We’ve been doing a LOT of renovations in our home, which means it’s been a good time to reevaluate some decor pieces. I’ve had a glass block with vinyl sitting in one spot for several years, but always meant to redo the vinyl. Why? Because it’s the same color as the walls are currently, so the design just disappears. This is a good project to teach you some things about working with text. I’ll also show you how to create the double frame you see around it in 2 different ways. You can use the same techniques for any material or surface.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
Here’s what the glass block looks like right now.
It obviously needs to be a darker color to be visible against my walls, right? I’d love to paint the walls instead, but that’s a much bigger project. I had it sitting in front of a window so it was easier to read, but have now moved it to a mantle and so it’s right against that beige paint color.
TIP: Use a blow dryer to soften vinyl adhesive for easier removal and rubbing alcohol to help remove adhesive residue from glass.
The current design elements are–
- regular text
- vertical text
- a double frame
- a flourish design
I’m going to keep generally the same design, but change the font and that flourish design to something a little less formal. I’ll be using a font called Porch Chair.
I couldn’t find a design that was just exactly what I wanted, so I combined several from Lilium Pixel —
Tip: When combining designs, it’s easier to make them cohesive if they are all from the same designer.
- Leaf Sprig Set
- Leaf Sprig Set (a different one but with the same name)
- Floral Leaf Wreath(I separated out some of the pieces)
- Joy Wreath Frame (again, I took only a single branch)
I took 3 small dots from another design, but you can just draw circles.
Step 1 — Measure and define the area
Before I create the actual design, I need to know how much room I’ll have. I measure the front of my glass block and the total usable area I have is 6.75″. The first thing I do is draw a square with those dimensions. (If you don’t know how to create a perfect square, see this post). That will represent the block and help me design.
Step 2 — Create the frame
Now I want to create that double frame. There are 2 different ways to do this–
–Use internal offsets of the square I created in Step 1. I need 4 of these — 2 per frame. I want a margin of about 1/4″ between the outer frame and the outer edge of the glass block. So the distance for my first internal offset (#1) is .250″. When I finish, the offset is the shape that’s selected. So, I can just click Internal Offset again to create my 2nd one. I use .125″ there, as that’s what I have on the original design that’s currently on my glass block. I continue the same method to create #3 and #4.
TIP: Your frames don’t have to have the same thickness, but if you want that be sure to make the distance between offset #1 and #2 the same amount as between #3 and #4.
Right now, it’s hard to see what I really have because it’s just red lines. Your first thought might be to fill the offsets, but that’s not much better because you just have 5 solid square shapes sitting on top of one another. (I didn’t fill the outer square).
The solution is to create compound paths. (For a full discussion of a compound path, see this post). I select #1 and #2 and make them a compound path, then do the same with #3 and #4. Now I have this–
Much better! My frames are done and I can group them together.
- It’s easy to control the amount of distance.
- You can shrink or enlarge your design and keep the same proportions (more on that below).
- You can’t do rounded corners with an internal offset. The workaround for that is to create a square farther in than you want your innermost offset (so #4) to be, then do regular offsets.
- You need to make sure you don’t accidentally move one of the squares as you select them to create the compound path.
–Use thick lines. I start by making offset #1 at .313″.
In the Quick Access Toolbar or Line Style panel, I raise the offset’s line thickness. I made the offset .313″ instead of .250″ because it’s the middle of my thick line that I need to place at a specific measurement. In order for the top of the frame to be .250″ in from the top, half of it has to be above that mark and half below. Since line thickness is measured in points instead of inches, you have to use some math.
72 points = 1″. I want my line to be 1/8″ thick (.125″), so 72÷8=9 points. That means 4.5 points need to be above the .250″ spot and 4.5 points below it. 4.5 points = 1/16″, which is .0625″. I have to round to 3 decimal places, so .063″. I take the .250″ and add .063″ and get .3125″ (rounded to .313). So an offset of .313″ and a line thickness of 9 points gets me a 1/8″ thick frame that starts 1/4″ in from the outer edge.
