Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Few Tips for Layered Images

I have accumulated lot of Cricut cartridges over the years.  There are thousands and thousands of images that I could cut from them.  As someone with a "collector" personality I used to think I'd like to have them all.  However, the cartridges started multiplying too quickly for me to keep up!

There is a wide range in quality in the cartridges.  Some have been beautifully designed and are full of great images and others are rather disappointing in both the quality and complexity of cuts.  I dislike a cartridge that is marketed as a "full" cartridge and then has many empty key slots or entire keypad levels that repeat the same shape (one older example is the Sweet Treats cartridge).  Some are very specific to subjects that don't appeal to me and some have what I consider to be distorted images (examples are Shall We Dance and All Sports with very oddly proportioned figures).

I have always enjoyed designing with the shapes on the cartridges.  I have worked with the Design Studio program and the Gypsy from the time they came out and I have shared and taught others many of the workarounds I have figured out to achieve design goals that are difficult to realize in these programs.  Despite years of requests, there are still some very fundamental things that can't be done with Design Studio, the Gypsy or even the new Craft Room.

Lately I have been using other software programs and other machines to accomplish some of the things I can't do with the Cricut machines and software.  I am finding ways to get the results that I want from my designing with precision cuts, easy shadowing and a host of other design benefits.

I was thinking about the reasons I still keep using the Cricut now that I have tried some other options.  One important reason is that I haven't seen anything that truly compares with the ease of use for creating a multi-layered image.  The fact that you can make a very complex and lovely image like the one on this card without using a computer is very appealing (even though I really enjoy working on my computer!).

So, if you have waded through that rather long winded introduction, today I want to share a few tips on cutting and assembling an image that requires many colors and cuts to create all of the parts of the design.  This sweet little girl is from the Kates ABCs cartridge.  I don't own this one but I was able to borrow it from my neighbor (who was excited to realize she had something I don't! Thanks, Nancy!)

 I chose the image by looking through the handbook.  With the newer cartridges, the handbooks are a little easier to follow.  There is a picture of the main images fully assembled at the top left and just below that is a tiny keypad with the key for this image highlighted in red.  The colors given to each layer help you to see how everything is meant to fit together.  If you haven't made many of these images it is sometimes easiest to do the first one in the same or similar colors.  There are six cuts needed to create all of the pieces for this image.

 Whenever you are cutting an image that is made up of pieces cut from various keys, you need to make sure that you cut everything at the same size.  Just set your size dial once and then don't touch it again until all of the bits are cut out.  I used 4 inches for this cut and it fits nicely on an A2 (4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inch) card.  You must be sure that you DO NOT have the "real dial size" button selected when you are cutting images to layer.  If you use "real dial" all of the pieces will be cut at the size you chose and the layers will be far too big to work.

 Here are all of the pieces that are needed to produce this image.  There are 20 individual cuts and some are very tiny!  It is a good idea to put all of the pieces on a plain piece of cardstock or even to leave them on an old mat that has a little bit of stickiness to hold on to them until you are ready to assemble the image.

Before you start to glue anything you should do a "dry fitting" to make sure you know exactly where the pieces go and to figure out the order in which they should be added to the base.  There are usually tiny webbing cuts on the base of the image to help you see where to put the layers that will be attached.

 When you take the pieces off the base to start gluing, be sure to flip them over so the glue is on the back.  I use a glue pen (my favorite is the Creative Memories Precision Point Adhesive) and dot adhesive all over the little pieces.

You need to remember to add the layers gradually and build the design up.  In this example, there are seven layers by the time you get to the center of the flower by the bow on the little girl's hat.  Using a liquid adhesive will help you to make minor adjustments as you put each piece in place.

Once I am sure where each piece goes I flip most of the pieces and add the adhesive.  Some are very easy to slide into place but some are a bit more challenging.

Here on the hat you can see the cut marks that serve as guides for placing the upper layers.  Sometimes you need to be extra careful to line up the shapes.  For example, the flower on this hat is irregularly shaped and only fits properly in one direction.

When you get to the places where there is a tiny dot to add, I find it easier to put the adhesive on the spot where the dot should be placed and then move the dot over and drop it into position.

Adding the glue to the lower piece makes it much easier to keep everything lined up nicely.

Sometimes the reason for a layer is a little bit difficult to understand.  The pale pink layer on the bottom hardly shows through the two tiny cuts on the brighter pink coat but the lines do add some depth to the image.

 It takes some patience but before too long you will have a lovely multi-layered image that you can use for a card, page or other project.  If you want to add more dimension to the cuts you can use chalk or ink to create shadows.  I like the clean cut look but it is a matter of personal taste.

There are centers in all of the flowers, however, I decided to add just a few pearls and gems for a subtle shine.  This card is a side fold and the blue paper is cut at 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches and adhered to the card front.

Even if you have carefully cut your card base and the top patterned paper layer, you may find that they are a bit off.  If so, you can just make a tiny adjusting cut along the edges of the card to make sure that the paper and cardstock are even.

