Saturday, June 9, 2018

Layered or Stacked Cards

Recently on the RefuPeas scrapbook message board, jstblondie showed some beautiful cards she had made with stacking dies. They are dies that come as a set and which create a layered card. She also asked about using electronic die cut machines, so I decided to start playing with my Cameo to see what I could come up with by altering designs I had in my library as well as actual layered card designs.  These first two designs I bought from the design store. Lori Whitlock was the designer. I just chose the colors of cardstock and cut them:

This first one really looked pretty online, but not as pretty in person. I actually liked this next one better once it was cut and glued together

It's a bit hard to see the middle layer, but there are three different colors in the diamond layered card. It has a very dimensional effect and looks amazing in real life.

The next two were single layer designs that I altered using the offset feature of the Silhouette software to create 3 layers:

Unfortunately, the middle layer (medium blue) is not as obvious, but it is gorgeous. It also shows how nicely the Cameo can cut thin details.

The last one is not your typical layered card. I started with a single layer design from the Silhouette Design Store again, and turned it into a 3 layer design using the offset feature:

Layered cards are lovely. It can be expensive to buy the die sets, but cutting them with my Cameo works well enough for me.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Scan N Cut: If I Knew Then What I Know Now....

Would I have bought the machine?  Probably not.

Just to clarify, it is a good machine. Some people will love it! I am just not one of them. The reason? I had unrealistic expectations based on overly positive reviews that never mentioned any of the limitations.

The videos always showed the machine cutting out cute, but simple stamps with a slight border. Since a lot of people prefer that style of stamp, I did not think much about it. A lot of people also like a slight border. I did wonder a little about that one until I saw someone cutting right on the lines. However, those were also simpler, less detailed stamps.

My huge stamp collection is made up of more intricate, detailed stamps than simple ones, and I want them fussy cut right on the line. No border.

Intricate details do not always scan well, so either a lot of the stamped images don't scan the full design, or they don't scan the stamped image at all. Your stamp needs to have a solid outer line, with no break in order to get a cutting line that will cut the entire stamped image, without chopping off parts.

If I were willing to fully color each stamped image before cutting, the machine would meet my needs better. It can see the fully colored image much better than just an uncolored stamped image, especially when there are a lot of details. While coloring, you can fill in any inconvenient little artistic gaps in that outer line. I prefer to stamp and cut out a bunch of images at a time, to color in later, once I know what colors I will be using for the project that the stamped image will eventually be part of.

One very good thing about the machine, though, is that once you get a good scan of a stamp, you can save it and keep it for later. That comes in handy if you like to cut first, stamp second (my recent tutorial post).

If you like simple, cute stamps that have a simple outline, the machine works great. If you like a border, many of the more intricate stamps will scan and cut fine, too, just not if you want to fussy cut on the line. If you stamp and color first, this machine may be right for you.

I bought it as a stand alone machine, to scan and fussy cut stamps without using my Cameo or buying matching dies. It did not quite live up to my expectations.  Maybe if I wanted to use the online software, I would feel differently.

However, I am used to using a Silhouette Cameo. It has great design software. If I have to use software, I would rather use Silhouette. I can scan my stamps, import them into the software, use it to get a good trace of the outline (which I can manipulate if I need to), and cut all the blanks I need. I don't have to have a matching die. I also don't really need the Scan N Cut, so I could have saved myself some money.

I will keep the machine. There will still be times when it is more convenient than using my Cameo. Besides, I would be selling it at a loss, because no one will pay me the price I paid for it, since it is now a used machine.

My one recommendation is that before you buy the Scan N Cut, or any other machine, find out the negatives, not just the positives before you buy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cut First, Stamp Second!

Recently I read message thread on 2PeasRefugees about a possibly defective Avery Elle die. The message thread eventually included a post about a technique that allows stampers to get better results by cutting first and stamping second. I had to try it, and it worked extremely well, even though I used a fairly detailed stamp.

To do this technique, you need a stamping platform, such as the Tonic/Tim Holtz Stamp Platform.

You need one "template" made from the negative that would normally be thrown away. The template can be reused. Cut as many of the actual shapes for stamping on as you want.

For example, I could do this with the matching die for the Lush Lilacs parasol stamp, that I used to make my Lush Lilacs card in the post shown just below this one.  If I cut it in white, I might keep both the parasol shape, and the part that is left, the outline. The parasol piece will be set aside for stamping on later. The outline piece becomes the template. Or I might cut the template in a dark, heavier cardstock. In this case, I would keep the outline, but might throw the dark colored parasol away if I did not want to use it. A heavier cardstock is sturdier for your template and can be reused more times.
The purple cardstock was too flimsy for my template, so I ended up making my template from a sturdier black cardstock. I cut a few blanks from white, light purple, and medium purple cardstock. The medium purple was textured, which was a bad idea. I had forgotten that textured does not stamp as well.

