and mat settings became even more confusing and inconvenient… not to mention buggy. Mine gets confused between Portrait and Landscape orientation sometimes (can you blame it, since Portrait is also the name of a machine?)

*Cut margins (the red line) only shows correctly in the Cut Preview, but you can not move the pieces from there. So you have to keep toggling back and forth between views to get your pieces in bounds. Why have the red line in the way on the normal view, if its not correct anyway?

“Vertical text” was added, but umm, its not what is generally meant by vertical text, it’s simply normal text rotated 90 degrees. In other software, “vertical text” means horizontal letters stacked on top of each other.

Major changes to how basic functions have to be done and not one single tutorial to be found from SA (or anyone else since no one had advance copies and authorization apparently).

What ticks me off

SA has once again removed features that we already paid for (or bought a machine with the understanding that these features were in place). Here are things we lost in V3

-*Ability to set individual objects to No Cut, Cut, Cut Edge, Perforate or Perforate Edge (you have to assign them a line color or move them to separate layers first)

-*Ability to share files with users of earlier versions

-Ability to drag a pattern into a shape (already removed from standard in v 2.7, now removed from DE)

-*Ability to set work space larger than cutting area

-*Ability to move and node edit in Cut Preview mode

-*Live Preview of file dragged over mat

-*Cut Preview no longer shows which lines will cut as dashed

-Blade advance arrows. This is a problem for Portrait users who do not have arrow buttons on their machines and so, can not reset the origin or cut multiple test cuts.

-Ability to manually detect registration marks.

-*Ability to mix Cut and Cut Edge, or Perforate and Perforate Edge, in a single document

-*Ability to select a block of text and cycle through font changes to it using the arrow keys

-*Ability to jump down in the font list using the first letter of the font

-*Dashed lines set under Line Styles no longer cut as dashed lines. (Dashed cut lines have to be selected under Cut Settings for each layer/color)

-*Inverted registration marks

-*Tool tips on modify panel (Y’all think I’m an expert, but the truth is I am lost without these)

-*Visibility of printable area

-*Hashmarks to indicate safe zones for print and cut

-Ability to open AI files in Mac version

-Number of color theme choices reduced from 8 to just 3

-*The offset button at the bottom of the screen now only makes 1/4 inch offsets instead of being adjustable as before.

Hopefully some of the above are bugs and not intentional omissions. But if not, please join me in holding SA accountable for this. I mean, what if you bought a car and a week later they came and ripped out your stereo? Update: *Asterisks above indicate items that SA representatives tell me they are aware of and working to fix.

My recommendation

For now I recommend that the newbies give us pros a little time to get ahead of you so we can answer your questions. For the adventurous, update but keep the old version loaded somewhere if you possibly can. You are not going to want to be learning this and adjusting your files on a deadline.

Important note: I am getting a lot of questions about how to rollback to the previous version, how to install multiple versions, how to restore your DE license, etc and I do not have the answers to these kinds of questions. Please check with the relevant forums, Facebook groups, blogs or Silhouette support for this kind of information.

Here are a couple of good videos that show SSV3 in action

April 2, 2014 at 11:07 pm 325 comments

Become a Knife Tool Ninja

CleverSomeday teaches how to be a Knife Tool Ninja!Turns out the Knife Tool in Silhouette Studio Designer Edition isn’t as boring and useless as I originally thought. Take a gander at these 7 things you didn’t know it could do and watch the video to become a Knife Tool Ninja!

1) Constrain to horizontal, vertical and 45 degree angles. For the straight knife this is done with the Shift key, no big secret there. But for the pattern knives, let the knife “snap” to these positions (no settings for this,  it’s just automatic).

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.22.49 AM

Important Ninja Secret: For these next 6 tricks, you must uncheck the Auto Apply box after selecting the Knife Tool.

autoapplyknife

2) Change the width. Default line width for the knife tool leaves a problematic gap. Go to the Line Settings panel to reduce it to 0.05 for a negligible gap,

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.16.35 AM

or set it high to cut a wide swath.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.17.17 AM

3) Adjust the pattern. The red dot adjusts amplitude (height or width) of the pattern knives. The slider adjusts the wavelength or distance between repeats.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.15.35 AM

You can also rotate or flip your knives so your scallops, for instance are facing the right direction.

4) Point edit the knife. The top 3 knives (straight, poly and curve) can be point edited just like any other shape them for precision placement before you apply the knife.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 12.08.18 PM

5) Copy and paste, duplicate or replicate a knife. I know!

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.12.38 AM

6) Convert knife to path. Object>Convert to Path to turn a knife into a path. Get more mileage out of the pattern knife tools by using them to create plain old cut or draw lines. In fact, you don’t even have to convert the knife for it to function this way, so it can remain easily adjustable. How cool is that!

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 1.02.09 PM

7) Save knives to your Library. Got a favorite size, shape, pattern or width? Save it with a document, or to your Library for easy access instead of recreating it each time.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.19.19 AM

March 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm 26 comments

Centerline trace with Rapid Resizer

I’ve covered Rapid Resizer before but I want to go into more detail on one of its most useful features, the centerline trace. Let’s say we want to take a line drawing and sketch it with gel pens in our diecutter. If we trace it in our cutting software we will get a double line trace, and our sketch will not look natural. What we need is a way to trace down the center of the line. Rapid Resizer gives us an easy way to do this.

cltracedolphins

Written steps follow.

Find an image you want to trace. I picked this coloring book image of dolphins and downloaded it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 2.58.37 PM

Next I opened the Rapid Resizer Raster to Vector Online Converter and clicked the Choose File button and navigated to the image I just downloaded. Select centerline trace from the first pulldown box and SVG from the second (you can also choose DXF if you do not have Silhouette Studio Designer Edition or another program that can open SVGs). Click the trace button.

rrcltrace2

If you chose SVG, you will see the results of the trace on the next screen. Right click to choose Save File or go to the File menu and choose Save Page As (this may vary slightly depending on your browser) and name and save the SVG to the location of your choice.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 2.58.13 PM

Open the SVG in your cutting software and prepare to draw as you would any other SVG sketch file.

To use these SVGs in Cricut Design Space choose vector upload.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 8.44.55 PM

While Rapid Resizer is the easiest way I’ve found to do centerline traces, it is limited and won’t work well on all or even most images. The best centerline tracing options are Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, but there are a couple of other free options. Kristy over at Craftermath has tutorials for the Autotrace web app and for Win Topo.

March 4, 2014 at 10:44 pm 9 comments

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