I don’t know about you, but as a visual person I find it hard to visualize what my projects will look like with just red lines on a plain white background. I love the fact that I can use the fills within Silhouette Studio to get a better idea of the finished product. Another good reason for using fills is that filled pieces are easier to grab – you can click your mouse anywhere in the design instead of having to get your cursor in just the right place by the line. This saves a TON of time and frustration. You would also want to fill images with color or pattern if you are doing a Print and Cut.
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You can fill images or text with 3 different things – color, gradient or pattern. I’ll discuss each one individually, show you some cool tricks and also show you some common pitfalls you might run into.
To fill an object, you will first want to have the image selected. Then click on the Fill Color icon – it’s the first one in the set on the upper right of the software and looks like a paint bucket pouring out color. Then click on any of the colors in the window and the image will fill with that color. (If the image doesn’t fill, check the section below for troubleshooting.) There will now be a bold line around the color you selected in the Fill Color window.
The colors in the Basic Options area of the window are just that – basic. What do you do if you want a different color? That’s where the Advanced Options come in. Click on the circled arrow next to the words “Advanced Options” to open that area of the window. You now have more options—
–You can move the circled plus sign around in the color area to choose a color. The small box below the slider bar at the right will show you the color.
–You can move the slider bar up and down to alter the amount of gray in the color – the bottom of the bar is a pure color; the top of the bar is the grayest version of the color.
–If you have a color in mind for which you know the HSL (Hue Saturation Lightness) or RGB (Red Green Blue) numbers, or if you have a hex color code for a specific color, you can input those in the boxes.
–You can adjust the transparency to make the color more see-through.
If you want your design to go back to having no color (clear), select the box at the top of the Basic Options area of the window that looks like it has a chain link fence in it.
Picking up color from a raster image
Now here’s another cool trick. Let’s say you have an image or photograph and you love a certain color in that image. You can use the eye dropper (color picker) in the window to grab and use that color.
–Open the image onto your drawing area along with the design you want to fill.
–Open the Fill Color window.
–Select the image you want to fill.
–Click on the eye dropper and your cursor will now look like a pencil.
–Hover the tip of the pencil over the color you want to pick up and left click. This will fill the image you selected with that color. The cursor will now go back to its regular selection arrow. This custom color will now show next to the Color Picker until you use the tool again, so you can continue to fill other images with that color.
If your image is not filling with color (or gradient or pattern), that indicates it’s an open shape. Only closed shapes can fill with color. An open shape is one with a break in the lines; a closed shape has all the lines complete with no breaks. See the information on Point Editing to learn how to identify and fix open shapes.
The next option you have to fill an image is the next icon in the upper right set – the Fill Gradient. This one looks like a square with a blue to white ombre top to bottom. The general usage works the same as the Fill Color – select an image, select a preset gradient and the image fills with that gradient.
The Advanced Options, of course, give you endless possibilities. First, you will want to select one of the gradients as a starting point. Choose one that has the amount and hues of the colors closest to what you want.
Directly under the phrase “Advanced Options” is an area that looks somewhat like a piano keyboard. This is where you can add and alter the colors, as well as adjust the location of each color.
–Hover over one of the colors at the bottom of the area to select it.
–Use the presets and color spectrum directly below that to select your color, using the same principles as described above. You do not, however, have a color picker or the option to input color numbers in this area.
–To add a bar, left click in the area where you want to place a new color.
–The locations of each color in the gradient can be altered except the ones at the extreme right and left – those are fixed. For all the colors in the middle, you can left click and drag to move the colors left and right. This allows you to customize precisely where the change between one color and another occurs.
–You can alter the angle of the gradient by either adjusting the red line in the box or by typing in a specific angle of degrees.
–As with regular colors you can alter the amount of transparency for the entire gradient (but not by individual color).
The 3rd option you have for filling an object is to fill it with a pattern. The icon for this is next in the order in the upper right and looks like a square filled with blue polka dots. Even if you aren’t going to print the project for a Print and Cut, filling with pattern can help you when planning a project. I like to fill objects with patterns similar to patterned paper I’m using so I can remember which pieces to cut from which papers.
The Silhouette Studio software comes with (at this writing) 69 preloaded patterns. You can also purchase printable patterns in the Silhouette Design Store. With the Designer Edition and above, you can purchase printable patterns from other sources and load them into the Pattern Fill window. Even without Designer Edition, you can add printable patterns to your library and use them to fill images (see more info below or in this series).
