I’ve been working on a VERY large project lately — a forest of trees and animals for the children’s wing at our church. We’re going up 10 feet on the wall and it’s 45 feet wide. Plus we’re working around the entrance doors. How do you do something that large? Just like eating an elephant — one bite at a time. It takes a good deal of planning, along with some tricks for making very large vinyl cuts and getting those big pieces onto a wall. I thought it would be helpful for others to know the steps that go into planning and executing large projects. Hence, this new series.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
I somehow deleted my “before” picture of my wall, but here’s one just like it (just a different hallway):
And I’m also working on the wall around the entrance doors (you can already see how much difference a different paint color makes):
Planning is key!!!
We’ll start today with the planning phase. As with any project, planning and preparation is the most important part. If you take the time to do the planning right, cutting and putting up the vinyl will go much more quickly. You’ll also save money because you won’t waste material.
I’ll show you here in Part 1 what I needed to measure, how to set up the page size for large projects, how to add background pieces like the wall and doors and how the layers feature of Designer Edition can help.
The first part of your planning is to measure the overall space carefully. I needed to measure —
- full width of the wall
- distance of each wall section
- height of the baseboard
- width, height and location of the doors
- size and location of an outlet, alarm and Exit sign
- height and width of a baby gate attached to the frame of one door
It’s very helpful to have an extra pair of hands here, since accurate measurements are critical. So grab a long metal measuring tape and enlist a helper. I made a sketch of the walls on paper and then jotted down the measurements as I took them. I also took photos of the walls for reference.
Setting up the page
If you’re working on a smaller wall, then you can set your page size to the exact size of the wall. (Be sure to read the note below in the next section). But there is a limit in Silhouette Studio for your page size. And it can get difficult to move around a really large page anyway. Sometimes you’re working on something that would be far off the mat and your zoom tools can act up. For instance, you get to a place where you are zoomed in and can’t move the slider bar left or right to move the page view, even though your design is out there.
So my first trick is this: make your page 1/12 scale. What I mean by that is make every 1 foot = 1 inch. Since we’re going up 10 feet, my page height is 10 inches. The overall width of my long wall is 45 feet, 4 inches so my page width is 45.33 inches. At this stage, your file is only for planning. You aren’t going to keep this page size when you cut. (I’ll show you later how to make sure your design pieces are the real size).
Seeing the red cut border is distracting instead of helpful here. So in the Page Setup panel, I unchecked Show Cut Border.
I did the same to create the entrance wall with its double doors.
CHANGES IN 4.3 (updated 10/14/19)
In previous versions, we could set the page size to whatever we wanted up to that previously stated limit and then just uncheck the Show Cut Border. The newest release of the Silhouette Studio software makes a significant change in how you set up your page. The panel now looks like this:
You first choose your machine, then other choices are based on that. At this time, if you choose Cameo or the software automatically chooses Cameo, you cannot choose a media size (page) width or height over 12″. The next choice is for the cutting mat, and if you leave it on Auto/Cameo, you still cannot choose a height or width over 12″. Even if you set None on the cutting mat, it’s a similar story — no width over 12″.
In order to set both larger, you just need to do 1 simple thing. In the very first part of the menu, on Machine, choose None. Although you will still be limited in the width to the 196.850″, you can actually go up quite a bit higher on the height — to 39,370.031″. That’s almost 3,300 feet, so I’m pretty sure you won’t need anything near that high. And since you aren’t constraining it to a specific machine, you don’t have the option for Show Cut Border. This allows you to design for a larger sized project like we’re discussing here.
Adding the background and stationary elements
We’re going to use paint for the sky, hills and stream on the long wall. I’ll show you later how to use contact paper as a stencil for the hills and stream. But since the hills and stream are things I’m going to add and adjust, I just drew a large blue rectangle to imitate the sky. It’s the full size of the page and I centered it both vertically and horizontally on my page by using the Center to Page icon. I’ll lay the designs I create over that rectangle backdrop.
PRO TIP: Our Children’s Director had already picked out the paint colors. I got the RGB values and used those to fill my pieces with the exact colors. I made and filled small rectangles with each color to keep “palette” of all my colors. That made it easy to fill my pieces using the Color Picker icon.
Next, I added a rectangle to mimic the baseboards all the way across and I filled that with dark gray. Since my baseboards are 4″ tall, I take 4 divided by 12 (4/12 of a foot) to get .333″ in height. I aligned that to the bottom and center of the page.
PRO TIP: When you select multiple objects and use your Alignment tools, it aligns them to one another. If you have only 1 object or group of objects selected, it aligns that one thing in relation to the page. So Align Bottom would put the bottom edge of that image at the bottom of the defined page size.
I drew some rectangles to imitate the doors with their windows and door frames, filling with gray and blue. Again, I used my 1:12 ratio. I grouped each door together. I also drew some rounded rectangles and filled them with white for the baby gate that’s on the left door. Since it starts at the top of the baseboard, that’s where I aligned it. Then I grouped those with the door and put the doors at the bottom of the page. I aligned one door to the left edge and one to the right.
Referring back to my measurement sketch, I used the Move tool to put the left edge of the left door the correct distance from the left wall, and the right edge of the right door in from the right wall. You can see here that I’ve moved just that left one.
Lastly, I added small pieces for the outlet, fire alarm and Exit sign and moved them to the correct locations as well.
I grouped everything together. Now my background is finished.
PRO TIP: Since all my pieces are filled with color and the whites have another color behind them, I changed all the line colors to clear. The red outline on your images can alter your perception of the colors and you don’t really see how your finished piece will look.
Locking the background in place
I’m going to be adding many elements to the page that I’ll be moving around and I don’t want to accidentally move the background. So, this is where the Layers feature of Designer Edition can help. If you don’t have DE, let me tell you that I feel strongly that it’s well worth the price for this alone. You can find it here on the Silhouette America website (and you can use my code SMART to get 10% off).
I opened up my Layers panel and added a layer by pressing the + at the bottom right of the panel. I moved the background to that layer and locked it.
To help me keep things straight, I named that layer and the group of the pieces in that layer. To name a layer, you hover over it and right click.
That’s a bit tricky, so let me show you a short video of how I did that. (I mixed up some of the layer names compared to what you see in my pics above, but the process is the same).
As I add the hills, trees and animals, I’ll add layers and keep groups of things together. So I’ll show you more of working with layers as we continue through the series.
Okay, the measuring, page setup and planning are finished. Next it’s time to add the hills, stream, trees and animals. In part 2 of this series, I’ll show you how I —
- used more layers and sublayers
- used Modify tools such as subtract
- added interest with some basic art design principles
- worked around the doors
- made decisions about how elements could overlap
- saved a mockup to share with the children’s director
- and more.
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