Friday, March 7, 2014
Cricut Explore Design Space vs. Silhouette Studio - Complex Images
Happy Friday! I am going to be busy with family visits for the next few days but I will try to make some quick posts.
A lot of you have asked me to compare the new Cricut Explore with the Design Space online program to the Silhouette Cameo and the Silhouette Studio software (regular or Designer Edition). In some ways this is like comparing apples and oranges since the programs are not intended to work in the same way.
The Design Space is not meant to be a create-your-own-design program. It is intended to make crafting easier and faster. If you want to draw your own images you will probably prefer to use another software such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape to do this. Anything you create in another program and save as an SVG (or other accepted file format) can be brought into the Design Space and cut with the Explore. You can alter the images in the program to a certain extent but the focus is on helping you move from choosing the image to the cutting phase as easily as possible.
The Silhouette Studio program has drawing tools and other design tools such as offset, replicate, knife and the ability to create and release compound paths that make it great for creating original files. I use and enjoy the Silhouette software and will continue to use it for the foreseeable future.
I want to show you what is so unique about the new Design Space...
When you want to find an image to use in a project in Design Space, you can search and browse through an array of full color, fully assembled images. This is similar to looking through a Cricut handbook but even better since many of the older cartridge handbooks do not include full images of all of the assembled cuts.
When you click to add the image to your work area this is what you will see - the fully layered image with colors already chosen for each layer and a layers panel that breaks down the individual cuts. In this image there are nine layers. All you need to do is resize the image to the size you need for your project.
You can ungroup the image to see all of the individual layers. In this case there are nine layers all set out in the layers panel and arranged in the proper order.
If you click on the Sync icon at the top right, the Color Sync panel will appear showing that the nine layers will be cut on six mats. If you want fewer color divisions you can put layers together here by dragging and dropping.
When you click "go" the program will tell you exactly how many mats to load and which colors to use. You can also choose to make multiples of the image and the program will calculate how many mats you will need in each color.
It is possible to move images to one mat and place papers in various areas of the mat to cut multiple colors in one pass. You would do this while using the Sync option.
If you are using the Design Space program you can:
1. Browse and choose an image
2. Add the image to the workspace and make any changes to the layers that you want
3. Click the go button and start cutting the layers, all appropriately sized with colors suggested for you.
It takes only a minute or two to do these steps and then you will just need to load mats and assemble the final project.
Let's compare this to working in the Silhouette Studio software. If you have purchased an image you will find it in your Library. This is a file I purchased for a three dimensional Santa box. The images are uniformly sized in a grid within the program so something that is as complex as this will be rather difficult to see clearly (simpler shapes are generally larger and bolder).
When you double click the item you have chosen and add it to the mat, you generally will see something like this. All of the shapes appear in one block of red outlined shapes. You will need to start ungrouping and regrouping in order to figure out all of the layers of the project. You can add color but the images usually come in with no color (unless it is a print and cut file).
I have found that each designer within the Silhouette store may have a different way of arranging and organizing their files. Sometimes you have to do multiple ungroup and regroup actions and you might also have to release and make compound paths and then fill the groups of shapes with a color to get a good visualization of your project.
Once you have figured all of this out, you will need to place groups of images that you want to cut in the same color on the mat and move everything else off the mat or turn off the cut lines on the shapes you don't want to cut at that time. You must continue to manually change the items on the mat as you cut each color that you need for your project. You can use smaller blocks of color and place the appropriate cuts in that block but it takes some time and some thinking to get this all organized.
Both programs and both machines can produce nicely cut multi-layered projects but the steps for using the Explore with Design Space are drastically reduced from the old Cricut system of choosing keys on an overlay and finding all of the little bits and pieces that you need. The convenience of working with the cartridge images in the Design Space is a major improvement over the older system. It is also much faster than trying to work your way through a group of red-lined shapes and determine what color they should be and how to arrange them on the mat in Silhouette Studio.
I have worked with Silhouette Studio for several years and I can usually take the design when it is added from the library and do the grouping, re-grouping, making and releasing of compound paths and setting up the mats to cut. I don't mind doing it - in fact, I enjoy the challenge with some files- but it definitely is a more complicated process. There are other features of the Silhouette program that I would like to see added to Design Space - in particular, alignment tools, a better color palette and color picker and the ability to offset or shadow and image or group of images with just a click.
My conclusion is that each of the programs has advantages that are not available in the other system. It is a matter of personal preference as to which you find better suited to your needs. If you are looking for a way to move from image choice to cutting quickly, the Design Space takes a lot of the work out of the process and allows you to get to the assembly of your project more quickly. The Silhouette program will allow you to do much more with the creation of your own designs but you will definitely need to work harder to get through the process of going from design to cuts ready to assemble.
As we used to tell our kids when we were moving from country to country overseas and trying to learn the local customs, "it's not good, it's not bad, it's just different!"
I hope that helped - please leave comments with any questions and I will try to pop in and answer them as time permits.
Have a great weekend!
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