To fill an image with a pattern, you are going to follow the same steps as you do when filling with a color or gradient – select the image, open the Pattern Fill window, select your pattern.
The advanced options in this window give you many ways to customize the look of your pattern. You can—
–mirror the pattern
–change the aspect ratio. On fixed, if you increase the height or width of your image (one only) the proportions of the pattern within that image stay the same. On stretch, if you increase the height or width, the pattern within the image elongates (stretches).
–rotate it by 0, 90, 180 or 270°, or by a custom amount.
–scale it, making it bigger or smaller proportionally in the shape.
–pan it, which allows you to move the pattern around within the shape, to have different parts of the pattern featured.
–adjust the transparency of the pattern to make it see-through.
Adding your own patterns WITH Designer Edition
With Designer Edition and above, you can add any raster image into the Pattern Fill window. When you do this, it shows in that window and allows you to select it to fill a shape and customize it with all the same options, just as with any Printable Pattern preloaded or purchased in the Silhouette Design Store. Here’s how–
–Save the image to a folder on your computer where you can find it.
–Go to the library in Silhouette Studio.
–Leave Silhouette Studio running and go into the File Explorer on your computer to find the image you want to add as a pattern. You will need to minimize (make smaller) this window in order to see it and Silhouette Studio at the same time.
–Drag the image into the Patterns folder in either Local User or your user name. Give it a name if you wish. You can even give it keywords for library searches.
–It will now show in your Pattern Fill window. It may first show up at the bottom of the window, but once you close and reopen the software it will be in the list alphabetically.
Adding your own patterns WITHOUT Designer Edition
Even without Designer Edition you can fill a shape with your own pattern. It isn’t added to the Pattern Fill window, but can be saved to the library and dragged into a shape. This method enables you to use the advanced pattern fill options. For example, you can crop a photograph and be able to pan and scale it within the shape.
–Save the image to a folder on your computer where you can find it.
–In Silhouette Studio, go to File>Library>Import to Library. When the dialog box opens, go to the folder where the image is saved, select it and press OK.
–Your Silhouette screen is split into 3 parts (there may be a small delay) – library, drawing area and Edit Properties window. The name of the file will show at the top of Edit Properties. Keep this name or type new one. Add keywords by pressing the + sign, typing words and pressing Enter. Again, there may be a small delay so be patient. You can add a description and artist name. Press Close to save it to your library.
–The screen is still split into library and drawing area and the image is highlighted in the library. Drag it into any shape. If you do not have a shape on the drawing area or drag the image to a blank spot, the image opens as a rectangle.
–To use the image as a fill at a future time, use the Split Screen icon in the left side icon bar to view your library and drawing area simultaneously, then follow the same steps of selecting and dragging.
Sometimes you want to fill your shapes with more than one raster image, so using the pattern fill won’t work. In that case, use the Modify window.
I’ve written an entire series of 8 lessons on how to use your own fill patterns in shapes in more ways. You can find that starting here.
When you fill a shape with pattern, the scale of the pattern is matched to the size of the image. If you want all letters of a word or all shapes in a project to have the pattern set to the same scale it’s a problem. Fortunately, you can adjust that.
Select all the pieces, right click and choose Make Compound Path. The images will take the fill and scale of the largest piece so they will now all be the same. If you need to separate the images again, you can right click and Release Compound Path and the pattern will remain at the consistent scale. If you change the pattern, you’ll need to go through the steps again. Because turning the images into a single compound path takes the properties of the largest piece, if you have altered the transparency or angle or line color of that largest piece it will be applied to all the pieces.
When you type text, it’s a grouping of individual letters. Since those letters are each individual pieces, the pattern will likely be in different scale in each of the letters. You’ll probably want to change that.
First make a copy of the text box, because when you do the next steps the text will become image. That means you will no longer be able to edit the text or identify the font, so making a copy of the text box is a way to be able to do that at a future time.
On a script font or a block font with overlapping letters, fill with pattern and then weld (or vice versa – the pattern will be at a different scale depending on the order). If any letters are no longer connected (were not overlapping to start with), make them into a compound path while they are still all selected.
On a block font with letters that don’t overlap, ungroup the letters and then make the word into a compound path before adding the pattern. If you add the pattern first, the pattern will go away and you will need to select it again as a fill. You’ll save a step by making the compound path first.
WOW! You can see that there are many, many ways to customize the look of different images in Silhouette Studio. I’d love to hear your comments on new things you’ve learned!