In our September post we talked about using three software programs to do some simple magic to make a holiday photo card; Adobe Illustrator, Make-The-Cut, and Photoshop. You can check out the first part of this tutorial here.
This second post will tell you how to get the design that you created in Adobe Illustrator over to the Make-The-Cut software, how to print and cut it without Print and Cut, and how to set up your design to accept your Photoshop photo image.
When creating your design in Adobe Illustrator (AI), it is important to make sure that each “side” of your card design; front, back, and cut out section; is on its own AI artboard. That is because when you import your design into Make-The-Cut (MTC) you are going to import each artboard as a different layer. Each artboard in AI translates into a layer in MTC. If you think of it that way, your design process goes much more smoothly.
In the card that we designed, there is writing on both sides of the paper, and we created in AI an artboard to reflect that. We also have cut images. Since cut images go through both sides of the paper, they are really only one layer/artboard. BUT, we are folding the paper. That means that we have to carefully consider how the cutout is placed if it is text, etc. That’s why it is so important to do your mockup (see post 1).
Making sure that your artboards correctly reflect how your final card will look once it is printed out and folded, you now want to import the design you have done into the MTC software where you will print and cut the paper.
As the screen shot below shows, you can choose which page you want to import from the AI file. MTC will not automatically import all three artboards from AI. It imports only one at a time, and you must specify which to import. This can be confusing at first, as you import the file and find you only have one artboard! But this is a good thing, as you may have artboards that you have used in your design for other purposes that you do not want to import into MTC. Click on the screen shot to blow it up and see more detail.
Now that we have imported our three artboards into MTC, we are going to check to make sure that our design is clean. I’ve found that while sometimes vector images are closed in AI, they don’t always import over to MTC that way. With the fill on and the show nodes feature on in MTC, size up your image and check to make sure that all your nodes are connected so that things will print and cut as you had intended. Using the node edit tools in MTC to easily connect and join one open node to the next closest node will take care of most of your stray open nodes.
Be sure to check the printed images (remember, they are all vectors now) as well as the cut images. If your nodes are not closed on all, the printed image may not print out as you had envisioned.
With the design cleaned up, set your matt size to be the same size as your paper. Not the size of your actual matt, just the size of your paper that you will be printing and cutting out on. If you are making two cards per sheet of paper as in our example, on the cut layer only, make a rectangle the exact size you want your final size to be and then a line down the middle to cut it apart. Then take each layer, do a select all, and reduce your size so that it is now 1/4 inch smaller than the actual width and height of your paper. For example, the 8 1/2 x 11 inch design will now become 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 inch. Why do this? You can save a lot of time (hours) by not having to do a print and cut alignment adjustment for each sheet if you just make your design a smidge smaller than the paper and cut it out with knife point (more on this later). On two cards the overall size difference is negligible.
With all layers visible, make sure to stack them upon each other to be sure your centering and alignment is correct. You want every layer centered on each other so that when you print and cut, everything is lined up.
Now it is time to print out the verbiage. Using the print feature from within MTC, print out your first layer, then flip that printed side over and print out the second layer. Use some test paper to make sure you have your alignment correct for feeding the top and bottom of the paper into your printer, as all printers are different. Once you have that down, print out all your sheets. I used standard Wassau astrobrights paper and ran it though my HP or Epson printer.
Refer back to your original mock up to see how the cut outs must align with the text to properly position your now printed paper on the matt to be cut out. With only the cut layer visible in MTC, get ready to cut your image using knife point.
Wait!! This is a print and cut application, don’t I need to use the Print and Cut feature and do all that alignment with the little laser light? Nope. That’s why we made the image a bit smaller.
But wait!! What about the cut skewing off to one side with knife point if my paper isn’t perfectly straight on the matt? Won’t all my cuts be wonky? Nope, we have a solution for that too. You will love this fix, and it will become a staple in your cutting repertoire.
