Posts tagged ‘photo’

Part 6 … Tracing Without Tears

For those of you who have been clamoring for a tutorial on tracing photos, I’m happy to announce the release of Tracing without Tears Part 6. I’ve learned so much along the way, and have become impressed at how much you really can do with just the limited capabilities in Silhouette Studio. I thought this would be the end of the series, but I’ve got a few extra tips and tricks that didn’t fit in the other videos so I guess there will be at least one more after this. Thanks again for all your kind comments and encouragement.

And in case you missed Part 1 (intro), you can find it here,Part 2 (threshold) is here, Part 3 (line art) is here , Part 4 (print and cut) is here, and Part 5 (filter tech) is here.

And there’s a playlist here.

March 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm 19 comments

Stencilizer: a shortcut for diecutters

My latest web app crush is squarely on Stencilizer, a cool online tool for automatically posterizing, smoothing, vectorizing and color separating photo input. Upload an optimized (clear, close up, cropped, background removed, high contrast) image and Stencilizer first presents you with 9 choices in various brightness levels and number of colors.

Choose your favorite and then Stencilizer yields up to 5 SVG files ready to download, cut and layer.

In addition to its intended purpose of making layered stencils, I see at least 3 more ways the digital diecutting community can put this tool to use. First off, if you are familiar with the stunning Paper Portraits by Greg over at Paper Kutz Studios you may have wished for a lazy crafter’s version. Stencilizer gives you that.

The Stencilizer output is not nearly as detailed as what you would get through the meticulous methods Greg generously shares in his tutorials, of course, but should work fine for smaller projects, greeting cards, etc. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I can foresee combining the Stencilizer output with Greg’s advice on paper colors to create some nice pieces.

Secondly, rendering photos in vinyl for tiles and for etching on vases, etc is very popular. File creation has been a challenging proposition, though, as most crafters lack the image editing savvy to translate a photo into a single color cut file that is recognizable, much less flattering. While the SVG files from Stencilizer are not suitable for vinyl work, the enlarged previews it generates are adequate for tracing.

I’ve put together a video tutorial on how you can use Stencilizer to make cut files for vinyl. In it I use Silhouette Studio for the tracing, but any cutting program or Inkscape would do the job just as well if not better.

Though not diecutter related, I will mention (since it happens to be October) that you could use Stencilizer in this same manner for custom pumpkin carving designs. Assuming the black will be cut out, be sure you add “bridges” so that you don’t have any white completely surrounded by black.

Thirdly, Stencilizer works well for the posterization needed for the hatched sketch technique I recently posted and for other projects such as glitter/sand painting where areas of discreet color need to be delineated. The SVG files Stencilizer generates are meant to be stacked, so they will not work for this, as we can not have hatching layers overlap, but once again, the previews can be traced with good results.

I’ve made a video on using Stencilizer as part of the sketching process, too.

Finally, let me mention that Stencilizer’s revenue stream comes from sales of custom cut paper stencils. Since those of us with our own diecutters will not need to buy stencils, I encourage you to take advantage of Stencilizer’s donate button if you find the web app useful.

October 19, 2012 at 8:51 am 13 comments

How to sketch a photo with your diecutter

Ever wished you could sketch a photo with a pen in your diecutter? Well, I found a way, if you’ve got enough patience. The general steps are as follows: simplify photo, posterize photo, vectorize posterized photo, hatch fill each section with density corresponding to color, randomize the hatching, save as svg, send to cutter.

It’s a simple idea, but tedious to execute. I am surprised I wasn’t able to find software to do this automatically (that’s a big hint to you programmers out there). Anyway, here is my tutorial. It assumes you have at least an intermediate comfort level with Inkscape, and some basic photo editing skills as well.