It does take some patience but the entire process from paper selection to final card is not too lengthy.  I do wait between steps for my adhesive to turn clear so I am less likely to smear it on the front of my cards.

I hope this was helpful.  There are many videos showing crafters assembling cuts but a lot of my readers have told me that they prefer the "words and pictures" style of learning.  I do have some videos coming soon - but I probably will not post them until  after the wedding.  I am also eager to show you some of the things I have been able to make for the wedding using my Silhouette SD and the Silhouette software. 

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or just want to tell me what you think of some of the other die cutting options available to crafters today (or coming soon).  I wonder how many of you also have more than one machine and use multiple programs to create.

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  1. Thank you for always being so helpful and informative. I feel great knowing I can make better decisions and save time for all that you've shared.
    You are awesome!

  2. I have MTC and a Silhouette SD and love them both. Don't use my Cricut much. Like being able to buy only the image I want and the finer cutting ability.

  3. Beautiful card. Thank you for the tutorial as well. :)

  4. Well that was a lot of work just for the tutorial. Yes, word tutorials can be very useful, especially when you can't download a video. You did a great step by step.

    Nice card too.

  5. Wow that was a wonderful post. Very helpful. I even went to my husbands big computer to read it. LOL I need to figure out how to change the font on my email.
    I sometime don't add the layer I don't know why they have it but I see now what it does. I don't have Kate's ABC's yet. It is one I really want but just want to find a good deal on it.
    Thanks again for the great information and adorable card. Have a wonderful day.

  6. I'm one of those folks who love the picture tutorials over videos, and you do a great job; no steps skipped. I own 2 Cricuts, Design Studio, MTC, and SCAL2 (upgraded from 1 because I like it so much!) I would LOVE another cutter that would give me more design options. I've been researching other die cutters and plotters. I think I'll end up with the new Silhouette Cameo when it comes out. I'm inpatiently waiting to see what you have been doing with your Silhouette! :) I trust your opinion on the quality of a cutter and the abilities of the software. Eagerly waiting to hear your review! Glad you didn't go on the Provocraft payroll like some other bloggers :) Thanks for all you do to help the rest of us out!!!

  7. very nicely done tutorial, I teach classes at our church and that is one thing that takes some time for students to get. I am planning on shopping soon for another cutter but haven't made up my mind between the new Silhoutte Cameo coming out and the Zing, do you have any pro's or con's on the two? Love all your beautiful things you make, you inspire me!

  8. I love your tutorails. When I see what you have done with this cut it makes me want that cartridge. I am not buying as many as I used to though. I wish I could borrow this one from someone but I don't know anyone else with a Cricut. I use computer images a lot along with the Cricut cuts. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have done for the wedding.

  9. I have a spare room for my granddaughters to play in and I have made countless Disney characters to put on the walls. It definitely takes some practice and patience to get the hang of it but they LOVE it!!!

  10. I have a trick to share. When I have several tiny pieces to put together, I turn them over onto an old cutting mat. The sticky mat holds the pieces in place and I can apply adhesive just where it's needed. (I like the Zig Two Way Glue, and it doesn't hurt the mat, either.)I can assemble the image right on the mat and it's ready to go. This works great for me, perhaps it will for someone else, too!

  11. Great instructions on layering ...you are always so helpful and it is much appreciated! Thanks!..and darling card!

  12. Diane thank you for the step-by-step tutorial of assembling this layered cut. I love the image and have yet to cut it, now that you have showcased it I am eager to give it a try. I do like the pictures and explanation as I can read as I go, but for something I like videos but have to watch them several times.
    I only have Cricut machine and a ton of cartridges. I do totally agree with you about the cartridges and some of the wonky shapes. I also have a third party software which I absolutely love I just have to spend a lot more time playing and learning it, it comes in handy when you need a specific image and it is not available on the cartridges. Unfortunately the lawsuit makes me afraid to update it because I don not want to lose the ability to cut with my Cricut. What a same they could not work together and work this out.
    Thanks Diane for all you do for us.

  13. Thanks for the tutorial! I love your candid opinions! Like you, I've
    stopped buying many of the cartridges. I've challenged myself to use what I have, since I've invested so much into this particular "toy!" I'm very interested to see what you have to say about other machines!

  14. Love, love, love this post! I get intimidated making some of these layered designs. With your detailed explanation, this should be less daunting. I just never know what color to do each layer. I guess I could cut each leayer in ALL colors and have more options. Afterall, it's only paper if I mess up, right??? Thanks for your tips! I can't believe you still have time to post daily while preparing for the wedding. You're amazing!

  15. Another incredible tutorial. I haven't seen the new handbooks with the better instructions on each page. Thanks so much for all the wonderful posts you do to make our hobby more productive and enjoyable. Your're the best!

  16. thanks for another great tutorial diane. i sometimes find it difficult to figure out all the layer pieces on some of the cars. i've also found a few where the layers just don't match up properly - very distressing. i have mtc, and was very upset over the lawsuit that resulted in no longer being able to cut with my cricut. i'm looking into a different cutter. so far i'm leaning towards the silhouette and would appreciate any thoughts you have on this cutter.

