Text within Cut design

How often do you make a card using your digital cutter, and then proceed to write in it by hand?  That works out just fine for one off cards, but what about when you are doing something like an invitation?  Before I started to understand how to play with both Adobe Illustrator and Make-The-Cut software together, I’d cut out my designs with Make-The-Cut and then print out my invitation text on another piece of paper.  Then I’d take that printed piece, cut it with my paper cutter and perhaps clip the edges, and glue it on the paper cut with the digital cutter.  Here’s an example of an invite that I made a couple years ago.  The card size was about 4 x 51/2.


Invitation Front

Invitation Front

Printing on Paper

Printing on Paper

Now that I better understand MTC and AI, I can use them together to make a much more interesting card, and it is easier.  I create my design in MTC for the cut out, transfer it over to AI, insert my text into the design, bring it back to MTC, print it out in MTC and then cut it out in MTC (without using print and cut).  Let me walk you through the steps so you can do it, too.

Since we hold this party annually, I kept the same Nutcracker Image, and modified the image size for this years party.  I made 50 of them.  Since I make about 2,000 cookies for the party, I wanted to spend my time baking, not making invitations.  They went quickly!  Key to them being made quickly was Printing and Cutting without using the Print and Cut feature.


  • I start with a design in MTC that I like.  I’ve used the Nutcracker design above, but this time modified it to make it bigger.  I am going to actually print the invitation information on the back of the nutcracker itself.  I size the design in MTC up to fit my envelope, creating a shadow layer that is solid and then a cut out layer that will go over the shadow layer.  Thus my design has to pieces, cut out and background piece.  My MTC file (at this point) for this design consists of two layers, the shadow layer and the image.
Shadow Layer and Detailed Cut Layer

Shadow Layer and Detailed Cut Layer

  • I make my matt size the same size as the paper that I am going to be cutting out from, in this case 8 1/2 x 11.
  • I export this file to AI format ( unlock layers and select all) and save it, exporting only the layers that I want to use.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 9.24.13 PM

  • I open the exported file in AI and create a two more artboards so they are the same size and orientation as the matt that I have in MTC.  I copy the image to the other two artboards, and then delete the inner image from artboards two and three leaving only the “shadow” layer from MTC visible.
Create three artboards and copy to all

Create three artboards and copy to all

  •  Using the text tool, I insert text in artboard two.  It is easier to insert text within AI than within MTC when you are doing large amounts and formatting.
Insert Text with Text tool

Insert Text with Text tool

  • When the text is exactly as I want it, it is all selected and I turn the text into an object.
Convert Text to Outline

Convert Text to Outline

  • Optionally, you can delete the outline around the text, leaving only the text in its own art board, which will translate as its own layer when ported over to MTC.  It is however, helpful to keep the outline so you can proof your alignment.  Your choice.
Delete border from Text Artboard

Delete border from Text Artboard

  • There may be many open paths.  To avoid this, I run a script within AI to close paths (you can google this as there are several).  Alternatively, I can use knife point tool to surround all of the text and this will close the paths.
  • I save the file
  • Import the saved AI file back into the MTC file as a new layer.  Import only the text art board.  Now actually, you don’t need to keep the three art boards in AI, but I like complete files in case I want to make a modification later.
  • Align all the layers by laying the shadow layer with text that you imported from AI exactly over the shadow layer in MTC.
  • Delete the shadow layer in the AI imported layer containing the text and shadow outline.
  • There will be many open paths (this seems to crop up with importation from AI to MTC).  To remedy this, select all text and do a “fuse and weld” from the advanced menu option.  Carefully check that all the letters are now closed paths by looking at the layer in  “print preview”.  You may need to increase the tolerance quite a bit to get some paths to close.
  • You may find that after your paths are closed, there may be some closed areas that are dark (think inside of o,a,b, etc.  They may not clean up with the blackout tool.  To further clean up the print, again do a select all on the text, and do a join from shape magic.
  • Double check your print by printing a test page, and clean up as necessary.