To do this you will need:

  • Inkscape
  • Eggbot extensions for Inkscape installed. Click here for download link and installation instructions.
  • some sort of photo editing software that has a Posterize command or ability (I used Photoshop. You could use Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, Gimp,,, iPhone apps like ToonPaint, etc.)
  • large clear photo with good contrast.
  • diecutter and software that can read vector formats output by Inkscape. (Cricut users may be disappointed as its drawing capabilities are inferior to other consumer machines.)
  • method to hold a pen in your cutter. I use the adjustable marker holder from Chomas Creations.
  • suitable pen for drawing. I am using a Sharpie retractable pen.

Before you get started, it is a good idea to draw out the sample file I put together to help you see how the different fills will equate to the grays in an image. I have an SVG version and a .studio version for you to download. For best results, use the pen, settings, paper, any type of mat that you will be using for your final portrait.

It should look something like this when you are done:

Here’s the photo I started with

Using Photoshop, I:

-deleted the background

-changed the photo to black and white

-adjusted brightness and contrast

-posterized to 4 levels

The great thing about using Photoshop for this is that you can set up adjustment layers so that you can change the brightness and contrast and see the effect on the final posterization in real time.

-I also used the Dust and Speckles filter to smooth out the image

If you don’t have Photoshop, PSE or a similar program, the key here is to obtain  a 3 or 4 tone image that is relatively smooth (this is for the sake of efficiency, it doesn’t have to be as smooth as for cutting) and at least medium resolution. You might even try some of the web apps that produce an “Obama Poster” as these produce a similar effect, albeit in fairly low resolution. Another possibility is to do this directly in Inkscape concurrent with the Trace Bitmap step (take advantage of the Options tab). My original photo was too dark and lacked contrast so I did not have good results with these alternate methods, but I think better photos would work fine this way. There are dozens of methods for and tutorials on posterizing. Find one that fits your software and skill level.

Update, no make that News Flash: The online tool, Stencilizer,  is a useful online tool for the posterization and smoothing. See my video tutorial here.

Another update: Make the Cut has added a feature for this under Pixel Trace>Color>Grayscale.

-Next bring the image into Inkscape using the Import command and with the image selected choose Path>Trace Bitmap.

-We will be autotracing using the following settings: Grays checked, Smooth checked, and Stacked unchecked. The number of scans will depend on the number of colors in your image, more or less. Start with the same number as your posterization levels and experiment up or down a notch if you aren’t satisfied with the results.

And here is my result, shown ungrouped and split into the light, medium and dark layers for reference. There was an additional lighter layer, which I deleted.

-Size your image to the approximate size you will want the final sketch to be. If you change the size later it will affect the shading and might not appear the way you want it to.

-Make a copy of the trace to use as reference and drag it off to the side. Ungroup the working copy one time. You will have 3 or 4 paths, each representing one brightness level of the image.

You will probably find it easier to work with the pieces separately, but it is important to be able to bring them back together in exactly the right orientation. You can either paste each piece in place onto a separate layer or use shift-arrow to move the pieces in large discreet increments that make it easier to backtrack later. I put each piece on its own layer, titled light, medium and dark, so that I could toggle them on and off as needed, but also make frequent use of the shift-arrow technique for interim moves.

-Start with the darkest section and apply a hatch fill by selecting Extensions>Eggbot Contributed>Hatch Fill

-Choose an angle you’d like the strokes to lean with 0 being horisontal and 90 being vertical. In my case, I chose the angle to match the tilt of the subject’s head. You can choose any angle you like.

-You’ll want to refer to your sample swatches to help you select a setting for the hatch spacing. Smaller numbers mean the lines will be closer together, and the effect will be darker. Looking at my swatches for reference, I used 1.5 for black because I wanted the pen strokes to still be visible, but barely.

-It may help to switch to outline view (control- 5 on numeric keyboard to toggle) so you can see the hatching take effect.

-When the Hatch extension finishes, you will have a group of 2 objects: the original path and the hatched version. Ungroup them and move the original out of the way. (I sent it back to another layer for safekeeping.)

-Choose the next darkest color and repeat the steps above, using a larger setting for the hatch steps. I chose 2.7 and 3.5 for the medium and lighter colors respectively.

