Today I want to share with you some tips on how you can better visualize the outcome of a design. You can use these methods to get a more realistic preview your project, create mockups, or to predict the outcome before you use any Modify options. Let’s get started!
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 will always be honest about my opinion of any product.
How to visualize tip #1: Have a background color
If the surface you’re putting your cut piece on is white, you might think you don’t need this tip. But it’s actually helpful even then, so read on.
Sometimes what looks perfect on a white background doesn’t look as good on a colored background. For example, if you have a purple or a blue, you’d want to make sure there’s enough contrast for it to show up on a black background. Or you may want to see how your colors will work together on your project. So it’s helpful to be able to visualize that in advance. There are 2 primary ways to do this.
Change the color of your mat
This is a relatively new feature of the software. You can change the color of your mat to anything you want in the Page Setup Panel.
Open the panel and look for the colored squares near the bottom. Select your color there and your “page” changes to that color.
The advantage of doing it this way is that it automatically fills the whole page, whatever size you set it to. The disadvantage is that you can’t input specific colors — just move the selector around the color grid.
Draw a background shape
Draw a simple rectangle that’s the size of the area of the wall, t-shirt, card, etc. that you’re putting your cut pieces on. Notice mine is larger than the mat. I’m making this from vinyl to put on the wall in my craft room. Since it’s vinyl, I can cut larger than the mat (see my whole series on cutting without the mat here). Even if I weren’t, I could still piece together smaller cuts to fill this area.
Fill the rectangle with the color of the project surface. If you already have design pieces on your page, you may need to send the rectangle to the back of the order.
The advantage of using this is that you can set the exact color (see tip #2 below). The disadvantage is that it doesn’t automatically fill the whole page and you may accidentally move the shape while working on your design (although you can put it into a locked layer).
Advanced Color Fill Options
You might not find the perfect color in the standard fill area. That’s why there are the Advanced options (in the panel only – you can’t do this in the Quick Access Toolbar). Click the arrow beside the word “Advanced” to expand the panel. There are several ways to select and adjust a color:
- Move the target around on the color spectrum until you find the color closest to your background.
- Use the slider at the right to add more gray to the color.
- If you have an HSL, RGB or Hex Color code, you can input that in the Advanced area.
For more info on how to use the Fill panel, see this post (the pics in that post are from version 3, but the information is all the same in version 4).
Another way this is useful is that you can move your design pieces around to make them fit the area you’re going to put your cut pieces on, test different layouts, check sizing, etc. We’ll look at that a bit more in tip #3.
You want to be sure to delete your rectangle or set it to No Cut before you cut. Or, if you’re working with something like vinyl, you can leave it as a weeding box. In order to see my whole rectangle without the red lines that show the edges of where I can cut on my mat, I like to take off the Show Cut Border temporarily. That’s something else I need to remember to reinstate before I start cutting.
How to Visualize tip #2 : Find the exact color
Let’s say you want to use the exact color of your project surface, but you don’t have a color code. You can still pick up the color from any raster image, such as a photo or clip art.
- If you bought your t-shirt online, go to the seller’s website and get a snip of the shirt.
- Is your project going on a painted wall? You can do the same on the paint manufacturer’s website. They will often have an RGB code as well.
- Take a photo of the project surface with your smart phone, transfer the photo to your computer and open that in Silhouette Studio to pick up the color. The accuracy will depend on the lighting in your photo, but you can get close.
For more on picking a specific color from an image, see the post linked just above.
How to Visualize tip #3 : Use the exact pattern
If your background is a pattern, it’s great to fill your background shape with it using a photo or snip. For multiple ways to fill a shape with a raster image, see this series.
How to visualize tip #4 : Fill your shapes
Okay, now that you have your background, you’ll want your design pieces filled with a color or pattern as well. Just follow the same steps as in tips #1-3.
I find it helpful to make a sample set of my fills. I create small rectangles off to the side of the mat that I fill with my patterns and colors I pick up out of them. Then I can transfer their properties to my pieces to quickly fill them. The pattern might be at a really small scale, so instead sometimes I’ll just make that rectangle larger and use it with my Modify options to fill another shape. Find out more about that in my series called Pattern Fill Pizzazz.
You can also use the solid fills to find color codes. Select the rectangle, then look in the Advanced section of your Fill panel for the numbers.
How to visualize tip #5: Change the line color
I find it extremely helpful to change the line color to clear. That red line always throws me off and makes my design look, well, cheap and ugly somehow. And the red alters the way my eyes see the fill color. If I change it to clear, I can visualize the project much better.
If your pieces are white, it gets hard to find them if they’re on a white mat page. So if I’m removing my background rectangle I often choose a black line color or one that coordinates with my project on those pieces.
How to visualize tip #6: Use an image
Yep, we’ve already talked about using a photo for picking up a color. But there’s another way a photo or screen shot/snip can be helpful.
