Win a $25 GC and a Subscription to VDBC!!!

To celebrate this 4th Anniversary of www.visualdesignsbychris.com, Chris is offering a membership to her current Quarterly Membership Club and I’m offering a $25 Gift Certificate to KNK USA! For more information about the QMC you can see some details here.

The winner will be selected randomly from those who post a comment HERE to THIS post today. Note that I will need to approve the posts and will do so as quickly as I see them. As long as your post makes it to my approval section by midnight PDT, it will qualify. I will then draw the name of the winner Sunday and announce in a new post! Good luck to all!

And don’t forget to then head over to VDBC to see the adorable cutting files available by Chris and her designers. Also, click on the Forum there to join in on more celebrations this weekend!
Happy Anniversary, VDBC!

Going Wireless!

A big announcement came from KNK USA today! At the end of October, the first Bluetooth KNK’s will begin shipping!

I cannot count the number of times customers have asked me if there would ever be a wireless Klic-N-Kut and I always responded, “I doubt it.” Alas, I was wrong! The time has arrived and I’ve been told that it is working flawlessly. I cannot wait to get one!

Going wireless means that owners can set up their KNK Maxx Air anywhere within ~ 30 feet of their computer and not be burdened with the USB or serial cable previously needed. This will certainly lead to an entirely new arrangement within my own office/craftroom and I can’t wait to do that. For anyone preferring to stick with the old school connection, no problem! A USB cable and serial cable will both continue to be provided with every Maxx Air shipped. For those who do not have Bluetooth already available in their computer, an adaptor will be provided for free by KNK USA.

Bluetooth technology is not the only enhancement to the latest Maxx product line. The Maxx Air will also feature:

  • A more powerful motor for faster and quieter cutting.
  • The maximum cutting speed will now be 800 mm/sec compared to our previous 600 mm/sec.
  • There will be 168 cutting speeds, which will be more than sufficient for any application, from cutting very thick dense materials to drawing or engraving at super fast, time-saving speeds.
  • The maximum cutting force is now at 1500g with more settings (255 versus the previous 160).This will keep me busy for the first few months, as I will need to retest the wide range of materials capable of being cut on our machines. Just as with the previous KNK’s, I want to provide a detailed table of recommended cut settings so that new owners have a good starting point for their test cuts.
  • The control panel on the new Maxx Air will feature a few other changes:

  • Pressing the Origin button while online will toggle the laser on and off. This will make it much faster than the previous method of needing to go Offline and pressing the Menu button before pressing Origin.
  • A menu setting called Dwell which will delay the start of a cut. This function will be used with the future rotary tool where a delay is needed so that the tool has a chance to drill down to the depth needed for the engraving of metal or wood.
  • A menu setting called Soft Landing which will change the force used when the blade is first dropped to penetrate the material.
  • These new models will come with the same outstanding features as our prior models, including:

  • Bolt-on flatbed tables
  • A fully-adjustable blade holder seat (which permit a wide use of pens, markers, and other accessory tools)
  • Adjustable pinch rollers
  • A large (13″ x 22″) extra-thick long-lasting cutting mat
  • A built-in laser for spot-on print and cut applications
  • The $300 bonus package of free blades, crafting tools, and miscellaneous cutting materials will also continue to be shipped with every Maxx Air
  • Superb technical support, customer service, and educational resources: I will be writing the user manual for the new Maxx Air and providing tutorial videos, as needed. 😛
  • To further compare how the new Maxx Air compares to the prior Maxx models and to the amaZing Zing, view the comparison table updates also available here at this site. Be sure to also check out the opportunity to save $50 on the new Maxx Air by putting down a $100 deposit in advance of shipping. Go to KNK USA and then click on Maxx Air, in the left column, to learn more.

    Closing Open Shapes

    One question that I occasionally get from a customer is what to do when closed shapes are not actually closed. Sometimes, it’s a case of just two nodes not being connected. Other times, it can be dozens of gaps on a single shape. In both KNK Studio and in Make-The-Cut, when a shape is not closed, it will not fill with color, as shown with the left reindeer above. In KNK Studio a shape will be dashed lines if Fill is turned on and the shape has a gap between two nodes. In Make The Cut, the shape will be a solid line and filled with the background of the Virtual Mat.

