How To Create a Cutting file from a Photo Using Inkscape
I frequently use the freely available program Inkscape to alter and create new cutting files. It can handle more than Silhouette Studio and can also output a DXF file, which is a file format that Silhouette Studio can open and use.
Before and After
You can download Inkscape HERE (as of April 2016).
Normally, I would use Inkscape’s handy “Trace Bitmap” feature. This is located under Path->Trace Bitmap. It has lots of options which you can play around with for your image if you like, but I could tell that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted from this particular image.
The Trace Bitmap Function Doesn’t work as well on images with busy backgrounds!
The problem was that my image has a lot going on in the background and is hard to separate out from the foreground.
I’m guessing that there are some Photoshop gurus out there who could probably separate the background and foreground of this image and then use Inkscape’s Trace function. However, I am not one of those gurus and I don’t own Photoshop! Sad, I know. Alternatively, I could have tried to mess around with the image in GIMP (a fairly nice free alternative to Photoshop) – but I wasn’t up for that seemingly overwhelming task. Sometimes the dumb but straight forward way can be quicker anyhow!
Covered in Paths
Now, this method takes some patience, but you can get exactly the image you want and don’t have to hassle with photo editing. The basic idea is to use several circular paths to bend and form into the shape we need. If you have not played around with path nodes before, this may look confusing, but once you start, it is not too difficult.
Now for the tutorial. Begin by opening your image up in Inkscape, then do the following:
Draw a circle using the shape tool shown below and place it over part of your image.
Change to the arrow tool, click your circle, and select Path->Object to Path. This will ensure that your circle is a path and not just a shape.
Now, go ahead and copy this circle and paste it several times on your image. I needed about 7 blobs (which started as circles) to cover my image. You may need more or less depending on the size and shape of your image.
Now for the fun part! Click on the node tool (Arrow 1 in the image below). Then, click on your shape to start conforming it to your image. If you look closely at Arrow 2 in the image below, you will see a node highlighted in red. If you click a node, you can move it around.
Drag the nodes to spots along the edges of your image. Once the node is on the edge of your image, move the little round “whiskers” (I don’t know what these are really called). These bend the edges of your circle and allow you to match the contour of your image. There are also tools for change the node type from a rounded one to a pointy one (right above Arrow 1). Also, keep in mind you can remove nodes by selecting one and hitting delete and you can add nodes by double clicking where you want one.
Once you have your image covered in OVERLAPING paths, select all the paths (but not the image itself) and click Path -> UNION. This will combine all of your shapes into one, and if you did a good job matching the contours and filling all the space, you should have the image you wanted! You can see our bunny Geronimo loved being turned into a cutting file.
Here is the resulting file that I created. Feel free to download it and use it for your own creations.
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