Don’t like math? Just use the first method or eyeball it.
I can also choose to have my line have rounded corners. This applies ONLY to the outside corner of the frame, not the inside corner. I want them the same so keep them squared off. I’ve highlighted that above.
I create a second internal offset following the same procedure. The beauty of it is that the second one has the same properties as the first one, meaning it’s already the correct thickness. I set the internal offset distance at .250″ so that the of my lines are .250″ apart.
When I set up my cut job correctly, it cuts on each side of the thick line.
- You can easily alter the thickness of your frames by altering the line thickness.
- No need to create compound paths.
- The math.
- When you make the design larger or smaller, the thickness of the lines stays the same. That means your proportions change. For example, in my example the frame lines will still be 1/8″ thick, but the distance between them won’t be. That may be problematic if you forget about that.
The good news is you can make the square smaller (or larger) to increase (or decrease) the space between them and the thickness of the frame will remain the same.
- You’ll need to either select Cut Edge (AutoWeld when cutting by line, fill or layer) in the Send area for each frame, or use Detach Lines in the Modify panel. (Detach Lines turns it into a regular shape.) If you don’t, the software is going to cut down the middle of the line instead of on each side of your frame.
You should also know that if you fill the shape with a color, Cut Edge will go on the outside only. That doesn’t matter for the frame we’re making, but it’s important to understand (I’ll show you below). Bottom line: ALWAYS check and understand your Cut Preview
Step 3 — Add text
I’m going to use 3 different text boxes.
There are 4 aspects of the text part of this design that make good teaching points–
- I need to create vertical text (“hope”).
- To fit the “op” in, I need my letters to be shorter top to bottom.
- I want equal lengths on the top and bottom rows (“faith” and “love”).
- There’s not a bold option, but I want my letters to be a bit fatter.
Let’s take those one by one.
You may have noticed an option in the Text Styles panel that seems to be for vertical text.
But look at what it actually shows. The A is on it’s side — just rotated clockwise 90º. That’s what this option does — rotates the text box. What I want is for the letters to go down the page.
Text box #2 is the one I need to read vertically. There’s not a one-step action for this, but here’s how I can do it–
- I make sure the justification is center.
- In text edit mode (where the green box is around the words), I grab the bar at the right and scoot it in until there’s only 1 letter in each line.
You’ll find that every once in awhile you can’t scoot the right side of the box in far enough. When that happens, you can either make the text box bigger, move that right side of the box there and then go back to the real size. If you want to make sure you get back to the exact size you started with, use the tools in the Scale tab of the Transform panel to increase and decrease by set amounts. Or you can just hit ENTER at the end of every line on your computer keyboard.
- The reason we did center justification is so that each line (letter) will be centered along the vertical center of the text box.
- Adjust the Line Spacing as needed to decrease the amount of vertical space between the letters. I’ll remind you to tweak this later as needed.
- I make sure the justification is center.
The letters in my chosen font are tall and thin. Just closing down the line spacing on “op” didn’t help enough. In order to fit them all, I need to make them shorter. This is actually really simple. I just adjust the size of the text box using the little white box at the top or bottom. It’s best to do all 3 text boxes at the same time so that they all match.
Tip: Do NOT go by the height measurement of the text box, as sometimes there’s extra room around the letters. For more on that, see this post.
Rows of equal length
I have 5 letters in “faith” and only 4 in “love,” so my lines are different lengths.
I need to increase the spacing between the letters. Here’s how-
- I use left justification for those text boxes. That way, when I increase the character spacing the letters scoot to the right.
- The text box needs to be wider than the frame so that’s there’s room when the letters scoot.
- I left align the 2 text boxes.
- I increase the character spacing in the “faith” box until it scoots far enough right.