  17. I love the more intricate designs. I know I am weird but the more cuts there are the better I like it. I love the details.
    Thanks for sharing the tutorial.

  18. I am planning on selling my cartridges and machines (personal/expression)> i feel like some on the images are just dated. Like others have said many cartridges are "filled" with repeating images. I have limited craft space and I have been thinking about the Silhouette, but stopped due to the size it can cut. Since the new machine was announced I have decided to move on. I loved my circuits, but its time.
    I am curious to see all your creations for the wedding. Exciting time thank you for sharing all your creations with us.

  19. Thanks so much for the detailed description on how to layer the Cricut images. I can't wait to see what you are making for the wedding. My daughter is getting married in Sept 2012 and I hope to make some of the decorations for the table using my Cricut.

  20. Thank you for the layer tips. It can be one of my most frustrating times. Many of my cuts come out just fine and then sometimes the very small ones don't......
    Thank you
    Linda in Stanwood

  21. thanks for great tutorial. For those of you who commented, yes, you can safely update your MTC, and you can continue to cut to your Cricut, if you already have your Cricut plug in. MTC no longer supports Cricut, but if you already have both and they work, you can continue to use it. I do.

    go to the Make the cut forum and read up on it.

    Since I have a computer and never used the Cricut without Design Studio, it has been easy to switch to MTC. I sold all my carts and my Create, still have the E and Wild card cart since my daughter likes it so much.

  22. Also I would like to mention that the new Silhouette Cameo most likely will not be able to be used with your MTC software. I have the Silhouette SD and it cuts very precise cuts. It works with MTC. It does not cut thicker cardstock well, in fact I can't get it to cut some Stampin up paper and other thick card stock. I use my E for those, but then the cuts are not as nice.

    I am going to get the Zing. Can't wait since most of my work is scrapbooking.

  23. Thanks for the info! I look forward to seeing all the wedding goodies - enjoy the special occasion!

  24. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I often have problems when there are many layers to an image. It's especially hard on the older cartridges...those handbooks leave a lot to be desired. I've definitely picked up some tips I will try.

  25. Thanks for the details. The card is great.

  26. Thank you for your tips the layer placement can be a problem. Your card was adorable.

  27. thank you for the detail tutorial and the pics...this is much easier for me to read and see...and I agree the carts are repeats and some I know I would not use at all....I'm also looking another die cutting machine and would luv to see and learn how the Silhouette SD works...........luv your blog!

    have a beautiful time at the wedding....oh how fast our babies grow up and create new memories

  28. Thank you for such clear instruction in your methods and the well written post. I am curious about your experiences with other machines, what you like and dislike, ease of use, that sort of thing. I have a sillouette that I have never used. Honestly I am a bit scared of it because it needs the computer and I'm a very basic computer skills type of person. I look forward to your posts!

  29. I read the email sent to me about each of your posts but this one is supurp. Thanks for describing the cuts so well. I do a lot with my cricuts but it is always good going over basics. Thank you for your posts they are always worth reading.

  30. Thank you for the informative and well worded post. I love your opinion and can't wait to hear more about the silhouette projects.

  31. You're talking about other cutting machines and I just got a full size Cricut Expression. I think for the things I do it will suffice. I only have 29 cartridges because I'm particular about the ones I buy, only getting those that have a majority of images I will use, and are not repeated on some other csrt. I have only been doing this for a year and have learned a lot from your tutorials and blog. I use Design Studio always, rather than cut images by size on the Cricut. It helps me plan what the size will look like on the finished card. Thanks for all you do to inspire and help us all.

  32. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave in the Cutting category today [24 Aug 01:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  33. I love your blog and look forward to reading it daily.

    I have an Expression and Pazzles cutter. I use them both for different reasons. I own a lot of cartridges and Gypsy for convenience and crafting with my daughter (she loves pushing the buttons on the keypad), but I love the SCAL2 software for the Cricut and SCAL3 for Pazzles. Actually the Funtime software the Pazzles machine comes w/isn't too far from Inkscape but takes a little getting use to. The learning curve for Pazzles isn't as bad as I was expecting since this vendor helped ProvoCraft build their Expression. But it's very powerful and awesome software once you get the hang of it.

    I would love to see what you've been doing w/the Silhouette too. I'm always looking for creative cuts :)

  34. What a great tutorial. Also thanks for your honest opinions on how we all probably feel about the tools we use. I know I'm thankful that I'm not alone in my thoughts. Love the blog and it helps me tremendously

  35. Thanks, Diane, for this tutorial. Also thank you for your opinion about the Cricut, etc. I also appreciate other's comments as well. The generousity of crafters overwhelms me whether they are sharing product or knowledge! I do have a tip: Before I cut a complicated cut, I alway do a test cut first using white cardstock. You can purchase a package from Walmart for under $6 for 150 sheets of heavy cardstock by Ga. Pacific. It's better to make a mistake using it than mess up "my good" paper.

    Thanks for all you do. Keeping you in my thoughts with all the wedding preparations.
    MCF's Mimi

  36. Beautiful card, and some great points and tips.
    Kim xXx


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