Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New ONLINE Martha Stewart Photo Tool!

At the risk of losing all my followers, I have more Martha to talk about! :) She has such great free resources, though! Here's a link to a video about how to make the reindeer popup card that I've mentioned several times on this blog. I cut it by hand EIGHT times using her template a couple of years ago - even though I had the baby Cricut AND Design Studio! At the time, I wasn't aware people were designing their own things with DS and (mostly) George. I finally got on the Cricut messageboard and discovered that, and attempted to recreate the reindeer card last Christmas with DS. I didn't end up cutting any since I'd already sent it out for Christmas before. Here's a link to the DS screenshot. You can look at Martha's template and decide for yourself how close I got it. It was kind of a fun challenge to create the antlers using just the carts I had at the time.

BUT enter SCAL...who needs to "design" anything when you can just transfer a PDF template of it or import a .jpg (via Inkscape) to SCAL? I don't think anyone who reads this blog doesn't know what SCAL is but juuuust in case....SCAL is Sure Cuts A Lot and is put out by Craftedge. It allows you to cut virtually anything with your Cricut, with no cartridge needed!!! :O I actually wrote Martha Stewart once and suggested she try to license some of her templates to Provocraft as cartridges. But this is MUCH better! ;)

SCAL2 has come out and I haven't bitten the bullet yet. It combines the features of Inkscape with SCAL so you don't have to open two programs. Personally, I prefer to use Inkscape to create my designs and then just use original SCAL...although, if you haven't bought any version yet, buy the more recent one! I think there's just a bit more control, even though it means opening another program. For those who don't know the procedure, it's a very simple process to import an image into Inkscape, save it to a file that SCAL can use and then bring it to the Cricut. I'm going to keep this simple so I won't discuss PDFs here, although it's not a very big step to go from pictures to PDFs.
My process:

  1. Open Inkscape and use File->Import for .jpgs.
  2. Click Path-> Trace Bitmap.
  3. Leave everything the way it is in the new window and click Update.
  4. If you like the result, press ok.
  5. If not, adjust the Threshold numbers for Brightness Cutoff til you do. Update between adjustments to see the changes. This is the most important step and determines what will actually be cut! Bold lines are better, depending on your subject matter...
  6. I use the tiny arrow under the red X to dock it on the side of the Inkscape window.
  7. Delete the original imported picture.
  8. Save the new file as whateverdescriptivenameyouchoose.svg.
  9. Repeat ad infinitum!

There are a lot more steps to fine tune your results but that is the basic procedure. The only problem is that you need a specific type of picture to work well with Inkscape and SCAL. A lot of clipart, especially sihouettes, work very well. Some photographs are great, too, as long as there's not a lot of detail in them...meaning few colors, and few shapes, with most being connected to each other.

There are several free tools out there to help you adapt photos to use with SCAL, including Irfanview, and the GIMP. They have filters in them to help reduce the number of colors, and also cropping tools and other ways to change your pictures. The last two are great free Photoshop replacements!

I also briefly used a couple of online services that converted your pictures to vectors, which is what an .svg is. Then they went to a pay model. The process simplified the colors in the picture so you can create multiple color layers, if you like.

In browsing Martha's site the other day, I found a new tool she has to allow you to take a photo and simplify the color palette. The printout is supposed to be used with her new line of glitter to color in the various shades. The colors of the photo are a guide for mixing her glitter colors. A cute idea! Especially if you have a lot of her glitter...

BUT this is also a great tool to simplify your photos for Inkscape! The results come in PDF format, too, so you can directly open them in Inkscape. Give it a try! Here is a link to the new online program on Martha Stewarts site.

One last thing about MS: In my last post I mentioned the Scor-pal and the new scoring tool Martha has. Here is a great discussion of the differences! Now, go cut something!


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Karma said...

Thank you, Anonymous one! I do enjoy reading other's blogs and I'd like to be as entertaining as they are...after all, why would you return if I didn't have something to offer that taught you something and made you glad you visited, too! At least that's the idea...:) I thank all of you who read the silly stuff I post and love the idea of all of us sharing this knowledge for the common good! Thanks for commenting!