Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creating Your Own Designs using the Cricut

By Gregg O. Byers
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Why I wanted to use the Cricut Machine
When I kept seeing those infomercials about the Cricut Expressions machine,my constant question was, “Can I create my own designs and transfer them tothe Cricut Expressions Machine?” After doing some “googling” online, I found that the answer is YES! This article is all about how you can do the same. I love Scherenschnitte and using the Exacto knife to create multiples of a design in a timely manner, just isn’t feasible. So finding a software that helped me to produce multiples of the same design was a wonderful find!

Making sure you have the correct version for Cricut

First, you need to have the Cricut Expressions machine, of course AND it
needs to be updated to the 1.3 version. The only way to find out is to
have the Cricut Expressions Design Studio and through that you can find
out and update through the internet. There are easy steps for doing this.

Getting the Tracing Program: Inkscape
Next, you need to have a free program called Inkscape,
which can be downloaded from It is a
program that takes your design and traces it and makes it
such that it can be used in another program that directly
works with the Cricut Machine. The next page shows how
the Inkscape program looks when opened. The only use I have had for the Inkscape program is for the tracing of the designs I create. So the only choice I have had
to use is Path and File, which will be discussed later.

Getting the SureCutsALot Software
The other program you need is called SureCutsAlot. This
program must be purchased, which I did through the internet
and you are given a program key to change it from a trial
version to your personal version to use. It now has the trace
feature like what is done with Inkscape above, but I’ve tried it
and I still like Inkscape’s tracing much better. The particulars for
this program are found at

Creating Your Design
Now that you have the programs, you’re ready to CREATE!
First, you can do a line drawing and then scan it to make it a .jpeg. After
scanning, I use a program called Paintshop Pro to use the FILL feature
to make areas in my design black. Note: Think of it this way: Anything
that is black will be traced as an object and that part will stay in you
design. All of the white will be cut away in the end. This concept is
important to internalize, because if, for instance, you have a design with
a “floating” dark object inside a white area, but it isn’t hooked to the edge
of another black area, it will be cut away and not show in your final
design. Think about it as an eye that you might draw on a face. It would
be isolated with white around it and therefore if traced in the Inkscape
program and then cut out in the SureCutsAlot program, the eye would be
removed because it was not connected.

This is the logo for the program I use to work with the designs I
create. Especially with designs for cards, I like to put a border
around the design, which helps secure the design if it will
become a part of a card. (That may be another article.) But, I
seem to learn more and more from this program every time I
use it. It has been a very good buy for my needs.

Tracing Your Design using Inkscape
Once you have a design that you have created and scanned to make it a
.jpeg, you are ready to have it “traced” by the Inkscape program. Below
is a screen shot of the program after opening it.

Double click to open the Inkscape program and you will see a blank box.
Click on FILE and choose OPEN to find your .jpeg and CLICK on it.

You will see your .jpeg design in the box. If the box doesn’t have little arrow marks around it, CLICK on the box to activate it for tracing.

Next, find PATH, CLICK on it, and then CLICK on TRACE BITMAP within the list of PATH choices..

Clicking on Trace Bitmap will open a small box. To see your .jpeg in that little box, CLICK UPDATE. And the design should show in the box.

This screen below shows the design after clicking update.

CLICK OK in that same box and the program shows the design in a traced fashion, which means you have been successful. Now CLOSE the box (just click the X in the upper right corner of the small box.

Last, to save the design to be used in the program, SureCutsALot, CLICK FILE and choose SAVE AS. A box will appear with the name of your design with the .jpeg at the end. Use your mouse to highlight the .jpeg
and REPLACE that part with .svg, which is the extension SureCutsAlot looks for to cut the shape. CLICK SAVE to save the file with the .svg.You will still have the file in .jpg, as well. Now you can close out of
the program HINT: If you plan to do a bunch of designs at once, it’s great to just minimize the program to be used again. Also having the .jpeg file allows you to go back and use the file later for other projects you might think to create using the same design.

Using SureCutsALot to Cutout Your Design
Open SureCutsAlot. (it looks much like the Cricut Expressions Design Studio Program) You’ll see lots of symbols at the top. To bring the design into the program to work with, CLICK on FILE and then choose and CLICK on IMPORT SVG. Find your design now with the .svg at the end, CLICK on it and the design will show on the grid of SureCutsAlot

Now you can expand the shape to the size you need it to be. If you notice that when you click your mouse when over the shape, a box appears to the right where you can change the dimensions. I had to use my calculator to change fractions (and made a chart for this) to decimals, which you will need to do so for example, if you have a shape you want to be 4 ½ inches wide, then you will type, next to the W: 4.50. And if the shape needs to be 5 ¾ inches long, then you will type next to the H: 5:75 . You will see the changes as you change the shape size right after typing in the numbers.

Below shows the changes made. You will also have the ability to change how the shape can be placed on the mat, as well as being able to turn it and also copy and paste it to create duplicates on the same mat if you have the space. (See the program directions built into the Help section for copy, paste, cut, etc.) You will then, once you have manipulated the shape how you want it and whether you have made duplicates, cut it out by clicking on the SCISSORS icon.

Some Helpful Notes:
•I now have over 40 designs for blank cards, and so as I began to
realize the amount of designs I was accumulating, I decided to
create folders within my folder, CricutCuts (as I called it) to make it
much easier to find each type of card design. Examples of folder
categories: Objects, Animals & Birds, Trees & Plants, People,
Christmas, Boxes, Envelopes & Cards, Halloween, Valentines Day,
Early American Designs, etc. It has really helped when searching for a design.

•This is just an idea that happened with the mats used in the Cricut
Machine. To prolong the life of each one, I use a lint roller to gather
up all the paper lint that adheres to the mat. It does keep the mat
tacky and I can use them longer.

•Dover Books has many public domain graphics that I have adapted
to cards I have created. At the least, the books give great ideas for
my own creations.


The Paper Peddler said...

Awesome!!!! Thanks so much for the informative and helpful post - excellent job:)

Mechelle Harrison said...

What a great tutorial! Thanks for the information.

Judy said...

I have been wondering about that after seeing lots of intricately cut work selling for low prices. Know I know. Thanks for sharing all your research with us.

Nina said...

I just got my cricut and so far I LOVE it! A tip for the mats...after it's dead, go over it with a ZIG 2 way glue stick. Let it dry for about 30 min, and it will be sticky again. Mine was actually stickier than when I first got it, and I'm not throwing away tons of mats! Hope this helps :)