    One thing to remember is that even when a shape SHOULD be closed, it often won’t change the results when you cut because the disconnected nodes are SO very close that the cut completes. If, however, the gap between the nodes is significant (say, more than 1/16″), then certainly you will have a problem with your shape not separating from the waste. Also, if there are numerous gaps, then the cutting won’t be as smooth since the blade will be raising at the and of each path where a break occurs and then coming back down at the next node.

    I made several videos showing the various options users have in both KNK Studio and in Make-The-Cut for closing open shapes:

    Closing Shapes in KNK Studio

    Closing Shapes in Make-The-Cut

    One thing not shown in the MTC video is how to quickly identify the location of a broken path. As I mentioned above, the blade will always start and end at the disconnected nodes. Thus, if you use the Measure Tools (bottom icon on the Node Edit menu), and then hover your mouse over the shape, a large blue or green arrow head will pop up indicating the cut direction and starting node for that particular path. Also check to see if the entire path has turned red:

    If part of the path is only red, then you have another break on another part of the shape. Hover the mouse over another part of the shape to locate the break in that one. The following screen shots show that the outer shape has two breaks:

    Thus, in this case, the closing would need to be applied in both locations. But as you can see from the video, it’s an easy process and you even have choices on how to close! Pick the one you like best and go with it!

    Feel free to post if you have any questions…

    Designing a Stencil Edge Card

    Free videos today to teach you how to make a stencil-edged card, such as the one I made above. There are other variations on this card and I want to thank the various members of the MTC Forum who shared their ideas. I liked Liz Ackerman’s because I immediately saw how it would work in KNK Studio, as well. So, that’s why my readers get TWO videos today… one showing how to design a stencil edge in KNK Studio and one showing how to design the same exact thing in Make-The-Cut.

    Designing a Stencil Edged Card in KNK Studio

    Designing a Stencil Edged Card in Make The Cut

    If you would like to download the cutting files for this design, select the file type format you need:

    Stencil Edge Tulip Card in KNK Format

    Stencil Edge Tulip Card in MTC Format

    Stencil Edge Tulip Card in PDF Format

    Post if you have any questions!

    7 Reasons to LOVE Make-The-Cut’s Tracing Function!

    It’s been months and months since I posted about the 25 reasons to look into buying Make-The-Cut (MTC). Thus today, I’m catching up a bit by posting more reasons, all of them related to the auto-tracing functionality and why I prefer it over that in KNK or ACS Studio… or, for that matter, any of the other vector programs I’ve tried. This is one of the major reasons a lot of cutter owners have chosen Make-The-Cut and I have to tell you, in two simple words, “It Rocks!”

    We last left off with #12 in my countdown to 25… which now will probably extend to 30 since I’ve had time to explore and discover more cool functionality available in MTC. So, we start the numbering of these seven new reasons with #13. Note that I also made a demo video to cover these 7 reasons, in case you prefer to just watch versus read! Also, there are additional details on the Pixel Trace function in the MTC user manuals here at this site, as well as in my free MTC training videos covering tracing.

    Reason #13: Single Icon Access

    In MTC, you only have to remember one location to activate the tracing, whether you are importing an image already saved as a file on your computer, scanning an image directly into MTC, or pasting an image that has been copied to your Windows Clipboard. The Pixel Trace function is located on a toolbar at the top of the MTC screen, easily accessible. If you prefer shortcut keys, then Ctrl+Shift+T will also activate Pixel Trace. Or you can activate in the File>Import menu. But again, what I like is that one window opens with three options available, as shown below:

    My favorite method for finding images is to Google what I’m needing, click on “Images” on the left side of my browser window, click on an image I want, right click to select Copy, and then paste that image into MTC using Option 3 above. It doesn’t get any faster than that!

    Reason #14: Preview of Results Before Accepting

    After clicking on Open in the window above, I see the next reason I prefer to use MTC over KNK Studio: immediately the tracing I will get with the default settings appears. The blue lines show the path being traced while the green fill indicates what would be cut out using these settings. To the left, in black, I can also see the trace results, using the current settings, on the main MTC screen:

    Further, as I modify settings to refine the trace, I can continue to see the effects of these settings without accepting the results. While this is standard in many vector programs, it is still the case, in KNK and ACS Studio, where you must accept each change in settings, leave the tracing functions, and move the original image away from the trace, before being able to see the results of that trace! Talk about tedious!

