I hope you’re learning some good tricks to help you cut without the mat. (To start with tip#1, go here.) Today’s tip is one you won’t need all the time, but it’s critical to understand it when it pops up. It’s about orientation — which edge of your material gets butted up against the rollers when you load it into the machine. If you load the material into the machine with the wrong leading edge, the cut won’t happen in the right place. This one can be confusing, but I’ll give you the bottom line at the end of the post.
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Tip #5: Check the loading orientation arrow
Look at your design area for a moment. With or without the mat, there will be an arrow at the top or left edge of your page. That arrow indicates loading orientation. What that means is that the edge with the arrow is the one that you should load into the machine.
With the mat
When you have a mat selected, the arrow is on the mat in the drawing area and it points up. It’s at the top because that makes logical sense to our brains.
And you see it on your physical mat. The top edge goes into the machine first. So far, so good – easy peasy.
Without the mat
When you choose None on cutting mat, that arrow may still point upward…
…or it may change to the left side.
This is the tricky part. It only goes to the left with certain combinations of width and height on your page size—
- Width and height combination of 9” and 12”, in either order.
- W=9 and H=12
- W=12 and H=9
- Height of 9” and a width either less than or greater than 9.”
- H=9 and W<9
- H=9 and W>9
- Height of 12” and a width less than 9”, greater than 9” but less than 12”, or greater than 12.”
- H=12 and W<9
- H=12 and W>9 but <12
- H=12 and W>12
- Width less than 9″ and a height equal to or greater than 9.”
- W<9 and H=9
- W<9 and H>9
- Width of greater than 9″ but less than 12″ and a height equal to or less than the width.
- W>9 but <12 and H=W
- W>9 but <12 and H<W
- Width greater than 12″ and equal to or greater than the height.
- W>12 and W=H
- W>12 and W>H
What’s the logic here?
The software is reading the dimensions and deciding the page orientation based on the standard material widths — the 9″ and 12″ we talked about in tip #4. It assumes you are using material with one of those widths and chooses that as the leading edge — the edge that goes into the machine — when it can. That makes sense.
What throws you off is when you don’t realize that that 9″ or 12″ edge might be showing on your screen at the left instead of at the top. Or, if neither of the dimensions is the standard width, that the arrow is only at the left with certain size combinations.
This is probably WAY more information than you want to clog your brain with (unless, like me, you aren’t satisfied until you know every detail). You don’t need to memorize all this – it won’t be on the test. As long as you are aware of the arrow, you’ll know how to layout your design and load your material.
Rotating the view
You can change the direction the arrow is facing by rotating your view in the page setup.
Here I’ve got a 9″ x 12″ combination, which means that by default the arrow would point left. I can get it to point up if I rotate 90°.
But doing this often makes things even more confusing because the X and Y axes rotate as well. For example, if you have Designer Edition and pull out a guideline from the rulers, pulling one from the ruler along the top of the screen will actually create one from the side and vice versa.
The ruler across the top of the screen now reads right to left instead of left to right (Hebrew, anyone?).
If you want to move an image to where its left edge is 1” in from the left side of the page, you would normally put that number in the box for the X axis and choose the left edge to be at that spot. But now that one is going up and down instead of side to side. So even though I put 1.00 in the box for the X axis and choose for the left edge to be at that location, it puts the shape 1″ down from the top rather than 1″ in from the left side.
When you rotate the view, all the images on the page rotate as well. That makes it confusing because what before was the width measurement now appears to be the height measurement.
Changing the page orientation
You also have the option, if height and width are not equal, to toggle the page orientation between Portrait and Landscape.
The default direction of the arrow is going to depend on your page measurements as I told you above, but you can flip it 90° by just changing orientation. There’s bad news and good news on this.
- The good news is that the images and axes aren’t affected if you just change the page orientation, so it’s less confusing.
- The bad news is that if you have that 9” x 12” combination, in either order, the arrow will ALWAYS point left no matter which orientation you choose. If using these dimensions, the only option to get the arrow facing up is to rotate the view. It’s tricky, so watch out for this combination.
A little trick
Having said all that, I usually prefer to see that arrow at the top. My brain just handles it better. So here’s a trick I use when I have the 9″ x 12″ combination. I put in my page dimensions at 9.1″ x 12″ when using 12″ wide material, or 12.1″ x 9″ with 9″ wide material. Just changing that little bit allows me to use the Portrait vs. Landscape orientation as with other dimensions. As long as I leave just a teensy bit of empty space at the bottom of the page, I’m good.
It can be confusing
Don’t worry if this is going over your head. You can just pass over it. I only say it so that you won’t think your software has gone crazy if it does odd things like this.
The bottom line: As long as you pay attention to that arrow when designing and when loading, you’ll be fine.
In our next tip, I’ll teach you the all-important step of moving your right white roller in.