This is part 3 of our series on how to do super large projects with your Silhouette. If you haven’t read the first 2 lessons, you’ll want to start here. This time, I’m going to show you how to make your design full size, use Subtract and Subtract All to modify your pieces so that they nestle and keep track of so many elements.
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Using Subtract and Subtract All on overlapping elements
You’ll remember that I said overlapping elements creates interest. However, I didn’t want to overlap the vinyl pieces (for the most part). Not only does that create ridges in the vinyl, it also uses more material. Plus, I had some trees behind hills that we were painting, some cut off at the edge of a door, etc. That means it was time to use more Modify tools. (If you missed how I did this with the hills, see the previous lesson in this series). Let’s start with this tree:
You can see that it’s behind the hills. Technically, it’s also behind the tree at the left and the deer’s leg. However, once I use the hills to modify the tree those parts will be gone anyway.
First, I ungrouped the needles from the tree. I’m going to modify both the tree and the needle set, but in separate actions.
We’re going to use Subtract All again. To review, with Subtract any selected piece removes any portion of another piece it’s covering. Even if you have 6 objects selected, each one cuts downward through any piece below it. Once done, only the bottommost piece remains. Here’s the difference with Subtract All — any uncovered portion of your shapes remains. The pieces then nestle into one another (butt right up next to each other).
Subtract vs. Subtract All
Let’s look at it first with some simple shapes.
I raised the transparency on these 2 shapes so you could see. ALWAYS do that when working with Modify options. It helps predict the outcome, tells you order and shows you if you have a grouping or compound path.
With Subtract, the circle cut away the portion of the square it was covering and then disappeared. With Subtract All, the circle did the same thing but it stayed once the operation was completed. You can tell that corner of the square was cut off because you can see through the circle slightly due to the raised transparency.
Okay, that’s with 2 shapes. What if there are more? Here I’ve done both Subtract and Subtract All with 6 shapes:
It’s a little harder to see the order if the shapes don’t all overlap. Don’t forget that your Layers panel can help with that. The order they are in the panel is the order they are on the design area. The bottom of the panel = the bottom of the order. In our case, the purple square was still on the bottom. So if I Subtract, the only part that remains is the portion that wasn’t mixed with any other color (the pure purple).
With Subtract All, what you’re left with is all portions of all shapes that aren’t covered by another shape. If you’ve got that transparency raised, it’s all the areas of each shape that don’t have another color mixed with them.
Now back to our tree
What this means for my tree is that I can make it precisely follow the contour of the hill. I made sure the hill was in front of the tree, then selected my tree and the back hill and did Subtract All. The very bottom of the tree is now separated from the rest, so I can just delete that part. It may be grouped with that remaining portion of the top, so watch out for that.
I repeated the process with the back hill and needle set. Because the needles are grouped, they are treated as one thing.
The reason I didn’t do the tree and needles at the same time is because if I did, the needles would cut holes in the tree. I can just put the vinyl leaves on top of the vinyl tree, so I want my tree to be solid.
Keeping things in place
As you’re doing this, remember that you can select pieces by clicking on them in the Layers panel and that you can lock layers. That makes it easier to grab and manipulate only what you want. For example, I ended up with some tiny little needle pieces at the bottom. I decided to just delete them. But it can be tricky to grab those when the hill is there. By either locking the hill in a layer, or selecting the tiny pieces in the panel, I keep everything right where I want it.
You can also hide any given layer. If a layer is hidden, you can’t move any of the elements in that layer on the design page, so you won’t do it accidentally. You hide it by clicking the eye in that layer of the panel. I hid the hill in the pic just above, and both hills in the pic here–
Notice that when I do that, there’s a faint lock symbol as a reminder. But WARNING: that doesn’t prevent you from moving the elements to another layer within the panel (at least in the current version).
Another option is to use that working layer I talked about in Lesson 2. In the panel, move pieces into the working layer, modify them, then put them back where they belong.
I continued using this same process for any of my overlapping elements. Don’t forget that when you modify you are creating new pieces, so they lose their old names. Each time I completed a tree or animal, I renamed all the pieces and regrouped them. Continue making sublayers and renaming pieces throughout the entire process.
Sometimes you get issues with small parts getting distorted when you use Modify options. If that happens, try this trick:
- Open the Transform panel and go to the Scale tab.
- Use the top section to increase the design by a set percentage, such as 300%.
- Modify the design.
- Use the opposite percentage to take the piece back to it’s original size. In this case, 33%.
Just don’t make them too large. That sometimes creates an excess of points in the design.
Making full size
If you recall, my project is so large that it would be a HUGE page size. To make it easier to work with, I made all my elements 1/12 scale in the design phase. In other words, 1 inch = 1 foot. Now that I had everything laid out and modified the overlapping elements, I needed to make the elements full size.
I wanted to keep my original file with all the pieces intact. So, I copied each element to a new page. You could do this on your original file, but it gets REALLY confusing. Do what makes sense to you.
I used the Scale tool in the Transform panel. For each element, I made it 1200% in size. That makes the 1″ into 1′. Here’s one of my trees at the original design size and the real full size.
In the design, it was 5.398″ x 2.146″. If you multiple that by 12, you get 64.776″ x 25.752″. The dimensions of the tree taken to 1200% are 64.777″ x 25.746″. Yep, close down to the 1/1000s of an inch.
Keeping track of things
I used over 35 trees. I used 9 different greens and 5 browns, plus all the different colors for the animals. Since each tree had a body, leaves or needles and possibly a trunk, I could get a good variety by mixing different browns with different greens. But I also wanted to make sure I didn’t have 2 of the same color overlapping. How in the world was I going to keep all those trees straight in my mind? And how about which 4 reds I used for which parts of the birds? I needed organizational help.
First, I numbered all the trees left to right. Then I renamed them in the trees layer of my original file. If you don’t have Designer Edition with the layers feature, you can group a text box with each one. Let me reiterate that I think it’s well worth the cost for the time you save. (Don’t forget you can use my code SMART to get 10% off on the Silhouette America website).
As I created the file for each individual elements, I saved it with that name. For example, “Tree 15” or “Bird in Tree.”
I also created a spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of things. Here’s what I used:
- Row for each element.
- Column for each material color. I filled those cells with the color using the RGB values I had.
- For each color, the brand (only if using multiple — I used all Oracal), the official name, my own description of the color and the manufacturer’s code number.
- For my trees, I noted what type of tree.
As I decided on which colors to use for each animal and tree, I added that. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ll show you more of how I used this spreadsheet to stay organized as we continue the series.
Okay, the design layout is done and all the pieces are at full size. But how do you break them down into something your machine can cut? That’s the focus of Phase 4.