I would also cut several additional parasol die cuts in white and lighter colors, but would throw away the outline/waste papers as usual. The die cut shapes are the "blanks" and will be used for stamping on as desired.

Put a piece of plain paper on your stamp platform and fasten it with magnets. Put your template on the platform base as well, then position the stamp so that it will be approximately in the center of the template. It does not need to be perfect. You just want to make sure you can fit the template. The first time I did the "cut first, stamp second" technique, I put the stamp on the platform lid without making sure I had left sufficient room on the base plate for the template. I had positioned my stamp too close to the edge and had to trim a corner off my template, which was annoying.

Once it is positioned, bring down the lid so that it picks up your cling stamp.  Remove the template and set it aside. Ink your stamp, then stamp on the plain paper.  Open the lid.

With the stamped, plain paper still in place, lay the template over the stamped image, so that it is outlined perfectly. Tape it to your plain paper with Washi tape, or use additional magnets if you prefer.

Now put your matching cut out into the template so that it fits like a puzzle piece. The template should hold it perfectly in position.

Ink your stamp and press it down onto the cut image. It should stamp perfectly.  Stamp as many pre-cut "blanks" as you like for future use.
The nice thing about this technique is that there is no guesswork, and you are more likely to get a perfectly stamped image each time.  You can use manual dies that match your stamps, or an electronic cutter that allows you to trace a stamped image to create a cutting file. Either will work.

Card I made using Lush Lilacs stamps and papers....

This isn't as fancy as the ones we made in the class. I cut apart one of the Lush Lilacs papers which is obviously intended for cards or for journaling on a layout. I had previously stamped, cut, and added extra lilac blossoms to the parasol. I chose a ticket element from the paper, cut some matching cardstock, added a little bling (which doesn't show up well, unfortunately), and my card was done.

The parasol was cut out with the Scan N Cut. It required a border to get a decent cut. I had another that had no border. I don't remember if that one was colored first, or if I used the matching die. Yes, I did eventually buy the matching dies, as well as the Lilac flower shaping set.

Sometimes it's easier using the Scan N Cut. Sometimes it's easier using a matching die. To a great extent, simpler stamps cut well using the Scan N Cut, especially if you do not need inside sections cut out. There is a way to do inside and out cutting, but I tried it and was not quite satisfied with the results.

The machine will cut highly detailed, artistic stamps far better if they are first fully colored with Copics or other markers.

Heartfelt Creations are not simple stamps. Because they are highly detailed, they do not always cut right on the line with the Scan N Cut. I had more success if I added a thin border. Sometimes a thin border looks better, and sometimes borderless looks better. It depends on the project. I had both a borderless and a bordered parasol, and for this card, the one with the slight border looked better to me. I bought the matching dies so that I could eliminate having a border. There is another reason to buy the matching dies.....

We had thunderstorms today. A recent lightning strike fried several ethernet ports on many of our devices. Sometimes you just don't want to use an expensive electronic cutter. You can use dies even if you have a power loss.

As a result, even though I have the Scan N Cut, I am still buying Heartfelt Creations dies.

I have not given up on the Scan N Cut. It's a good machine. And I have a lot of stamps that don't have matching dies. For Heartfelt Creations stamps, though, I really like having the coordinating dies in some cases, too.

Heartfelt Creations Lush Lilacs Class

Back in January, I got an email stating that Heartfelt Creations, my favorite stamp company, would be having a class near me. It was very, very near me! A local stamp club hosted the Heartfelt Creations classes, including one that used the Lush Lilacs stamp collection which had not yet been released.  I signed up, and I loved it! The cards we made were gorgeous, as you can see:

We also had the opportunity to buy the stamps, dies, and paper collection that day. I bought the stamps and papers.  That is when I decided to buy the Scan N Cut, so that I could cut my stamps without having to buy matching dies.  Many of the other gals at the class raved about the machine. Some of them had never even heard of the Silhouette Cameo.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Scan N Cut.....I Missed the Obvious

A thought occurred to me yesterday that perhaps my problem stamps were not really the problem. I wondered if it was the process I was using.

I was stamping, cutting, then coloring. It works well when you have matching dies. I can see the lines clearly for lining up the die with the stamped image, then color using sponge daubers. They are not as precise as markers, but the look works well for large florals, and it's generally faster. I do not enjoy coloring. I tolerate it.

It seemed that the Scan N Cut was confused by some of the detailed stamped images. What would happen if I colored them first?  Originally I was concerned about ruining an image I had taken the time to color, but you can see with the machine before you cut if there is a problem. If there is, you just don't cut.

I got out the same "problem" stamps this morning that had issues yesterday. I stamped two images of each. I colored one, and left the other uncolored. For the uncolored, I used the same color of ink that I used for it yesterday.