Now that you have your text cleaned up, check your alignment one last time in case something moved, and print out the text on your paper.  Take it to the digital cutter, and cut it out in MTC using the WYSIWYG option, carefully aligning your laser on the corner.  Make sure to use the “taped matt” trick talked about in this post so that your paper is perfectly aligned.  In this way you will not need to do the time consuming “print and cut” option, but you will still get the great “print and cut” results.  The image below is actually one of the sloppy ones (Do you always keep the sloppy one as your sample and give out the good ones?).

Back of Invite

Back of Invite

Here is what the final invitation looked like once it was assembled.

Front of Invite

Front of Invite

Card Design: As Easy as 1,2,3 Part 2

Holiday Photo

Holiday Photo

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.

Set your import for AI files

Set your import for AI files

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.

Choose your AI artboard

Choose your AI artboard

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.


Stack layers to confirm alignment

Stack layers to confirm alignment

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.


printed sheets ready to be cut

printed sheets ready to be cut

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).

Here’s how:

  • 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.
  • Choose knife point

    Choose knife point

  • 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).
  • Set origin so blade is about 1/8" in from corner

    Set origin so blade is about 1/8″ in from corner

  •  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.
  • perfect alignment with a taped matt

    perfect alignment with a taped matt

  • 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

perfectly positioned paper

perfectly positioned paper

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.

printed and cut

printed and cut

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.


folded card, print and cut

folded card, print and cut

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.

Determine your Circle size

Determine your Circle size


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…).

Card design: As Easy as 1,2,3


Holiday Photo

Holiday Photo


It’s easy as, 1 2 3
As simple as, do re mi
A B C, 1 2 3, baby
You and me girl.

I’m gonna teach you how to cut it out
Come on, come on, come on
Let me tell you what it’s all about
Photoshop, AI, MTC
Are the branches of the learning tree
hey, hey, hey….

OK are you still with me?  My apologies to the Jackson 5 there, but I was just looking at Susan Mast’s post “It’s Electrifying” and it brought back memories of John Travolta in Grease, and that got me thinking about the Jackson 5.  But I digress.  This post is about how to design and make your holiday card.  The process takes a few steps, so  we are going to go over three different areas, in three different posts.  Each post will teach you something that you can use in many different areas of your design process, they are not “card” specific.  It is just that we incorporate them all in this one design.


There is also a video to take a look at that is helpful.  Just click on the YouTube link above.

  1. Designing your card using Adobe Illustrator (AI) to facilitate design and font modification (today’s lesson).
  2. Using Make-The-Cut (MTC) software to print and cut the card without using the “print and cut” feature ( October post).
  3. Using Photoshop and MTC to insert a photo into the design (November).

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

finished card open

Designing in Adobe Illustrator for use in MTC

Over the few years  I have found myself using / learning the KnK software, the MTC software,  Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  Each has it’s purpose and strengths.  But blended together, they can offer some simple magic which is what happened when I sat down this past weekend to make a holiday card.

This first part will give instruction in:

  • using Adobe Illustrator to plan your design
  • Modifying fonts to be easily cut out without having to “stencil”
  • the importance of artboards when using AI with MTC

Lets start with the design process.    First, I wanted to have a holiday design where a photo would be framed by a snowflake cutout with text that was both written on the card and cut out.  I sized the card to fit in an A6 envelope which meant that two could be cut from a standard 81/2 x 11 piece of paper.

A mock up really helps to get the basic format and design elements down.   A mock up helps you visualize the four sides of your card:  outside front, outside back, inside front, inside back.  You can see below my original artwork, which was the one I finally choose after several others.