-To get a better idea of what your sketch will look like, select the entire hatched version and set the fill to none and the stroke to a width of 1 px.

-If you are satisfied with the relative shades of your hatching, its time to add some randomness to give the sketch a more hand-drawn look. Select one section and choose Extensions>Modify Path>Jitter Nodes.

You will want to experiment with settings to see what you like as results will vary depending on the size and composition of the image. The settings I used for my sketch are shown in the screen capture below.

-Repeat the Jitter Nodes process for each shaded section. You can use different settings for each one if you like. Longer strokes lend themselves to more displacement without distorting your image.

-Save a copy of your working document for safekeeping. Select the completed hatched and jittered sketch portion of your drawing and copy it to a new document and save it as SVG. If you are using Make the Cut or Sure Cuts a Lot, this SVG should be ready to import and draw as is.

Silhouette Studio DE users may also use this SVG version, however, if you have the standard version of Silhouette Studio, save the sketch as DXF instead.

-If you use either version of Silhouette Studio, you will need to set all the line widths to 0.0. Do this by going to the Line Style pane and sliding the slider all the way to the left.

-You will also need to go to the Cut Styles pane and set everything to Cut Edge.

It’s also a good idea to zoom in closely to verify that the cut lines are single, open paths, as that is what we want for pen sketching.

-It’s time to sketch your masterpiece. Choose the appropriate settings and find something else to do for the 15-30 minutes or so it will take this complex of a file to draw.

Here’s a scan of my sketched result, drawn with a Sharpie pen in my Silhouette SD. I think maybe I would like the middle tone a little darker next time, but you get the idea. Up close you can see the marker strokes and it really has a hand drawn look to it. From a distance, it looks even more like the original photo.

October 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm 14 comments

Way Cool Tool for your Mac

2013Update: Skitch has been bought by Evernote and absolutely destroyed. I no longer recommend it.

I can not remember when I have been more excited about a new piece of software than I am about Skitch. Skitch is a free screen shot/image sharing and annotating tool that is just so well designed you will have to see it to believe it. When you do you will find yourself asking yourself, “Why isn’t all software like this?” It seems like plasq has not only created a whole new kind of application we didn’t know we needed, but thought of everything as they built it and created an interface sure to be envied (and hopefully emulated) across all computerdom. I’m (obviously) not ashamed to gush over this combination application/web service which might just be the exception to that “if it seems too good to be true” rule.

Sample uses for the crafter/blogger might include
-taking, annotating, sizing and organizing screen shots for use in blog or print/pdf tutorials
-ditto for webcam shots
-cropping, resizing and annotating digital camera photos or scans for posting on blogs or message boards
-facilitating multiple images in a single post on Cricut message board
-creation of dummy thumbnails for scut or svg files

April 10, 2009 at 6:16 am 1 comment

Save money on wallet size photos

With graduation time approaching I thought I’d share a tip that saved me some cash last year. If you go though Walgreens, Walmart, etc., and order wallet sized photos, they will print them 4 to a sheet that is smaller than 4 x 6 inches total, but charge you .59-.99 versus .09-.19 for a 4 x 6 print. Fortunately, all you have to do to get around that is prepare your file “4-up” before you upload it to them and order 4 x 6s of that.


How you do this depends on the software you use. I use Photoshop, open my photo and crop it to 2 x 3″ (300dpi). Then I open a new file at 4 x 6″ (also 300dpi) and paste in the 2 x 3″ photo and then duplicate it 3 more times. You could do the same thing with multiple photos and any sizes that will fit within a 4 x 6″ document. Basically, you are making a simple collage and then cutting them apart after printing. The 4 x 6″ prints are the best value so it makes sense to do it this way, even if you have white space left over. The guy at the Walgreens photo counter may look at you funny when you pick them up, though :)

Update: Windows users may find the free utility Photosheet handy for this.

March 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm 4 comments

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