Today we are going to cover a very, very basic tutorial on bringing an outside image into Silhouette and turning it into a cut design.
Note: I am using the iPad and Procreate app, however, you can use this same technique in the tutorial in any other tablet drawing program as well.
Basic Tutorial using the Procreate App & Silhouette
I mentioned above, this is going to be very basic. I am not an artist and I am many years out of practice in my drawing techniques, but there are just times you want to add a hand made element to a design. This was the case a few months back when I was working on a design.
I needed a bee path that I would be able to share with students & that would fit within a certain space on the acrylic.
So I turned to my drawing app & thought I’d share how I did it.
Now, this is not an in-depth tutorial in how to use Procreate or any other design program, but it is about exporting that design in a format you can open in Silhouette that can be used for a cut file. Or in my case, an etch file for the Curio.
Tip: Black is going to be the color that the Silhouette Studio software traces the best. I would highly recommend practicing with black designs to get the hang of tracing. Colors can be traced, but may need more adjustments to get that traced properly.
Draw and Exporting Designs from Drawing App
Open your drawing app program.
Draw your design.
Turn the background color off in the drawing app.
Export the design as a transparent png file. Export from Procreate as a png, test your file to make sure that it exports with a transparent background. I was able to use either the png option under Share Image or Share Layers and they both exported as transparent.
When exporting the design, choose a method that you know how to access the files from. I emailed the image to myself as you’ll see in the video clip below, however, you could use any method you are familiar with. A few options you may have in your drawing app are: email, google drive, cloud storage, air drop, etc.
Find the file you shared with yourself and download it to a safe place on your computer.
Open the file in Silhouette Studio.
2 Ways to Trace a PNG file in Silhouette Studio
Autotrace is a new feature introduced in the v4.4 software starting in v4.4.247. This is a feature that will automatically trace any transparent png file that is opened.
Now, the first thing to note about this feature is that there are still some “bugs” in it. In early versions of v4.4, the software could crash when a png file was opened as it was too data heavy. It has been improved and in later versions there are different “bugs”. These included png files opening up larger than the actual design size and because of this being very data heavy so they take longer to process or can crash the software.
If you have experienced either one of these when opening png files, it could be because of Autotrace. The easiest thing to do is to turn it off under the Preference > Import tab.
But, for this tutorial, it should work for all users if you are in v4.4.
How It Works
Open the file in Silhouette and TA-DA!
Red cut lines are around the outer edge of the png file.
When you click on the Send tab in the top right, you can see those bold red cut lines around the design.
Now, I say TA-DA but also keep in mind that Autotrace is a data heavy tool and processing time can vary by computer. Some computers may not handle it well. If you think about it, opening a photo file in itself can be a larger than usual file size and then you add on the “autotrace” adding more data at the same time, that makes it a little more interesting.
But, you never know until you try!
Now, “old school”.
When I say that, I just mean doing it without the fancy new tools and how we’ve done it in the software for the 9+ (and more) years that I’ve been in the Silhouette world.
The Trace Panel – either it looks like a butterfly or a piece of toast – depends on who you are.
Open the png file in Silhouette Studio.
Click on the Trace Panel icon.
Keep in mind that black color traces the best.
Click on “Select Trace Area“, then left click & hold the mouse button down. Drag a box around the area that you want to trace.
Increase the Threshold to get as solid of a yellow as you can.
When you have it like you want, click on the Trace option at the bottom of the panel. Then move the original image away from the Trace.
Fill the traced image with color and it should look like your original image.
TA-DA! Now you have a cut line.
This technique can be applied to any jpeg or png file that you would open. Each design will vary in the trace techniques and the adjustments needed in order to get the trace how you’d like. But, a simple black design should trace well. Make sure to keep the size in mind as well when you are tracing. Trace at the size the image opens at for best results. This is due to those pixels of a photo image. When it’s enlarged, those pixels enlarge as well and the trace feature picks up every single pixel around the edge, which can result in a choppy trace.
Check out this video tutorial showing the above steps on my YouTube channel
Now, it’s your turn!
I have drawn this simple flower design in Procreate.
Download this file and the bee design to practice with HERE.
Unzip/extract the folder after you download and test it out.
If you are on a software version of v4.4 or higher, test it out with both the Autotrace turned on and off. It is great to practice both ways so you know how it works.
Tips on Tracing Designs
Edit Points are the data points that the Silhouette reads in order to connect a cut. The Silhouette machine has to connect the dots and hit every single edit point when it’s cutting.
Double click on the traced line to bring up the gray edit points.
How many edit points are around the image will vary based on the image that was traced. A traced image always has more data points than if compared to a svg file because a trace picks up every single pixel in that image.
Simplifying the edit points on a trace can help make it a cleaner cut file.
With the Edit Points activated, click on the Simplify button in the Edit Points panel and watch those gray dots change.
Here is a close up of the Edit Points before they are simplified.
And here is a close up of the Edit Points after it’s simplified.
Ownership & Rights
Now, this is the one that most users do not want to hear and many may stop reading here, but it is just an important as all the rest.
Just because you can download images from the internet, does not give you the rights to trace and use those designs. They have an owner and obtaining the rights to use the images is your responsibility.
If an image is in public domain, then it is free to use. All other images are subject to copyright or trademark and you would need to research the image itself to find out if you can legally use it. It does not matter if it’s for personal use or commercial use. Someone owns it.
This is why I provided my own files to you to use for practice. I drew them, they are mine, and I can give you permission to use those files.
All Images Will Vary
And if you are still with me reading, one final tip on tracing. All images will vary in how they trace and what steps or adjustments will be needed.
Photographic images with shadows, colors, gradients, etc. will be more difficult to trace than a black and white image.
I would love see your practice & hear what you learned in this tutorial!
Feel free to post on the
Silhouette Secrets+ Facebook Group.
Save this for future reference by pinning the image below.
Want to learn more on Procreate?
Even though this blog post has been planned for several months, this past week I found a few great videos on YouTube that have just been fantastic!
Check out these videos to get started:
Procreate Tutorial: Color Wheel by Create with Christie
Procreate Tutorial: Brushes by Create with Christie
Procreate Tutorial: Designing Using iPad Pro by Create with Christie
*after watching these, I was able to draw the flower design that I shared with you for the practice file. It took a few practice flowers until I was happy with one to share, but that’s the best way to learn!
Play, play, play!
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Or if you are looking for more in-depth, step-by-step classes, check out all of my online Silhouette classes on my Teachable site HERE.