We’re going to create another gift tag today. I mean, I can never have too many Christmas gift tags in my house come holiday time ????.
In this project, we’ll learn to draw another type of shape, use control points, resize disproportionately, space horizontally and use Cut Edge.
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Cardstock – 3 coordinating colors and/or patterns
Adhesive – your favorite for attaching cardstock pieces
Step 1 – Start a new file
Open a clean page to start with. Even though I’m going to cut from 6” square paper, I’m going to keep my page size at 12” x 12” for now. I find it easier to design on the larger size. Do whatever is comfortable for you. I’ll remind you to double check the page size before we start cutting.
Step 2 – Draw a rounded rectangle
Let’s learn another one of our drawing tools – the rounded rectangle. It’s going to have a special property we want to learn to use.
Look along the left side icon bar for the Draw a Shape tool. Remember from our last lesson that the icon will look different depending on whether or not you’ve been using the drawing tools. The rounded rectangle is the second one in the set. Select that now.
Choosing a color first
Here’s another trick. You can choose a fill color BEFORE you draw your shape. That way, you don’t have to go back and fill it afterward. It’s not a huge deal right now, but if you start adding lots of images to your page, the unfilled images are harder to grab.
Look up in the upper left corner of your screen. Look for the icon furthest to the left in the Quick Access Toolbar. It looks like a chain link fence.
That’s the universal symbol for “no” or “none.” It’s like a fence around an area saying, “No admittance!” For us, it means that any shape we create is not filled with a color. It may seem like they are filled with white, but if you move them in front of a shape that does have a fill color or off the mat area, you’ll see what I mean.
Click on the arrow next to that chain link fence and a palette of colors opens. This is one way to select a color before you create the shape. Click any color you like.
Start drawing the shape by clicking and dragging on your drawing area. See how it’s filled with the color you chose? This will continue until you choose a different color or until you close the software. If you just LOVE having the shape filled with color as you draw and want the software to always do that automatically, you can set that in your Preferences>Defaults>Default Fill Style.
Make your rounded rectangle whatever size you want, but not smaller than 2 ½” wide by 3” tall. We are going to add some elements onto the tag and we don’t want to get too tiny just yet.
As you look at the rectangle you created, you’ll see something you wouldn’t see with a circle or regular rectangle. In the upper left corner notice the 2 red dots. Those are control points. We’ll see them a few other times in Silhouette and they always allow us to control the shape specific ways. On a rounded rectangle, the control points let you adjust the amount of curve.
If you click and drag 1, you’ll see that at all 4 corners the curve changes along that edge. Here I’ve moved the red dot to the right on the top edge. Notice how that adjusted the amount of curve the same amount at all 4 corners.
Practice playing with each control point.
Often we want to adjust both sides of the curve at the same time. We’ve already learned about a way to constrain shapes evenly. Do you remember how we made an exact circle? We held the SHIFT key as we drew. The same works here. If you hold the SHIFT key as you click and drag either red control dot, it adjusts both evenly.
Let’s say you’ve already adjusted 1 control point when you realize you didn’t hold the SHIFT key. No worries. As soon as you press that and grab one of the red dots to move it, they will jump into equal distances from the corner.
Just as with the circle, if we want to draw an exact rounded square we can hold the SHIFT key as we draw.
Here’s another fun tip: Typically, when you draw a shape the software places the upper left corner of the shape at the spot where your cursor is. So when you click and drag a rectangle, it’s the upper left corner that will be at the area you clicked to start drawing. But if you hold the ALT key as you draw, it’s the middle of the shape that will be at that spot. It’s a bit hard to explain, but if you play with it you’ll see what I mean. Feel free to ignore this if you want. And yes, you can hold the SHIFT and ALT key together.
When your rounded rectangle is selected, and you click it again, you’ll notice something odd. There isn’t a bounding box showing us the dimensions and allowing us to alter the size. Instead, it’s just those 2 red control dots. You can click on the shape to toggle back and forth between the 2 modes of resizing and adjusting curves.
Step 3 – Draw circle
We want to add a hole for our tag by drawing a circle. First, choose a different color in that color palette in the QAT so that we can see it when we put it on top of the tag.
Now change the Draw a Shape icon to an ellipse, or you’ll just draw another rounded rectangle.
While holding the shift key, draw the shape. Remember to let go of the mouse button before the SHIFT key. Make the circle the size that will look right on your tag.
Step 4 – Make a compound path
First, you’ll want to make sure your hole is in the right spot on the tag. Put it toward the top if it’s not already there. Select both the tag and the circle and use the Align Center in your QAT to line the up along the vertical axis (revisit project #3 if you’ve forgotten how to do this).
Then select the hole and the tag and make them a compound path with–
- Right click>make compound path
- Object drop down menu>make compound path
Make sure the shape is selected because I want to show you something. No matter how many times you click on the shape, you won’t get those red control points again. Notice that they aren’t in my pic just above.
