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Cricutting Printed Objects: The Panther Version

December 13, 2010

Like Miss Cheetah, I’ve got a major thing for non-rectangular wedding stationery. I’m particularly fond of any and all variants on the “bracket square.” (Not to be a punctuation nerd, but aren’t the curvy ones “braces”? Or is that just an American thing? I forget.) When I came across a downloadable Martha Stewart place card template featuring a particularly pretty version, I snagged that PDF before you can say “Miss Panther is a total weirdo.”

When it came time to get our Save the Dates in action, I assumed that cutting out these fancy shapes with my Cricut would be a cinch. I was only half wrong. Cutting shapes from plain paper? Totally easy. Cutting shapes that are lined up to a previously printed project? Not so much. As a reminder, here’s what my Save the Dates ended up like:

The address labels (not pictured), envelope liners and purple tags were printed and cut out by me. The main card and accommodations card were printed by Catprint (so I couldn’t control their alignment on the page), then cut out by me. Everything else was just cut out from a plain piece of paper, which is easy-peasy.

Mrs. Seashell posted a great tutorial for cutting printed items by scanning a “negative” and typing onto the scanned image. This method is awesome, and I never quite figured out why it wouldn’t work for me. For whatever reason, the images made in Illustrator did not stay the same size when moved over to Sure Cuts A Lot. So, I looked into other options. That’s when I found the “hinge technique.” Here it is:

CleverSomeday pioneered this technique, so you should watch her video, but I wanted to make a tutorial to show how I did it, since I made a couple changes.

STEP ONE:
If you’re using Sure Cuts A Lot, align your shape somewhere along the bottom of the mat. Make sure you’re in “Vertical (Portrait)” mode so that your on-screen cutting mat looks the same as your real-life one.

In this image, you can see from the on-screen guides that my shape extends a little past five blocks vertically and six blocks horizontally. Use this information to place a piece of scrap cardstock in that general area on your real-life mat. Tape it down along the bottom. The longer your piece of tape, the better. I used gaffer tape because Mr. Panther swears it’s the best stuff on the planet, but you can use pretty much anything that doesn’t leave a sticky residue all over your mat. If you’re using a cartridge instead of SCAL, just tape a piece of cardstock in one of the lower corners and use the arrows on your Cricut to move the blade to the corner of the cardstock. Write down the coordinates that are shown on the screen. You’ll need them.

STEP TWO:
Go ahead and cut. If your shape ends up on your scrap cardstock, you did it right! Remove the cut-out object and just leave the negative. You now have a “mask” to use for positioning your printed object.

STEP THREE:
At this point, the video will tell you that you should hit the “Load Paper” button (instead of “Unload Paper”) to make sure your mat doesn’t get completely ejected from the machine. This will ensure that you’ll cut in the exact same spot. Eventually, I got sick of doing this and just unloaded it in between every cut. It left a little more potential for error, but I found it much easier to line things up when I had my mat flat on the table. If you’re not a daredevil like me, though, follow the video.

So, either way, go ahead and line up your printed object behind the mask.

When it’s lined up perfectly, lower both the printed piece and mask onto the mat and press down so the printed piece sticks. Flip the mask back so only the printed piece is in the cutting area.

STEP FOUR:
If you’re using SCAL, hit “Load Paper.” If you’re using a cartridge, hit “Load Paper” and then use the arrows to go back to the same coordinates you wrote down for your mask. If your print-out is on a different type of paper than your cardstock, adjust your blade settings.

STEP FIVE:
CUT!

Don’t be scared—it’ll work!

See? That’s it! If you’re cutting a lot of copies (like, more than 75 or so) and you’re unloading the mat every time, you may need to make a new mask at some point to account for inevitable mat-shifting. You’ll notice when it starts moving, I promise.

This process really does work, but it’s not easy and it’s not fast. If you expect to be doing this a lot, you might want to invest in a Silhouette machine instead. However, I love my Cricut and now that I’ve spent many, many hours of my life using this technique, I can do it fairly quickly and wouldn’t trade my Cricut for the world! Anywho, please let me know if you have any questions.

(All personal photos)

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