Hey all!I was working with a lady on Facebook a little earlier today and basically made a quick Pixscan walk-through. It's a just a bare-bones, how-to-start tutorial to make sure you're setting your project up correctly. This won't cover troubleshooting but, as always, I'm happy to help if you have specific questions that aren't covered here.
What is Pixscan and why do we LOVE it?:The Pixscan mat by Silhouette is a unique cutting mat that comes pre-printed with registration marks like you would use in print-and-cut projects. There is a sticky cutting area like a regular mat where you can adhere vinyl scraps, pictures, small pieces of thin metal for etching (we may get more into that later), or, my favorite, sticker sheets.
The Pixscan mat lets you take advantage of the FULL SURFACE AREA of your page rather than wasting space printing on registration marks that your machine may end up having trouble reading later anyway. Also, you can place scraps of vinyl on the mat any way you want and then, when you load the photo into the program (which I will walk you through below) you will be able to place cuts anywhere you want on the material to make sure you get the most out off every last little piece of vinyl! You can also place pictures on the mat and cut around your friends and family or cut the photos into letters in a pretty font or even different shapes. There are so many uses.
Sounds cool! How do we start?:The process itself is simple but there are a few critical points where it can fail and I'll point them out to you as we get there.
Step 1: Place your media on your mat and take a full resolution photo of it in good lighting and preferably against a dark/contrasting surface and save this picture to your computer somewhere it will be easy to get to in a few minutes.
Make sure the entire mat is visible and none of the edges are cut off. Here, I used a large piece of black card stock behind the mat. You can use a digital camera, your phone, or you can even scan a the mat using the flatbed scanner on your printer.
DO NOT crop the image, DO NOT re-size the image, DO NOT rotate the image. The software in Silhouette studio will handle all that for you! Yay for less work!
Step 2: Open a new project in Silhouette Studio
Step 3: Choose the Pixscan option from the menu on the right hand side of the screen
Step 4: Click on the "Import PixSccan Image from File" button and then locate the picture file you saved earlier.
Step 5: If the software can successfully read the file, you will see a thumbnail and progress bar as it loads into the studio space. Note: This is one of the first places things can go wrong. More on that below the photo.
See how it says "Calibration: Samsung S6"? That means that the software recognizes that I took the photo with my phone and knows how to adjust the file according to the specifications of my camera. If the program can't read your image and gives you a calibration error, first try to re-take the picture in better lighting. There could have been a glare covering the registration marks, or the angle the picture was taken at could have been too severe for the software to accommodate. If you're using a camera or an older model phone, there is a calibration process you can complete where you print a full size page of dots and take a photo of them with whatever picture-taking device you're going to use and then load that picture into studio. This will teach the program how to adjust for the device you're using. There are a few good tutorials on this process elsewhere on the internet and I may link one in later for you if needed.
Step 6 (passive): Assuming your photo calibration was recognized, you will see your image open in the studio space (without the watermark 😎) but it won't be editable like a normal file. See how the mat looks like the PixScan mat now instead of the normal mat image? If you see normal print-and-cut registration marks instead of something similar to my photo, go back and start at step 2. If it does look similar to my photo below, think of it now as a sheet of dough and you will create cookie-cutter cut lines on top of this to show the machine where to cut.
Step 7: Create your cut lines.
In my file, I actually used my silhouette program to design the sticker sheets I had printed so I copied out one of the elements and used that to create my cut lines for the individual pieces. I placed each one individually based on what I saw in the image and adjusted the shape and length a little bit for each one based on the lines in the image. I also left a "bleed" area around each of my images when I printed so that if the cuts were off a little bit one way or another, I wouldn't have a ruined cut, just one that was a tiny bit off center. NOTE: you don't need to change your line thickness, I just did this for the photo so it would be easier for you to see.
Step 8: Cut! Once you are happy with all your cut lines, load the mat into the machine (I have a Cameo 2 so I used the "load mat" option) and select the media type you're cutting just as if you were using a regular mat. Once you press "START" the machine will take in the mat and start to calibrate the cut based on the registration marks on the Pixscan mat. If it scans all three registration marks successfully, it will return to the starting point and begin your cut.
And, oh, when it works! It's the COOLEST thing.
I never fail to smile when everything works and it's super satisfying!
BONUS Step: But wait, there's just a little more! One of the benefits of the digitized cutting file you've just created is that you can cut multiple pages of the same thing if you added in a small bleed area around your images and you put your sheets on the mat in (almost) exactly the same spot as your original photo. I used this set of files to cut 20 identical pages of stickers, off of the same picture and cut file, being sure to match the top and left corners of my sticker sheet to the top and left corners of the cutting box of the PixScan mat. WooHoo for more saved time!
Do you love PixScan yet?Once you get the process down, there are SO MANY cool uses:
- As I mentioned above, you can throw a bunch of vinyl scraps on the mat any which way you want and cut funky shapes out of every little piece.
- You can make planner stickers or labels for your home and custom cut them into specific shapes without wasting any space on those expensive full page sticker sheets with traditional print-and-cut registration marks.
- You can have images printed on acetate and cut them out in exactly the right shape to insert into ornaments or cut out pictures for lockets or scrap books.
- You can tape down thin metal tags and engrave on them if you have an engraving tool and you'll be sure that your engraving is centered and upright instead of using a regular mat and HOPING that you counted your squares right. (wait, what? engraving? TEASER!)
I'm sure you guys can come up with a bunch of cool stuff too. Let me know in the comments below what you've done with the PixScan mat.