    So, in this example, if I reduce the Threshold and increase the Resample in order to capture more detail of the flower, I can see the effects before accepting:

    Reason #15: Viewing Settings

    There are three settings which do not affect the trace in any way, but can be quite handy. First off, there is an Alpha setting which changes the visibility of the original graphic. Scroll to the far left and none of the original image shows and the user can better see exactly what will be cut. Scroll to the far right and more of the original graphic is visible in order to better see the fit of the trace lines around and within the image:

    There is a Zoom function so that the user can zoom in on specific spots on the image to check the tracing. There is also a box to mark if the user wishes to view the nodes that would be produced with the current settings:

    Reason #16:Useful Info about Imported Image and Traced Image

    The lower left section of the Pixel Trace screen contains information about the original imported graphic, as well as the tracing itself:

    The most useful data for me is noting the number of nodes and then the number of shapes. If there are thousands of nodes, then the file will take longer to cut. To reduce the nodes, the Resample setting should be decreased. If there are numerous shapes then I know I should increase the Despeckle to filter out tiny paths that are not necessary to my cut.

    Reason #17:Texturize and Blackout Options

    There are two typical situations in which I’m using the Pixel Trace function: (1) I need just a quick die cut shape or possibly a paper piecing of an image and (2) I want to perform a print and cut in which the original image will first be printed to my home printer and then my KNK will cut it out. In the second situation, I will typically be needing the original graphic to be imported and I only need the outside of the image traced. This is where the Texturize and Blackout options are useful.

    The original graphic will not be imported unless the Texturize box is checked. Note how the original image now appears inside the tracing lines, to the left, in the main screen:

    The Blackout option is used to delete any interior (child) paths contained within a larger path. Now, in this particular example, applying Blackout would delete the interior parts from being cut, which may or may not be wanted. But the nice thing is that the option to do this is there, if needed. Note that if you forget to do it, there’s a second Blackout tool on the Magic toolbar at the bottom:

    Reason #18:Separate Tracing Option for Images with a Transparent Background

    Images with transparent backgrounds can be more difficult to trace using the standard method in MTC. In the following example, a PNG file has been imported for a print and cut application. The default threshold is far from acceptable and even increasing it up to 200 still fails to complete trace this big cat! It was necessary to increase it up to 250 to get the best tracing:

    But not to fret! Simply click on the Alpha tab and often the Default setting for the Threshold will give much closer desired results:

    How does one know when to use this tab? Again, it’s applicable with files having transparent backgrounds, as found with many PNG files and especially when there are pale colors (such as yellow, gray, and white) next to the background.

    Reason #19:Two Color Tracing Options

    Most vector programs now have the option to provide color tracing, as well as monochrome tracing. But the uniqueness of MTC is that you have TWO separate color tracing options AND the ability to employ both of them, as well as the regular monochrome tracing, all during the same trace! Trace any part of your image, import it, and when asked if you want to trace more layers, answer, “Yes.” You can then stay with the same tracing option or click on another tab to use another tracing option! VERY cool!

    Now this probably isn’t necessary for the majority of the tracings being done, but as I tell my students, “When tracing, you never really know what you’re going to need!”

    The two colored options are the other two tabs in the Pixel Trace window, labelled “Palette” and “Color”. First let’s look at Palette in which the 16 most prevalent colors are identified and users can choose to select one or more at a time to be traced. In the following example I show two situations. In the first, only two of the four pink colors are marked. The pixels closest to those two colors are selected to be incorporated in the trace. In the second, all four pink colors are marked, resulting in more of the flowers being traced. Note how this results in a merging, of sorts, so that larger paths, incorporating more of the image, are created:

    The Color tab allows one to use an eyedropper tool to move around the original image and then click to select a color to use in the tracing. The Tolerance setting is adjusted to then select how much of a similar color to include in the tracing. Below, the lighter pink is selected, but note the difference in what gets traced based on the whether the Tolerance is left at the default of 5 versus being lowered to 3:

    Once the pink layer is imported, another color is then selected using the same eyedropper tool and then the Tolerance adjusted. Again, you can continue using this same Color method or switch to the Palette method! Either could be used for the black background OR the original Pixel tab could be employed instead. Or one could even use the Shadow function after leaving the trace window to create a background option! So many choices… so much fun!

    Below are the results of the Palette trace and the Color trace, along with the original image… in some order? Can you tell which is which?

    Make-The-Cut sells for $58.36 and will cut to a wide range of cutters, including the majority of the KNK models. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about using it with your particular cutter.