While your card will have four parts once it is folded, for design purposes it has only three:

  1. print on the front
  2. print on the back
  3. cut areas on top of cutter

Front and Back of single printed sheet to make two cards




Front and back of single printed sheet cut (now two physical cards; one sheet)


Adobe Illustrator and Artboards

Now that I had an idea of how the front, back, inside and outside would look, it was time to go to the computer and open Adobe Illustrator.  I pulled open a new file and set my artboard size to my paper size, 81/2 x 11.   I created three artboards :

  1. Elements to be cut out
  2. Elements to be printed on front of paper
  3. Elements to be printed on back of paper

Planning your artboards so that cutouts are separate from text is important when you make the transfer to MTC software.  You’ll want to separate the text from the cutout area when you print from MTC.  Basically, you will move your artboards into MTC individually, as separate layers.  Of course artboards in AI can have multiple layers, but when you put the single artboard into MTC, it goes in as one “layer” .

Once my artboards were in place, I used the rulers and pulled the horizontal and vertical guide lines in place that I needed for the format.  These were my margins  and guide lines for the design elements and fonts.  These guides held true for each artboard.  I also put labels on them so I could remember them.  You’ll see this in the video

Next, I found a snowflake in vector format that I liked and modified it to carve away the inside so that I could make a scalloped design to frame my photo. The eraser tool was simple to use and closed my paths.  I used the shape builder tool to clean things up and make a continuous design.  This is best viewed in the video.

I am not going to get into the details of how to modify vector shapes with AI, there are plenty of YouTube and other tutorials on the Web that explain this much better than I can.  So I will assume you can do this yourself, either in AI or with MTC.  Using my guides, I scaled the design down and placed it on my artboard.

Font Modification with AI

The main message in the card is “Wishing you a season of Peace”.  The font for all of the words is the same, but PEACE is cut out and “wishing you a season of” is printed.  Obviously the P and A in Peace were problematic for cutting out, and our solution is to “stencil” these letters so that the inner piece remains intact.  Here is where AI comes in and makes font modification REALLY easy.  Easy as 1, 2, 3.

1.  Type your text using the text tool.

2. Click outside the artboard and select the group selection tool, and select your text.  Now go to the TYPE pulldown menu and select “create outlines”.  See all those little squares that show up now?  Your text now has become a vector.

3. Go to your toolbox and select the eraser tool.  Define your eraser size, and just erase where you would normally stencil.  Hint:  If you hold down the shift key at the same time, you’ll get a straight line.  Making the font and the background the same color helps you see where the nodes have been erased.  The eraser tool closes your nodes for you, vs. the knife tool, for example.  We like closed nodes.

I’ve just showed you how to use the eraser tool here, but of course, once you turn your font into an outline, you can do any type of easy modification to it, not just “stenciling”.  Again, the video helps.

Create your printed text artboards

The last thing in your AI design is to create an artboard for the print that you want on both the front and back of the card.  Looking at your mockup, determine where your font needs to be.  As you can see from my example, some of it is upside down, because that is how it will have to be printed out.  When it is folded, it will be right side up.  Do a separate artboard for each side that will have print.  Once you have the font in place, make sure you convert it to outline so that you have nodes.  Even though you might not need nodes in MTC, I’ve found that some fonts don’t translate over well, and having nodes gives you the ability to fix them easily in MTC.

OK, now we are done with the design of the card.  Next month we will take a look at moving the design in AI over to MTC.  Until then, happy designing!

Simple Photo Album

We buy our KnK machines because of the software.  We want the flexibility that it gives us to make any size, any shape, any design.  And that’s great.  We can take any photo and custom make a frame for it, regardless of the size of the photo or object.  But resizing can take lots of time, either on the KnK or the photo itself.  What if we have a lot of photos, and we want them all to fit in the same size frame, so we can have a uniform look to our album?  And we want to make it quick (well, relatively.  We know we spend much too much time with the software…).

Some times we just don’t do projects on our KnKs because it takes too much time.  This was the case with having multiple photos that I wanted to fit all inside the same sized frame.  This post is about how to resize those photos to fit your frame, so that you actually use that KnK to make your project.

