This is part 3 of the series on tracing — creating cut files from things like photos and clip art. Be sure to read Lesson 1 on why and what to trace and Lesson 2 about choosing images before you read this one, as I will refer frequently to the concepts from those lessons. Here in Lesson 3, I’m going to give you an overview of the Trace panel. We won’t learn how to use everything in it in this 1 lesson — just know what’s there.
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How to open the Trace panel
The Trace icon is in the upper right of the software. It’s a butterfly (image) surrounded by a thick line (trace line) and a gray box (trace area box). You’ll click that to open the Trace panel.
You can also use the Panels drop down menu if you like.
Here’s what the Trace panel looks like:
If you have Designer Edition and up, there are 3 tabs at the top. Basic (Standard) Edition only has one. We’ll take them one by one.
Select Trace Area tells the software what area you want to trace using a box you draw. Everything else is grayed out for now, because you can’t do anything until you define that trace area.
Trace Preview – You can see the area that will be traced as a solid or outline. This doesn’t change the trace – just how you’re viewing it. Solid shows you the shape that would cut out; Outline shows you where the cut lines would be. I suggest using Solid because the outline can be difficult to interpret.
Next are a series of filters you adjust to help the software know how much detail and what specifically you’re trying to trace. They also help to get a smoother trace. The filters include Threshold, Despeckle Threshold, High Pass Filter and Scale. We’ll talk through each of these as we begin to practice tracing images.
Trace Style tells the software how you want to trace — the whole image (Trace), only the outer edge (Trace Outer Edge) or separate the image from a white background (Trace and Detach). Most often, you’re going to use a regular Trace.
If you have Basic Edition, you may quit reading here. But I highly recommend you read about the other 2 tabs so you see what’s available. You can purchase Designer Edition from the Silhouette America website and it’s an instant download (you can use it right away). To get a 10% discount, click this Silhouette Elite button and use the code 10OFF in your cart (make sure you’re signed in).
Everyone struggles with tracing in the beginning. It’s just a fact. But there are, beginning in version 4, new features in the software to help. They are in the 2nd and 3rd tabs.
Trace by color tab
Now remember — Silhouette really only reads light and dark values, not really colors. I’ll explain this more as we go, but without Trace by Color and in older versions of the software, you can only tell the software “Pick up all areas with up to this light value.” To move to a lighter light value, you’d still get everything in the lower light values plus the new ones and they all read as a single piece. With Trace by Color, you can say, “Pick up only areas with this specific light value.”
For example, say you’ve got an image with a light pink, a medium green and a dark red. You want to get them all as separate pieces. You can easily get the red by adjusting the filters for the light values. But if you get to the point where it’s picking up the green, it’s getting BOTH the red and green and they are 1 continuous piece. Once you’ve adjusted to pick up the pink, it’s getting all 3 colors as a single piece. You have to jump through some hoops to get the separate pieces (don’t worry — I’ll show you how). But if you can use Trace by Color, it’s easier.
Trace by Color — See the eyedropper? You use that to tell the software which color (light value) you’re trying to trace.
Trace Preview is the same as in the first tab — you can see the solid shape or where the cut lines would be.
Trace by Color Options — Sometimes your image has the same color in different parts of the design. You can tell the software to grab everything of that same color, or only the ones in the specific area you are pointing to. The Tolerance filter adjusts how close the colors must be to be considered the same.
Trace Style is the same as in a regular Trace, except that you don’t have Trace Outer Edge. Trust me — it makes sense.
In this tab, you can “draw” a shape around the part of the image you want to trace. The software helps you by trying to see the difference in light values along the line that you are drawing and pulling the “pencil/magnet” along that color break. It helps you do something like cut out a background from a photo, or grab only a single petal from a flower, etc.
Okay, that’s your overview of the Trace panel. Next time, I’ll show you how to open a simple, solid shape and trace it. To make it easier, I’ll give you a link to each image that I’m using so that you can practice with the same one.
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