Thursday, November 8, 2012

How To Create a Layered Die Cut With Sure Cuts A Lot Software

Amelia is heading into the second year of a major Wonder Woman obsession. So, I create a lot of Wonder Woman scrapbook pages. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of scrapbook supplies featuring everybody's favorite Amazon princess. That's why I love the Sure Cuts A Lot software. I have version 2 of the software, which works with the Cricut machine. The newer version 3 software doesn't work with Cricut, but works most of the other die cutting machines. (You can still get version 2 on eBay for about the same cost as two regular-priced Cricut cartridges). On its own, it's really amazing software. It allows you to cut all of the fonts you already have on your computer. But, it really shines when you use it to create layered images. For example, if it's 11:00 P.M., and I absolutely need a die cut of Wonder Woman, I can fire up my computer and create this in about an hour:
In order to create a layered image with Sure Cuts A Lot, you'll need Photoshop or similar photo editing software, and a bit of patience. Each image is a process of trial and error. But the results are often nothing short of amazing.

First, you'll need the Sure Cuts A Lot software. If you're working with a Cricut, you'll have to do a bit of bargain-hunting. But, if you have a Silhouette, a Boss Kut, or an USCutter, you can download it here for only $60.

Next, choose the image you want to cut. I always try to choose an image with very crisp, clearly separated colors. If I can't find an image like that, I'll often trace the image I need and scan the traced image directly into Photoshop. That's what I've done here, with this image of Bowser, from Super Mario Bros.

Once your images has been scanned into your photo editing software, save it with a distinctive name. I've chosen to call this image "Bowser." Then, choose your favorite selection tool (I use the magic wand in Photoshop), select the entire image and, using Photoshop's paint bucket or a similar fill tool, fill it in with black or another dark color. (One of the quirks of Sure Cuts A Lot is that it won't trace a light-colored image)

Save this filled-in image as a separate file. I'm calling mine "Bowser Blackout." When you're ready to cut, it will be the background on which you assemble your image.

Next, decide which color you'd like to cut first, and select every portion of your image that is that color. I've chosen white, so I've used my magic wand tool to select Bowser's white fangs and the whites of his eyes. Once those are selected, I'll fill them in with black so they're easy for the software to trace.
Now, press ctrl+c, or choose "copy" from your menu to copy the selected portions of your image. Once they're copied, open a new file, and press ctrl+v or "paste" to paste those selected portions on your new page.
Once you've got your new file, you'll want to save it with a distinctive name. I'm calling it "Bowser White," so I know I'll need to cut this portion of my image on white paper.

Now, you'll need to repeat these steps for every separate color in your image. When I'm done, I'll have six files titled "Bowser Blackout," "Bowser White," "Bowser Yellow," "Bowser Green," "Bowser Orange," and "Bowser Peach." Wow - that's a lot of Bowser! You'll notice that I haven't created a "Bowser Black" file for his mouth and pupils. That's because the blackout background will serve as the color black.

Once I'm done separating the colors, I'll close out of Photoshop and open Sure Cuts A Lot. There's a little icon of a tree on the top of my page. I'm going to click on that, and the software will ask me what image I'd like to trace. I'm going to ask it to trace "Bowser Blackout" first, so I have a good base for my image.

Once I've traced my blackout background image, I'm going to trace my other colors. When I'm done, I should have Bowser's entire face on my screen.

You'll notice that Bowser is a little bigger than my cutting mat. I'm going to fix that now by using my cursor to draw a square around his entire face. That will select the entire image so I can resize it. You can resize an image by dragging your cursor and pressing "shift." Or you can resize the image using the menu at the right side of your page.

Once I've resized the image to my satisfaction, I'm going to select the different colors, cut them, and paste each one on a new page, so I can cut them separately. Once each color is on a separate page, I'm ready to cut.

Here's my finished layered die cut of Bowser:

Isn't he fabulous? I've used this technique to create so many different images. Here's Spider-Man
And, of course, I had to create Bowser's nemesis, Mario:

The sky really is the limit with this software. It's well worth the price.

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