Monday, May 27, 2013

Cricut Tutorial: Modifying Cuts to Match Your Project.

I coveted the Cricut "Pack Your Bags" cartridge for over a year.  I just loved the artwork but I didn't have photos that warranted the purchase.  Then, we started planning our trip to Disneyland and I finally had my reason: page 33!
It wasn't until after I had opened the package and I looked through the handbook carefully, that I realized there was a big sister and little brother in the image.  We, the Isaacs family, have a big brother and a little sister so that was not going to work.  Well that was just a big fat bummer.  Being the crafty little busy body that I am, I decided that I had to find a way to alter the die cut to match our family unit. Welcome to my
This post is about the different tricks I used to change "the family" die cut in the Cricut Cartridge, Pack Your Bags, but, more importantly, it is a tutorial about altering any die cut to suit your needs- post cut. Certainly you can alter many Cricut images by using Cricut Craft Room, Cricut Design Studio or by using a Cricut Gypsy.  However, there are always instances when you will need to pull out your craft knife to remove an "s" on a phrase, or change a haircut on a figure.   In this tutorial I will be making changes in a variety of ways - some will be more successful than others.  Hopefully my experimentation will give you a jumping off point for those custom changes you will make in the future.

Day One:
Originally, I had planned to make this change, take and edit my pictures, write my post and publish to my blog before the kids got home from school.  In all honestly, it had been a while since I had used my Cricut and so my cricutty intuition and creativity were a little rusty.  Just putting together the images as intended by Provocraft felt a little challenging.  I neglected to consider all the elements in each layer so when I cut layer 2+ shift in black I was oblivious that both the daughter and mother's lips would also end up being black.  You see what I mean?  When you use your Cricut, you have to look at your projects with a broader view than what is in front of you.

So this first run at altering the family die cut is not the most efficient way of approaching this challenge.  None-the-less, I felt it was valuable information about altering images so it will be my first installment in this series.

Above, are all the layers you need to cut to create the die cut image of "the family" as laid out in the Pack Your Bags handbook, plus, 2 extra cuts (totaling 3) for Layer 1 (1 in white, 1 in red and 1 in grey) and 1 extra for Layer 2 +shift (white and black).  The reason I cut multiple copies is because those layers include bits and pieces of clothing for several of the characters in the completely assembled die cut. I cut Layer 1 in 3 different colors to make the clothing match our outfits from a photo taken at Disney. Layer 1 contains the mom's shirt and hat, both the dad and the son's shorts and the daughter's purse.

Note: I have a Cricut Imagine so instead of cutting with various colored paper, I printed the clothing colors (RGB codes) to match our clothes. Now if you weren't trying to match a specific look, multiple copies in different colors would not be necessary.

Once the layers were assembled, this is what the die cut looked like.  I used a small amount of re-positional adhesive to hold the pieces in place.
You will see my ugly cutting mat as the backdrop in this photos because that is how I like to stack the layers.  The cutting mat holds the base in place making assembly more stable.  Plus I can place the pieces I am going to use on the mat so I don't have to worry about loosing them and put the extras aside.  I cannot tell you how many times I have lost pieces from a layer cut.  It makes me crazy!

My kids and I have lighter hair so I re-cut the base layer in 2 different shades of light brown to replace the black hair you see in the cut above.  The black hair comes from the base cut which, in addition to the hair, provides a slight shadow for the entire image, everyone's eyes, dad's brows, dad and boy's mouths, mom's sunglasses and everyone's shoes.  Because the black provides so many details, we only use the hair portions from the 2 new base cuts and discard the rest of the image.
I also cut another layer 1 in a darker shade of grey and another layer 2+ shift because, you guessed it, I lost the mom's lips.  From the two base images I carefully cut out the hair for mom and the 2 kids using my craft knife.  There are small slits cut into the base to show you how to stack the different layers which I used as my cutting guides. Unfortunately, there were no slits to indicate that mom had additional hair visible under her hat therefore mom was missing the hair under her hat and above her glasses.  No worries, this would be easily fixed. But what I learned was that you cannot depend on the slits as a definitive source for dissecting images.  I also decided to keep notes about images that I wanted to change.  I needed to call out where the Base image was visible, where the Base +shift, Layer 1 and 2 and Layer 1 and 2+ shift pieces belonged on the final image. Observing and notating these factors would simplify the alteration process.

Are you still with me?

The next task was to fix mom's hair and turn her sun hat into a baseball cap.  I tried editing one of the extra hats I had cut out (see below), but it wouldn't work- the shape was not right. I was going to have to find a baseball hat on another cartridge. After searching my Master Table of Contents, (I have all of the cheat sheets, just like I post here on my blog, put together in excel and I use the "Find" feature under the Edit drop down menu to locate specific images) I found several options but Nate's ABCs had a hat that was facing the right direction and seemed to have a brim that would mesh well with the overall design.