When you created the compound path, you changed that from a shape with special properties (i.e., the ability to adjust the corner curves) to a regular ol’ shape. Even if you release the compound path that you just created, you won’t find them. In fact, if you click on it a second time really quickly, you’ll get into point editing mode instead (you’ll see lots of little black dots what we’ll talk about MUCH later). You can only alter those curves before you do anything else to the shape.
Step 5 – Add the scallop
Next we’re going to add a shape from our library. Look for the free shape called Scallop Flag and add that to your page. Then fill it with a new color (the trick of selecting a fill color for a shape before adding it only works for shapes or text you create, not ones you add from the library).
We want this scallop to fit on the width of our gift tag. Right now it’s way too big.
I’m going to start by using the corner box to make it close to the right size. But notice that if I make it the width of my tag, it’s way too tall and takes up too much room.
Here’s where we learn to resize without using Lock Aspect Ratio. Select your tag and make note of the width. Since we are going to glue the scallop on top of the tag, we want them to be the same exact width.
Now, select your scallop piece. You’ll see the dimensions in the QAT. Unlock the lock there so that we can change the width without changing the height.
Backspace out the numbers for the width and input the exact width you got from the tag. Notice that because you have the Lock Aspect Ratio off, the height stayed the same.
We’ve got the width we need, so now we’re going to adjust the height. This time use the square along the top (or bottom) of the bounding box. Just make it look about like mine.
Move your tag and scalloped piece to the side so you have a clean area to work on in the next step.
Step 6 – Add the tree
Next add the shape Pine Tree to your drawing area. This one we do want to resize proportionately, but we don’t need it to be an exact size. So we can use one of the squares at the corner of the bounding box to make both the height and width smaller at the same time by the same amount. Again, just make yours look kinda the same as mine. You can always tweak the size later.
Make sure to fill your tree with color (might I suggest green?).
Step 7 – Make copies of the tree
We are going to use a very handy keyboard shortcut to make a copy of the tree. Select your tree and do Use CTRL(CMD on a Mac)+c. That makes a copy. It’s a keyboard shortcut you may have used in other programs. Now do CTRL/CMD+v to paste. That puts an exact copy slightly to the right and down of your tree.
We want this tree to be a bit smaller than our first one. So use the corner square box to resize it proportionately.
Next, we want another tree at that smaller size so we’re going to follow the same steps—
- Select the smaller tree
- CTRL/CMD+c to make a copy
- CTRL/CMD+v to paste the copy
Move the 2 smaller trees until they are overlapping the larger tree on each side. We want the set of trees to be less wide than the tag, so you can pull the tag over if you need to check that. Then pull it aside again.
Step 8 – Align the trees
Our next step is to align our trees perfectly using the Transform panel.
The icons that go down the right side of the software open panels. Some of the features found in the panels can be done in the Quick Access Toolbar or in the drop down menus, but not all. The panels help you work in more detail. For a complete tutorial on panels, see this post.
For now, look for the icon on the right side of the software that looks like a bar graph – a horizonal line with 3 vertical rectangles on it. That opens the Transform panel. Within the panel are 5 different tabs, but right now we just need that first tab – Align.
First, we’re going to align them along their middles. Select all 3 trees and then click the middle picture on the Vertical line in the top Align section. This will move the trees with their top-to-bottom middles in a line. Notice that you could choose top or bottom instead. Play with that a bit, but end on the align middle.
So far, that’s nothing we couldn’t have just done in the QAT. But look at the bottom part of the panel and you’ll see Spacing. Here you can space your shapes with Horizontal or Vertical. What that means is that we can make sure our 3 trees are spaced evenly across the page. If you look at mine above, you’ll see that the middle tree is closer to the tree on the right than it is to the tree on the left.
Select all 3 trees and then click the little picture to the right of the word Horizontal in the Spacing area. Then group the 3 together so we can treat them as a set, but not permanently.
Step 9 – Double check page size
We’re almost ready to cut, so if your page size isn’t set to the size of paper you’re actually using, here’s your reminder to do that now.
Step 10 – Cut the trees
Let’s start by cutting our trees first so I can show you what Cut Edge is, then in the next step I’ll show you what it isn’t. Open the Send area now. We used the Action by: Fill last time, but this time we want to go back to Action by: Simple (so that first tab).
Look at your trees. Since we overlapped them, they would cut into one another if we don’t do something. Look at your cut preview, which is showing you that (zoom in if you need to). That’s because they are set on Cut, which means every line of every piece will cut. That’s not what we want. (Remember also that if you don’t have a shape selected, No Cut is highlighted because the software can’t read your mind to know which shape you’re wondering about).
Make sure your tree set is selected, then choose Cut Edge instead.
