Text in Silhouette Studio is different than most other software programs. You may be used to working with text in something like a word processor or even email. In those, you add text just to make words for someone to read or to print out. That’s not what you’re doing in Silhouette. Today’s lesson is about how to work with text and understand the differences. (To start with lesson 1 of the Software Basics series, go here.)
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What’s different in Silhouette
Silhouette Studio is a vector-based graphics program.
Vector means we’re working with types of shapes made up of points, called nodes, connected by straight and curved line segments. Silhouette machines can interpret those as cut commands. “Start at this spot, cut a curved line to this point, go in a new direction and cut a straight line to this point, etc.”
Graphic means we’re also working with how things look. We’re working with images a good amount. Vector images are a special type of graphic image that is different from raster images such as photographs or clip art.
The text you type in Silhouette Studio is vectors, so cut information only. That means unless you do something to it, you can’t actually print it. Even though you see a red line in the software, or even if you change it to a different line color, it’s thickness by default is 0.0. It has no visual weight, and the only reason we see it is because the software is helping us by showing us it’s there. If you just type words in your Silhouette program and send the file to your home printer, all you will get is a blank page. We’ll talk later about how to get text to print, but for now we’re just going to talk about cutting text.
Let me repeat – when you type words in Silhouette Studio, you are creating text that your Silhouette machine can cut. You aren’t creating something that, the way it is, a printer can print.
To add text to the page, you start with the text icon along the left side.
Click the icon to tell the software you want to add text. You’ll see the cursor change to indicate you are in text creation mode. Then click anywhere on the drawing area to tell the software WHERE to start typing the text.
The cursor gets bigger, turns blue and starts flashing. You also see a circle with crosshairs in the middle. That’s called a control point and we’ll learn more about that in intermediate tutorials.
Then just start typing. Type your name for now –just 1 word. You’ll see the words appear on the drawing area, but they will look different than they do in a word processor. Cut commands, remember? So the text will look just like one of the standard library shapes – a red outline with no fill.
You’ll also see that the cursor moves as you type, a green box surrounds the words, and there’s a blue rectangle at the right end of the text box. All those elements are going to be important.
Now click off the word. Notice the box goes away, just like with any image, because the text box is no longer selected.
Click back on the text and notice that the box around it is now the normal bounding box. This is selection mode, so you can do the same thing as you do with images – move, rotate, resize. Play with all those.
Make sure that as we’re working and playing, unless I tell you otherwise, keep your text box selected.
Choosing a font
Notice that your word typed in a generic font – Arial. Any time you create a text box as we just did, that’s the font you’ll have. But the awesome thing about the Silhouette Studio program is that you can use ANY font installed on your computer. You don’t have to do anything – they are all in the program already if they are on your computer. So let’s learn how to select a different font.
The first way to do it is in the Quick Access Toolbar. Remember – that’s there to help you to quickly do common tasks. Since we have a text box selected (make sure yours is), the QAT has font options.
To the right of the font name up there is a downward arrow. We know that arrows like that tell us there are more options if we click the arrow. So go ahead and do that. A dialog box will drop down that shows all your fonts on your computer.
Frequently Used and Recently Used are at the top, then the rest are in alphabetical order. Scroll down and choose a different font. Do that several times.
Another way to choose the font is to start typing the name of a font in that box up top. You can backspace out the name and start typing the name of another font. You’ll get suggestions as the software “reads your mind.” If as it’s doing that you see the one you want, just hit Enter on your keyboard to select it.
The default size
The next option in the QAT for text is the size. The size is measured in points, just like in any other program where you work with text. Just like with choosing the font, you can select a size from the list or backspace out the numbers and type your own. Practice both ways.
Understanding text box size vs. letter size
Let’s put into practice something we learned in our last lesson so I can teach you something about text sizing. Using the corner box, resize your text box until the height is approximately 1”. Now turn on your grid or slide the reveal on your cutting mat so that you can see a 1” square. See how the letters really aren’t 1” tall, even though your box is?
Fonts are made in such a way that they take into account things like letters that dip below the line, capital letters, superscript, spacing between lines, etc. So a text box itself will have blank space around the letters to account for these. What that means is that if you make your box 1” tall, your letters are shorter than that. You don’t see that when you use a word processor because you aren’t really looking at the size of a word in inches. But if you cut out your name now on cardstock, you’d definitely figure out that your letters aren’t 1” tall.
How to tell the true size
So, how to you get an accurate measurement? One way is to use lines as a reference, either with the grid turned on or the cutting mat reveal raised. Or, you can draw a rectangle that’s 1” tall and resize the text box until it fits. Just make sure to delete the rectangle before you cut.
If you need it to be exact, you can ungroup the letters. When you type a word, what you are creating is a box of individual letters that are grouped together. So ungroup will separate them. BUT BE WARNED! This is the first time I’m going to say this, but I will remind you every time we work with text. When you do anything like ungrouping or use any modify options with text, IT CHANGES FROM TEXT TO IMAGE. What that means is that it’s now a regular shape and not words. What THAT means is that you can no longer edit the text, change the font or identify the font.
Because of that, I recommend before you do any type of modification that will change you text to image, do 1 of 2 things:
- Make a copy of the text box and pull it off to the side.
- Create a sticky note with the name and size of the font.
Practice that now. Select your text box and do CTRL/CMD+c to copy and CTRL/CMD+v to paste. Pull the copy off to the side.