Face it, print and cut is nifty, but you eat up a ton of time aligning the page with the three laser points. If you have a lot of cuts on a page, OK, not so bad. But we have at least 50 pages to cut out here (100 cards) and that is going to eat up too much time.
So. Line up your paper perfectly JUST ONCE. Then every time after that it will be perfect.
Perhaps you have a matt that already has lines drawn on it to help you accurately position paper. But guess what. For accurate work, it isn’t accurate. The lines are fat, the matt may have warped a bit, or perhaps the lines didn’t get screened on it accurately from the sides. There can be all sorts of things that go wrong. We are going to find your perfect alignment, set it on your matt, and never have a problem again. (convo me if you want to send money or cookies because you are so happy with this trick).
- Adhere your (test) paper (in our case the 8 1/2 x 11) on your matt as accurately as you can.
- Cut out the cut design section of image (not the printed layers), by choosing knife point. Notice that this design has a rectangle that is just somewhat smaller than the paper size. The rectangle shape is all we are interested in here. If you use this for another project, just do your testing with a rectangle only slightly smaller than the paper size.
- On your cutter, set the origin so the blade point at the very corner of the paper about 1/8 inch from the corner (this is because we made the design 1/4 inch smaller than the paper size, and thus at each edge it would be about 1/8th inch from each edge).
- Cut out the design.
- Remove the matt, but do not take the paper off of the matt. Look carefully at the cut rectangle that is near the outer edge. Is it even all around the edges of the paper, or does it veer off on the top or the bottom? If it does not, with the paper still on the matt, take some blue masking tape and run the tape exactly along the bottom and side of the paper. Don’t touch the paper, just run the tape exactly at the edges.
- If it does veer off, then adjust the paper accordingly, repeating the above steps until you have a perfectly even rectangle cut out inside your rectangle of paper, with edges equidistant on all sides. Then do your tape.
- I found it helpful to put down tape lines each time I cut, overlapping as I adjusted until it was perfect.
- A couple other things to note.
- Take a closer look at the matt above by clicking on it. You’ll notice the tape does not line up exactly with the printed lines. Just goes to prove that they are not perfect, and finding your “true” alignment with your machine is the best way to go.
- If you are cutting out images from the same size stock again and again, it helps to have additional lines of tape that are placed where the pinch wheels roll. That is what the left vertical tape line is in the pictured example. coincidentally, the right pinch wheel rides on the right vertical tape strip.
- Once you have your “true” alignment on your matt, you can use it for multiple projects that call for that same sized paper. Since I work with 81/2 x 11 paper frequently, I keep a mat with taped up all the time. When I need to spray it with repositionable adhesive, I just “mask off” the masking taped areas and spray where the paper will be.
Now you can remove your (final) test paper. You will use your masking tape guide lines to align your paper in exactly the same spot on your matt each time you cut.
Each time you put a new piece of paper on the matt, make sure to align your blade origin exactly at the same corner tip. If you are cutting many cards one after the other, don’t turn the machine off. Just load your paper on the matt, and place it in the cutter, moving the matt up or down so the blade is exactly positioned over your corner tip. Then push your pinch wheels down. You set your origin once, so your vertical alignment is fine. (If you turn the cutter off, you will have to set your origin again, of course. ) Not setting origin with each sheet will save you a lot of time in cutting out.
Once your cards are cut out, you can score them. It is much faster to score by hand with a product like ScorePal than reset the KnK pressure and cut the score line into the stock.
Once you have all your cards cut out there is one last thing to do in MTC to get you ready for the photo that you are going to put in your card. Having the cut layer visible, but locked, create another new layer on top of the cut layer. Using the circle tool, make a circle that covers up the open area where you want the photo to be. Make it just large enough so that it covers where the face is, but not so large that it goes into the snowflake design. Now record the exact size of the circle, you’ll use this in our next step, with Photoshop.
Now you have all you need to get your cards printed and cut out. Next month we will go over how to fit your photo into the card, and put it all together. So get cutting! Holidays are coming up (don’t forget to send cookies…).