For end of the school year I made a scrapbook for an elementary teacher in whose class I do intervention work.  Each child made a note for the teacher, and across from their note was their photo.  I sized the frame to fit my page, and wrapped each child’s name around the frame that their photo was to go in.  So far, simple.


Since I designed the frame in MTC software, I looked at the size of the oval cutout that the photo would show through.  Then I created this same size oval in my photo editing software (I use Photoshop).  Because my oval was small enough to fit two on a 4×6 photo sheet, I duplicated it, and spaced them evenly apart on my software canvas, which I made the same size as the photo paper.  Then I created a layer mask so that I could see layers below the oval shapes, just as if I had a “frame” over it that was the same size as what I had cut with the KnK.


Next I resized all my images at once.  This is important so that when you import over your images they are the proper size and fit.  I did a batch resize in photoshop, and in less than a minute, all my images were the right size.  Last, I created separate layers for each of the two faces, one for each “frame”.  Then I printed them out and cut them in half.


It was way to easy to align the photo within the frame, as I had masked it and printed it out just the way the actual cut KnK frame was.


After that, it was just a lot of manual taping to put the album together.


Simple Thanks

Now is the season of weddings, graduations, transitions.  Giving gifts.  Sending thank you cards (if you have been schooled in politeness).  Why do so many thank you cards have to be bland and innocuous?

These are the thoughts that were running through my head when I designed this simple thank you card for an elementary school teacher.  Rather than give an end of year gift that might get re-gifted or take up space, we gave these cards, which will get put to good use.

Each  card uses two half sheets of different colored paper.  I used simple card stock and vellum for these.  Only one piece, the outside,  gets run through the cutter, the inside is blank and easiest to cut on a paper cutter and run through your score tool.

The design shown below is very simple.  But you can embellish by using different fonts, designs and papers.  Just make sure your papers are of similar weights.  This can be really fun if your outer paper has coordinating designs printed on both sides!  Remember to keep the inner paper solid, so that it can be written on.


Here is how to make one.

First, figure out your card’s size.  I made mine from half sheets.  To have overlap on each side in different colors I made the outside of my card with the cut design 1 inch shorter than the back of the card.  I made the inner solid piece  1 inch shorter in the back.   Here’s the math:

  • total card was 51/2 wide by 4 1/4 tall
  •  each sheet was a total of 5 1/2 x 7 1/4
  •  Outside that was die cut was 3″ in the front and 4 1/4 in the back
  • Inside that is blank was 4 1/4 in front, and 3″ in back
  • Glued together, total card was 5 1/2 by 4 1/4 tall

Begin by designing your outside using the dimensions above, or something equivalent.  Design the front of your card first.  It will look best if you make an irregular edge as it will be shown off against the inner paper.  In my case, I repeated the wave motif.  If you add text, be sure to “stencil” it so that you don’t loose your inner shapes.  Next, measure up about 1/4 inch from the bottom of your outer back piece, and type your message (I used the teacher’s name).  Make this about 1/2 inch tall.  Flip the text so that when you fold it in half, the text will read properly.  You should have 1/4″ margin above the text message (or design, it doesn’t have to be text) once you place the inner sheet in place.


Cut and score your inner solid (non-cut) sheet.  You DO NOT need to score your outer sheet.  Next you put spray adhesive on the wrong side of the outer sheet.  Lay your outer sheet with the bottom message side correctly facing up.  Using a piece of waste paper (boy, don’t we have a lot of that!) cover the message along the bottom to just a 1/2″ above to make sure that no spray adhesive adheres to it.  Spray rest of sheet with adhesive.  Remove waste paper.  Take the inner sheet, and lay the 3″ side just 1/4″ above the bottom message section of your outer sheet and match edges.  Your inner sheet will extend beyond the front section of your outer sheet by 1″.  Brayer.


Using your score mark from your inner sheet, carefully fold your card.  The outer sheet will naturally follow.


Have left over “waste”?  Don’t let it go to waste!  Make some other cards with it.