Friday, June 18, 2010

So You Think You Can Cut?

A few years ago, my mom really got into scrapbooking and cardmaking, and started giving me extras of things she bought. At the time, I was focusing on learning electronic design (web and book design, on a small level; I'm no graphic designer), and I honestly wasn't sure what to do with all the brads and paper and ideas. One thing I found out quickly was that nothing is as relaxing for a person working in creativity than being creative in a different way. After a day of staring at a computer screen and worrying about code and "true colors" and leading and tracking and what-not, there was something almost spiritual about cutting out paper and immersing oneself in glue.

This last Christmas, Mom gave me a Cricut Personal Cutting machine that uses a cartridge with digital "dies". I was a little unsure how I would feel about having to design within the parameters of pre-designed images, but once I cut out a perfect letter, I was hooked. And having pre-designed images always sort of reminded me of the freedom of writing in form: you sometimes find more creative freedom within strict parameters.

And then I discovered Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL, or, as J calls it, "So You Think You Can Cut") and my life changed.

SCAL is a program that allows you to design your own images on your computer and then use your Cricut as a sort of USB printer. Provocraft, the makers of Cricut, offer their own program, but they showed no real interest in developing a Mac version and so I went the free-spirited, hackerish route of SCAL. Sorry Cricut, but I already gave my loyalty (and all my money) to Apple.

The SCAL platform is truly fantastic, mimicking the familiar Adobe-type design platform. It's a lot like working in Illustrator, especially for vector manipulation. You can use special .svg files, or just import an image and SCAL will break it into cut lines. Once you have the image in SCAL, you can manipulate it any way you want.

Oh, and did I mention that you can use any font? The possibilities are endless.

My cousin has the Silhouette personal electronic cutter, which never needs cartridges and uses its own design program. There's also a program called Make the Cut, but, again, SCAL is the most Mac-friendly.

In any case, I'm not an illustrator, so even with super-SCAL I needed some images to start from. Have you heard of this amazing resource called the "Inter-Net"? It's really something else. I just googled "svg scal" and found a gillion folks who generously share their cut files. I learned so, so much from those free files.

Here's an example of a card I made using files from SCALe-files, hands-down the top site for intricate, free cut files. I added the Chinese letters for "Summer Solstice." Here's the file if you want to make your own:

As I mentioned earlier in this post, you can also import images to use as cut files. I found that coloring books are an easy resource for line-based images. I worry a lot about Creative Rights and try my best not to use others' work as my own. Here's a fun example of what I did with a Doberman and a kitten (all I did was import the images from a Google Image search, separate the layers, and click "cut"):

To be honest, the kitten was much more difficult than I had anticipated. The Dobermans were a dream: talk about a scrapbook-friendly dog! But I figured that I'd be able to easily find a SCAL-ready .svg of a kitten, free or not. Maybe I just didn't look in the right places, but I ended up using another color-book image and re-doing the eyes so that they cut correctly. Since early summer is kind of kitten season, here's the free SCAL file.

My favorite part of this card-making business is that it seems to be one of those universal languages, like cooking. On Mondays I send out a few cards to random acquaintances, and somehow I feel like I can accomplish whatever the week brings. And now I've found myself part of a real-life design team over at Too Many Ideas (thank you, Therese!) Every Monday for 3 months the team will present our takes on Therese's designs (PaperFacesDesigns).

Now to get back to cutting...

1 comment:

  1. Wow thats a lot of information on the cutting machines! the dogs look fabulous.


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