Let’s say you’re working on a baby onesie. You can measure the area you’re going to put the design on and use your background color square. But it’s still just colored pieces. What if you could see the coloring and sizing on the actual onesie BEFORE you cut? You can!
All you need is a photo or screen shot/snip of your project surface. If you’re taking your own photo, take a couple and in one of them lay a ruler next to the piece. That gives you a reference point for sizing.
Once you have your image, do File>Open if it’s saved on your computer, or if it’s a snip you can do a copy/paste (okay, that reminds me of a baby onesie I made a couple of years ago for a friend having twins. Get it? Twins — copy/paste. Her programmer dad loved it!).
Resize the image so that it’s real life size. Then send it to the back as needed and move your design pieces around on it. I will also usually check it against my background rectangle to make sure my sizing is right.
This is very helpful if you’re selling your items and want to do realistic mock-ups for customers.
DO NOT VIOLATE COPYRIGHTS!
I have to say this for you, me and all other creators out there. Do NOT try to pass off someone else’s photo image or mock up as your own. I’ve seen so many complaints about this as I talk with Silhouette users. It’s not cool to take a mockup or design someone else made and put it on your Facebook business page. You’re also not allowed to take a photo from a website and pass it off as your own. For example, I’m clearly telling you that the photo of the onesie is not my photo. If I wanted to sell items and needed a mockup, I’d need to take my own. There are websites out there that sell mockup backgrounds. Buy one of those or create your own. DON’T STEAL!!!!
How it helps you see the outcome of your project
It’s helpful to talk about concepts like this in the abstract, but seeing concrete examples is even more helpful. So, let’s look at a specific project.
Here’s a card I’m making (the design is Lori Whitlock’s 3d stand up card: Butterfly). I could just fill the pieces with some plain colors, but the card doesn’t look very exciting that way.
I have some patterned and coordinating solid paper (also by Lori) I’m going to use. So I got a snip of the patterned papers. I’ve created rectangles filled with the patterns and the colors I’ve pulled from it that correlate to my solid papers. Here are the pieces filled with the pattern and colors.
See how much easier it is to visualize the finished card? It’s also helpful in remembering which pieces I’m cutting from which papers once I start moving them around to make the maximum use of my paper.
How it helps before using a Modify option
Modify options help you take several shapes and combine them in different ways to make a new shape. By altering the fill and line colors, you can predict what your design will look like before you modify.
Even if I layer the pieces up, I don’t get much of an idea of what my finished project will look like.
Let me show you how the tips we’ve talked about can help on this project.
First, I’m going to create my background square. It’s 11”x11”, which is a fairly standard size for an adult t-shirt. I’ve gotten a snip of the shirt from the website where I purchased it, so I’ve used that snip to grab the color for my background square.
Solid filled shapes
My quatrefoil pattern and heart shape are both filled with the same color as the background square and have lines set to clear. I can pull them over my Texas shape and move them around so that I see what I would get when I subtract.
Why do this? If I subtract right away, I usually end up subtracting, undoing, moving, subtracting again, etc. That takes time, particularly on a slower computer. This way is quicker and I’m less likely to accidentally close the file and can’t undo then (don’t judge – I do it all the time). For my project, I’m looking to make sure the end points of the state are not going to be subtracted so being able to move it around to check that is helpful.
Script (cursive) text
Now I put my phrase in my heart. On a script font, the letters overlap so if the line color is there I see that. I find that distracting and can’t visualize the end product as easily.
I could weld to get rid of those overlapping lines, but I may want to change which words are on which line or select a different font. If I weld right away I can’t do that because it changes from text to an image. If I just change the line color to clear, I can visualize much easier. Also, without that line color I can see that my current color may not show up well enough on my shirt.
Here’s another reason to make the line color clear. If the line color is there it’s easy to miss some details on the font. Here for example, there’s a bump where some of the letters meet. Although by default the line thickness is 0.0, it has to be visible in Silhouette Studio. That means that if I have the line color on, it has a bit of visual weight that could obscure the bumps.
When I set the line color to clear, I can see them more easily.,
If I were going to use this font, I would probably change the character spacing so that I wouldn’t have those bumps.
The only trick here is that I need to make sure I choose Cut Edge or Auto-weld when I cut my words. Fortunately, in the latest updates Cut Edge in Simple Cut Mode is the default on fonts. I’ve learned to do it right after I change that line color to clear, because way too often I forget to look closely enough at my cut preview.
I’ve made all my adjustments and have my design the way I want it. So I weld my heart to my quatrefoil pattern to make those a single shape, then I select that and the Texas and do a Subtract. Voila! I have my finished shape.
For a final check, I’m going to open a snip of the entire t-shirt and make it real-life size, then adjust my design pieces as needed. Now I have a realistic-looking preview mockup. Let me say again that if I were trying to sell the shirt I would NOT use this on a business page or to show a mockup to a customer, because that’s not my photo. But for personal use, it’s great.
I hope this helps you visualize your projects better. Questions? Ask me in the comments below.