I put in the Cricut Cartridge "Nate's ABC's" and selected the baseball cap on page 65.  I wasn't sure what size to print and cut so I used the Cricut cutting mat as a guide - I guessed somewhere between .05 and an inch, but to avoid having to cut over and over, I cut 4 different sizes: .05", .07", .09" and 1.1".
The boy and girl have black hair in the several pictures because the cut-outs kept getting lost so I set them aside for safe keeping.  I hope seeing them with black hair doesn't confuse you.
The 1.1" worked great.  I located the missing piece of mom's forehead hair and put that and the hat on mom's head.  It looked pretty good.

NOTE: You may have noticed that 2 of the hats have a white strip on the top.  This happens when the printer function and the cutting function on the Imagine are not aligned.  It is relatively simple to fix but it is time consuming so the white strips will show up again on this tutorial and I'll use ink to disguise them on the finished die cut. 

HINT: Imagine owners, I turned the cutting speed to 3 because I wanted to cut a ruffle for the blue dress. I forgot to change it back and as a result, the printing and cuts matched without having to stop to align! Perhaps slower speeds make the machine more accurate.

Now it was time to make the big girl a little girl and vice versa.  I placed the dress on the boy and I moved the boy clothing over to the girl form.  I needed to make larger shorts for the girl figure so I picked out a child, "Charles", on the Cricut cartridge Playtime and cut the shorts as 2.5", 2.7", 2.9" and 3.1" just like I did with the hat.
These shorts were too short and wide to work with the shape of the girl so I tried another kiddo from Playtime; "Trevor".  This fit was better but I would still have to do some trimming with my craft knife.

Now came the hair for both the girl and boy.  I tackled this issue by flipping or mirroring the base image so that the mom and son (now daughter) were on the left and dad and daughter (now son) were on the right. Then I cut the (flipped/ mirrored) base image again in the light brown shade.  Now I had to wing it to create hair-doos that would blend into the overall image and look reasonably gender appropriate.  I also had to do some trimming on the left side (skirt), in between and on the left side of the girl's (now boy's) legs.  I also needed to add a little extra skin color on dad's left elbow which had been previously covered by the girl's hair.  

Now for the girl (previously a boy): the girl's dress was too thin in the center as it was cut to give the illusion of arms on a larger body.  I tackled this problem by converting the dress to match my daughter's Cinderella dress that she wore our first day at Disneyland. I used some elements from the dress on page 25 from Cricut Cartridge Formal Occasion to hide the dress issues.  I chose the dress overskirt panels because my daughters had the same element.  

Even after adjusting the children's bodies I saw that I had a lot of other problems: the the big brother (once big sister) was missing a mouth which was supposed to be pink lips from Layer 2+ shift.  The little girl (once little boy) had no feminine features whatsoever, so I tried to add blue eyes to her face to make her a little more "pretty"... which ended up looking "creepy".  I covered the missing flesh color on dad's arm but now it looked wonky and the little girl's hair was a bit of a train wreck.
Are those overskirt panels on her dress or has she put her fairy wings on backwards?

I had been at it for 4 1/2 hours (believe it or not) and the kids were now home.  I needed to get started on their homework so I put the project aside thinking I would return later that evening with a fresh pair of eyes, make a few tweaks, and have the entire post up by midnight.  But by the time I had the kids in bed and said hello to my husband I had no interest in looking at the project again.

Day Two:
The next day, I edited my photos and started typing this entry thinking that I would go back to the project and write my ending a little later.  While writing down the steps I had taken to modify the die cut the day prior, I had an epiphany;  I thought of a new way of approaching the problem entirely, and that is when I decided to make this a 2 part series.  By doing a 2 part series I would be able to share what I had learned through my mistakes and retry my alterations on a brand new base with new clothes etc, etc.  It also meant that I wouldn't have to return to that odd family I had created the day before. Thank goodness (sigh).

Believe it or not it took a large part of day two to write this entry, then go through the photos taken as the project developed and then crop, adjust lighting and decide which ones to post in conjunction with my text.  It looked like my next pass at modifying the family image was going to happen on Day 3.  In addition, I couldn't post this entry until I proofed it for grammar and errors so it would not go up as planned. Hmmmmm. This was taking longer than expected.  

Have you found yourself in this same boat when you work on new projects with new techniques?  It is fascinating how long something that seems so simple can end up taking. But this is how we master skills and develop new ideas.  Learning something new cannot always be taught with a step by step tutorial.  We have to experience the learning to really understand something. I hope this learning experience is helpful to you in some way.


  1. I am busted. I have done the same type of cut modifying. For our Disney World album, I changed all the characters to look like "Animal Kingdom characters". Donald's hat never did turn out right.

    I loved this post! Thank you.

  2. Very cool. I have to try this... When I have a couple of days to tackle it! Lol!

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