MTC Pixel Trace

In recent posts I’ve talked about using KNK cutters to cut fabrics for use in sewing machine applique projects.  This time I thought I’d do a brief explanation of how I use MTC Pixel Trace to get from a piece of paper with an image on it to the files I use to cut the fabric pieces.

The first step is to scan the image into the computer.  If you don’t have a scanner, you could take a photo of the image and transfer it to your computer.  I prefer to use a scanner because then I know that my scanned image is the same size as the original printed image.  Once the image is scanned, it can be saved as a raster file such as a JPG, a BMP, or a PNG for example.  Remember to keep track of where you have the file saved on your computer.

The next step is to open the file in the Pixel Trace function of MTC.  There are many options available in the Pixel Trace function that affect the success or failure of the trace. For example:  I had this image that I wanted to cut the pieces for use in a small wall hanging. (It doesn’t matter if you are preparing an image to be used to cut fabric or cardstock or both – the process is the same).  Here is the image I was working with

I wanted the center spiral to be red, the background of the spiral to be white, the inner ring to be green and the outer ring to be red.  Yes, the center looks like a peppermint candy.

I opened the image in the MTC Pixel Trace function.  Using the default settings this is what I saw:

The green circles indicate two areas where the lines are incomplete.  By increasing the Threshold to 200, the lines were now complete.  Remember to click on “Apply Changes” every time you change one of the values.

I Imported this version of the trace and proceeded to process it to create the separate parts I wanted.

First I selected the whole image.  Pixel Trace imports the whole image as one item.  Then I used the Break function to separate all of the parts.

It may be difficult to see but each piece of the image has a dotted line around it and the center of each of those pieces is indicated by a cross.  Notice that the computer has much more discerning “eyes” than we humans do and has traced each side of the lines of the image.  

In this case this works to my favor.  Since I want to separate the parts out, I can use one side of the traced line for one part and the other side of a different part.  I want the center spiral to be my first part placed on a circular background.  Thus I don’t need the curved wedge shaped pieces in between the legs of the spiral.  I can select the unwanted pieces and delete them.

While my spiral is selected, I can put it on it’s own layer and put that layer “to sleep” to more easily work with the other layers.

Then I can select each of the successive circles, putting them each on their own layer until I have the three different circles that I want  for my project.  There will be some lines that I do not use and will delete when I have created the layers that I want.  When there are two lines (the two from both sides of the original lines) I will usually pick the larger one and delete the smaller one.

When I have the layers I want and have changed the colors of the layers to reflect my color choices, I will order the layers so they are in sequence with the smallest on the top.  I chose to make the white, green, and red “rings” as complete circles rather than rings to avoid the possibility of spaces in between the rings.  This is what my completed file looks like.

That image was very easy to process.  Unfortunately, there are other images that require a bit more manipulation in order to get a file ready for cutting.  MTC has a large tool box of functions that will allow you to process most of the images you want to cut.  Here are a couple of examples of tools that you might find useful.

When this image was traced there was an internal part that needed to be dealt with.  The image was Broken and one of each of the outside and inside lines were selected and deleted.

That left two images that would have cut okay but could be problematic if they were moved or otherwise manipulated without making sure that both parts were selected.  The two pieces were selected and the Join function used to make them into one piece.

Images without internal parts can be traced without having two lines to deal with by using the Blackout feature in the Pixel Trace window.  For example

You can see that the blackout function ignores anything inside of the various images.  But for those images that are solid, it is a great option.  For the image that has an inside shape, it isn’t what you want to use.

There is another option for items that are traced and have the two lines like below

The item can be selected (without it being broken apart) and the Thin Paths function applied.

This will crate a new shape whose line is between the two traced lines.  More like a line you would draw if you were tracing the shape with a pencil.

Occasionally you will find drawings where the parts have gotten joined when the image is traced.  In the instance above you could break apart the traced images and if the inside lines were smaller than what you wanted you could add a shadow layer of any thickness  you want to increase the size.

This by no means covers the whole magical function of MTC’s Pixel Trace.  For that you need to refer to Sandy McCauley’s excellent manuals which cover all of the tools in Pixel Trace in depth.



2 thoughts on “MTC Pixel Trace

  1. Great demonstration and explanation of the process, Judy. Loved the applique designs too.

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