Notice what happened to the lines. Before they were bold, but now they are a stronger or brighter bold. That’s cut preview showing you that these shapes are set on Cut Edge. What that means is that where one shape overlaps another, the overlapping areas won’t cut. Look at the spot where the trees overlap. See how the lines are still there, but they are pale? That means it won’t cut there.
Cut pieces overlapped with Cut Edge pieces
Now grab your scallop piece and overlap it onto the edge of the tree set.
These are still cutting into one another, because BOTH would have to be on Cut Edge for it to work. Our scalloped piece is still on Cut. You can tell because although the line is bold on the scallop, it’s not as strong as the lines on the outer edges of the tree set. Just remember to always look for your Cut Preview and you’ll know ahead of time what’s going to happen. The picture above actually shows you all 3 types of lines — pale, bold and strong bold.
For the scallop and tag pieces, you can either set them to No Cut or pull them off the mat area. It’s completely up to you.
Now we’re ready to cut our trees. Let’s go over the checklist:
- Cardstock, Plain set as material type.
- Action on Cut.
- Correct tool (Auto-blade) selected.
- Settings for blade number, speed, force, passes (should only need 1 pass) checked. You might notice that mine aren’t at the default, because I know from testing what I need for my piece of cardstock.
- Line Segment Overcut on.
- Cut Preview checked so you know ahead of time what will cut and what won’t. Notice I’ve changed my view to see the whole page and I have my tag and scallop piece set on No Cut. If the lines are blue instead of red, you’ve got tool 2 chosen instead of tool 1.
- Cardstock adhered on mat.
- Blade loaded and locked correctly.
- Mat loaded.
- If you haven’t used this paper before, test cut completed.
When you’re ready, cut your tree set. Check the cut BEFORE you unload in case it didn’t cut all the way through.
Step 11 – Cut the other pieces
Set your tree set to No Cut or pull it off the mat area. Pull the tag piece over and set it on Cut. Notice that the outer edge and the hole will both cut, as we see by reading the cut preview. Let’s see why we made this a compound path.
Set the tag piece to Cut Edge instead. See how the hole still shows as cutting? That’s because it isn’t a separate piece grouped with the tag as our trees were. It’s actually an edge.
Think back to our donut analogy from previous projects. A baker uses a circular cutter to make a hole in the middle of a donut. He removes the donut hold and sells it separately. The circle you see in the middle of the donut isn’t a separate piece – it’s an inner edge of the donut.
The same is true here. The circle is a hole in the rectangle, not a separate piece sitting on top of it like pancakes. So when we choose Cut Edge, it cuts because it IS one of the edges. If we had just grouped it, Cut Edge would NOT cut the hole in the middle. It would be a separate piece completely enclosed by the rounded rectangle.
Many newbies think if they choose Cut Edge that any internal pieces won’t cut. That’s not necessarily the case. It depends on if you have a grouping of shapes (or even just independent shapes sitting on top of one another but not grouped) or a compound path. With the grouping (pancakes), the internal pieces or overlaps don’t cut, as we saw with the tree set. With a compound path (donut), the internal pieces DO cut, as we see here.
Common Rookie Mistake: Thinking internal pieces won’t cut with Cut Edge
How to tell the difference
So how can you tell if you have a grouping or a compound path? Here’s the easiest way: fill with color. If you add a fill color and all the pieces fill (i.e., no holes), it’s a grouping. If you do see holes, it’s a compound path. When purchasing images, you’ll learn that some designers use grouping, some use compound paths, some use both. Some will even fill a piece with white so that it looks like it has holes, even when it really doesn’t. So to check for sure, put the piece on top of a shape with a different fill color, or just pull it off the mat area. That helps you see if they are holes or not.
Again, if you don’t understand all this yet, don’t fret. I’ll repeat it frequently and you’ll get it eventually.
So, we want to cut that tag shape now. Go through your check list again, making sure all your settings are correct for the cardstock you are using now.
After you’ve done that piece, cut your scalloped piece from your 3rd piece of cardstock, making sure to go through the checklist again. If you’ll use that list every time, you’ll save lots of time and $ and frustration.
Step 12 – Assemble the gift tag
Once you’ve cut your 3 pieces, just use glue or another adhesive to attach the scalloped piece to the tag, then the tree set. Add some embellishments if you like (I couldn’t resist a little bling). Voila! You have a lovely Christmas gift tag.
Here are some other ideas–
- Go back and put multiple copies on your page and cut several at once.
- Try mixing up the papers and colors to get different looks or match your wrapping style.
- Make your own Christmas cards.
- How about place cards for your holiday table?
- Use adhesive foam dots to give the trees dimension. You can even cut them separately from coordinating papers.
In our next project, we’re going to make a birthday card. I’ll show you how to take a regular shape and turn it into a card by welding, understand line color and style, score, and cut by line color.
To begin with project #1 in the Successful Beginner Projects series, go here.