These are the cutting lines of the colored image:

Next, the cutting lines of the non-colored image:

If you look closely, two petals would have been cut away, parts of each completely missing.

Next, here are the colored and black & white stamped images of the rose trellis:

The cutting lines of the colored image:

One small part at the bottom would be cut off, but the image would be cut out almost perfect.

Next, the black and white cutting lines:

The rose at the top would be chopped apart, as well as other little bits cut away. It's not horrible, but it's not what I wanted.

I cut only the colored images of both the dogwood and rose trellis. You can see the results look good, and NO TRACING REQUIRED:

There is a way that you can cut both inside and out, which would hopefully get rid of at least some of the inside white sections, but I wanted to resolve one problem at a time. I will play with that technique later.

This was one of those occasions when I seriously felt like doing a face palm for missing what should have been obvious, but since I typically die cut before coloring when I have matching dies, it just didn't occur to me at first. I cut first out of habit.

The information (that fully colored images work better) was probably in the operations manual, which came on a CD. I am one of the few who usually will usually read manuals, but since I have used so many electronic cutters, I thought watching tutorials would just be quicker this time, not to mention a lot more enjoyable.

Lesson learned: Color first before cutting.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Scan N Cut Successes and Failures

Today has been a day of trial and error with this machine. First of all, I intentionally chose stamps that I thought might be problematic, so that I could figure out solutions if possible. I wanted to do this at a time that I wasn't rushed.

I can sometimes tell when a stamped image will be difficult for the Scan N Cut. I chose two stamps that I want to use in the near future, and I stamped them in green. For recent tests, green was more difficult for the Scan N Cut than black ink was. Here is my stamped page prior to cutting:

These are old stamps. Decades old, with no matching dies available. The larger one actually cut well. I was pleasantly surprised. The smaller one was obviously going to cut off parts because the design had gaps in the outer line in a couple of places. It would have chopped off pieces of one of the flowers. I decided to use the acetate trace trick.

I did not have acetate sheets. I did have cheap laminating pouches. I figured they would work. I cut off the top so that each pouch gave me two sheets of plastic for tracing.

There is a video on YouTube about using acetate to get a good cutting line. I don't remember the full process, but I took a piece of the clear plastic, placed it over the stamped image, then used an ultra fine sharpie to do a trace of the outside lines. Tip: the outside of your sharpie line will be what the machine sees. A sharpie line, even the ultra fine point, is thicker than pencil and will leave you with a slight border, unless you draw the line just inside the stamped line. Since I was going for zero border, it did not turn out perfect.

Yes, I held down my trace over the stamped image with washi tape. It worked fine the first time. Those of you who watch the video teaching this technique should pay attention to her instructions about NOT using washi tape! The second time I tried this, I did not have the washi stuck down firmly, and one of the pieces came off inside my machine. It took me at least half an hour, but I did eventually manage to get it out.  I seriously thought I had ruined my new machine.

If I decide to use the acetate trick again, I will NOT be using washi tape!  I would use a full sized piece (9x10.5 inches) of the plastic/acetate, with my stamped image on a much smaller piece of cardstock. With the small stamped cardstock square or rectangle, I would place the larger acetate piece overtop so the edges extend well beyond the cardstock. This way, the Scan N Cut mat would be holding the acetate in place.  When done, you can clean the sharpie trace off the plastic with nail polish remover. (That is something I learned back in my days of creating laminated tutoring games).

You do need to scan with the acetate trace in place, but you remove it before you actually cut.

Both cut well. The bigger dogwood branch scanned and cut well without resorting to the acetate. The small one did well using the trace trick. I did not do a perfect trace on the small one, but it was my first time, and I did kind of rush tracing the image.

After the washi fiasco, I turned off my machine for awhile.  I thought more about what went right vs. what went wrong. Then I had a realization that I had not played with the color vs. black and white settings for scanning. I had stamped in black, so I used the gray scale for scanning the image earlier, and it did not do well. That was when I tried the trace and got the washi stuck in the machine.

Tonight I tried both a black ink and a green ink stamped image, and I used the color setting for the scan. That was much, much better. The grass on the bottom was not going to work well, so I deleted it. The unexpected advantage was that instead of a middle part that would not cut out, I ended up with a U shaped image that cut pretty well.

The black image had a better cut using the color scan than it did the gray scale. However, parts did get cut off. The green ink worked the best in this case. I included an uncut version so you can see the actual stamped image prior to the grass being removed.

Here are two more stamped images that I tried. The truck traced and cut well using the gray scale scan. The owl did not have a usable cutting line using gray scale. At this point, I tried scanning it again using the color scan. The owl this time had great cutting lines.

If the gray scale scan does not work for a black and white image, try using the color scan. The reverse is also true. Sometimes the gray scale works better for a colored ink image. I don't know why, but try both before you give up on a problem stamp.