- Now I do it on the other text box. The “faith” text box has 155% character spacing, while the “love” one has 180%.
TIP: Use guidelines (which I did), gridlines, or something else to help you see if the letters are starting and ending at the same spot vertically. Do NOT go by the width measurement of the text box, as sometimes there’s extra room around the letters. For more on that, see this post.
I keep playing with it until my lines of text are of equal length and fit inside the frames where I want them. You may also need to adjust that line spacing we did in making the vertical text on “op” and/or use more guides to make sure the “op” is centered on the “h” and “e.” Then I group my 3 text boxes and center them inside the frame. I do the latter manually or with guides because the center/middle of a text box is not always the center/middle of the word. (See the the post here for more on why.)
Here’s a grid of equal rectangles around the word “love” based on the text box (left), and the letters themselves (right). Notice how the mid points hit the letters in different places.
Not all fonts give you the option to make them bold. That’s the case with this one. To make my letters fatter, there are 2 options. (Note that you may need to change the spacing of your letters, as making them fatter might make them touch the sides of the frame).
–Do a small offset. It doesn’t take much — I only used a .010″. While they are still selected after I create the offset, I group them and fill them with a color (they will automatically be unfilled). The offset will NOT be editable text — it’s a regular image. So, I want to keep that original text box around just in case I need it later. I move mine off to the side.
–Remember the thick lines we discussed above when making the frame? I can use that technique again. As long as I have my text filled with a color, I can cut on the outside of the thick line. If it’s not filled, it will cut on the inside of the line as well, which isn’t what I need. This is different than the frame, where it was actually a single line instead of a separate, closed shape. NOTE: Text defaults to Cut Edge in Simple Mode.
I’ve used a different font here so it’s easier to see the comparison. With line thickness 0.0, they would all cut the same way. If you had a script font, using Cut Edge means the overlapping letters don’t cut into one another. The difference comes when you raise the line thickness. Your cut style and fill make a big difference. Look for where the cut lines are (in red).
If you’d like to learn more about all aspects of text, check out my series on text starting here. Or, consider signing up for the All Things Silhouette virtual conference, where I’ll be teaching a class on all aspects of using text. Here’s an example of a few of the things I’ll cover–
Step 4 — Add a design
I choose elements of the designs I linked above and play with them until I have a layout I like. I’ve filled everything with different colors so you can see what all the pieces are. (That helps me keep it straight, too.) See how I added some leaves on that middle branch, and some berries at the base of the bottom one? I did that to fill out the design.
Step 5 — Put it all together
Now that I have all my elements, I make sure that everything is laid out and spaced correctly. Notice that some of my leaves are overlapping my letters.
By doing that, I visually connect the pieces and so make a more cohesive design. I just need to remember to check my cut style so they don’t cut into one another.
I choose Cut Edge for all the pieces (except for the outer square — that I either set to No Cut or just delete). That means that any place the pieces overlap, they won’t cut into one another. The pale red lines indicate that.
It’s like Welding, but the shapes remain independent. Why would I choose that? So that I can move them around if I decide I don’t like the layout. Once I weld, they are all a single piece permanently. I can undo during that software session, but once I close the file there’s no going back.
Think about making cookies. If you put them 2 of them too close together on your cookie sheet, they run into one another and create one cookie. You can cut them apart, but they won’t be 2 perfectly round pieces — they aren’t the same. That’s what welding does.
What Cut Edge does is to let the pieces overlap, like my cookies, but without them running together (magic!). It would be more like overlapping them on the cooling rack. If I squinted my eyes and looked from above, it might look like it was a single cookie. But they are actually still individual cookies in their original, fully circular form.
I also like to change the line color to clear so that I can see the colors more accurately.
The design process is complete, so I cut my design as normal in vinyl and apply it to my glass block. If you haven’t worked with vinyl much or want more tips, see this post.
Here’s the new version, which is much more legible and reflects our current style.
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