Now ungroup your original. See how the bounding box changes? But even if you regroup, you won’t get the font choices in the QAT anymore. This is now permanently an image and won’t work as editable text any longer.
Delete that text and bring your original back over.
Other text options in the QAT
There are 4 other options in that section of the QAT that may or may not be available. Many fonts will not have the option to make them bold or italic. It’s just the way it is. I’ll show you in intermediate tutorials some hacks for that. Underline is usually do-able. The last option is for justification – making each line of text in that box line up at the left, in the center, at the right, or all the way across. Play with those as well.
The text styles panel
Let’s get into some more options with text. For that, we’re going to open the Text Style panel. Do that with the Text icon on the RIGHT side of the software. This one looks just a little different — it has a cursor after the A.
As always, you’ve got the same options you had in the QAT, plus a few more.
The first new one is on the line with the bold, italic, etc. It’s text direction. You can choose to have your text go down the page instead of across. This is basically just rotating the textbox 90°.
The bottom section of the window lets you adjust the–
Character spacing – to adjust the distance between letters.
Line spacing – to adjust the distance between lines of text.
Kerning – to adjust how certain letters are spaced. When you type a text box, each letter is in essence in its own little box and those boxes are grouped together in the text box. When kerning is off, each of those letter boxes is the same width. So if you have a letter that is less wide than others, it may look like it’s too far away from the others. Notice that the sample is for the letters A and V and you can see the difference it makes on letters with diagonal sections. Kerning adjusts for gaps like that. If you have the font Times New Roman, type the word AVERSION and turn kerning off and on. I leave it on by default, but many fonts these days already have this adjustment made.
Play with these options a little.
Now look at the second (or 3rd) tab in the Text Style panel. That’s for spellcheck. It works just like a word processing program – it checks words as you type and puts a blue squiggly line under words it doesn’t recognize. Go to Advanced Options to turn the spellcheck on. There you can set your language or add custom words to the dictionary. If your last name is odd like mine, go ahead and add it to the dictionary. Or just make up a word ???? Play around here.
If you have Designer Edition or above, you’ll have a tab in between the standard options and spellcheck. It looks like a fancy A. That’s for glyphs, which are fancy letters or other characters that some fonts these days include. Instead of just 2 choices for “a” and “A,” you might have more options. Or, the font might include extras like flourishes. You can access those extras in this second tab of the Text Styles panel.
You can still use glyphs without an upper level of the software. It’s just that you access them in a different way.
Choosing the font before you type
Using the QAT or Text Style panel allows you to choose font options AFTER you type the text. But you can actually choose it BEFORE you type too. When you do that, the text will type out with the chosen font. So let’s practice that.
Clear your drawing area. Click the Text creation icon on the left, but don’t start typing yet. As soon as you are in text creation mode, notice that the font selections are in the QAT. Go up there and choose a different font. Now click on the drawing area and start typing.The word now types in the font you chose.
This is great to use when you are copying text from another program because it saves time. For example, I used the sketch pens to address all the envelopes for my daughter’s wedding invitations (see post here). We had the addresses already typed in an Excel document. So for each one, I could copy the address in Excel, switch to Silhouette, click the text icon, choose the font and then paste. That pastes the text in in the chosen font. Even if you have the text typed in the correct font in the other program, unless you choose it before you paste it will come in with Arial.
Practice choosing the font before you type a few times. Do it in both the QAT and Text Styles panel, as it works there as well.
Editing the text
Let’s say you want to change what you wrote. Get back to a spot where you have just your name in that Arial font. Then click off the text box. How do you get back to the point where you could add your last name? To do that we need to get back to text editing mode, with the green box around the words.
You can double click really fast on the text box to get into text editing mode. That’s my default way. Or, you can use Right click>Edit Text. Sometimes when my computer is tired I have to do that if the double click won’t work.
Once you’re back in text editing mode, you can add or delete words or letters.
Next, I want to show you something that gets really tricky for beginners (and even non-newbies). In your text box, type a full paragraph. Notice at some point that the software will start a new line.
That’s called text wrapping. If you’re as old as me and you learned to type on a typewriter (IBM Selectric, anyone?), it’s like an automatic return. You young ‘uns don’t know how good you have it – software today does all this for you.
Anyway, back to line wrapping. Let’s say you want to type something all on one line, or make the lines shorter. If you use the normal white boxes of the bounding box to change the width, it just makes the letters wider.
To adjust what words are on which lines, we need to be in text editing mode. That green box with the flashing cursor is the sign that you are. Make sure that’s where you’re at.
Now, click and drag that flashing blue rectangle at the right side of the box. Move it both left and right. See what happens? That allows us to lengthen or shorten the text box width without changing the proportions of the letters. In other words, you can force words to a new line.
There’s one more thing I want to show you before this lesson is over. Pick a script (cursive) font for your text. Then look at the letters. Notice how they overlap one another?
When we are just typing in a word processor we don’t see that, even though it’s happening. That’s because the fonts are filled in with the same color in all the letters so it’s not easily visible. We’re going to be aware of that when we cut, but I’ll show you the best way when we start our Successful Beginner Projects series (and no, it isn’t welding if you’ve heard of that).
We’re almost done with our Software Basics series. Make sure you have a few pieces of cardstock to start with, because in our next lesson we’ll make the first cut.
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