…how to break apart clipart and put it back in the shape you want.
If you’ve been a Whatcha Workin’ On? reader for a while, you know that my partner in (craft and decorating) crime Laura and I have been working together to create gallery walls—a wall of Vs for her and a wall of Bs for me. Today’s project is a plain white canvas V to which we applied vine-y HTV. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to other Vs we’ve made).
As you can imagine, finding a vine design in a V-shape is next to impossible, so we made our own by morphing a piece of clipart into a V. It’s not that hard to do. A little knife tool here, a little weld tool there, and a bunch of rearranging in the middle. Using this technique, you can turn vine clipart into any letter, or any shape really. Wouldn’t it be cool to add to a picture frame mat? I’ve got the full instructions below for both V3 and V4 versions of the software, along with links to great clipart to use.
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What you need…
- Large letter – I used an 8″ 3D canvas letter from Michaels, but large wood or chipboard or mdf or paper mache letters will work well, too.
- Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) – to contrast well with your letter. I used black Siser Easyweed.
- Camera (the one in your phone is fine) or scanner
- Teflon sheet or parchment paper
- Silhouette mat
- Weeding tool
- Silhouette cutting machine – my Silhouette Cameo is powered by Silhouette Studio V3.3.638 and V4.0.837 (instructions for both are included in this tutorial) Designer Edition
Finding the right clipart…
Look for a fairly simple design with enough white space to allow for cuts with the knife tool. You want something that will cut nicely from HTV. Rule of thumb: if you find a design that would make a good stencil, it’ll probably be a great choice for this project, too. I started with this vine-y clipart:It has nice curves to make a long winding vine up both sides of my V. Also, cutting it apart will result in several interesting shapes to use as building blocks. This vine, and this vine, and this vine, and this vine, and this vine would also be good choices.
Prepping the clipart…
If you downloaded an .svg file, you’re good to go. Head to the next section to chop it apart. If you downloaded a .png or .jpg, you need to trace the clipart first. Need help tracing? The V3 tracing tutorial is HERE, and V4 tracing tutorial HERE.
NOTE: If you’ve chosen clipart that isn’t black & white, you can adjust the ‘Brightness’ or ‘Gamma’ in the Image Effects tool to change it to B&W to make the tracing easier. To do that click on your image to select it, then click on the ‘Image Effects’ icon (A), select ‘Gamma’ (B), and drag the slider all the way to the left (C). Images will vary, so if zero Gamma doesn’t give you black & white, drag the ‘Brightness’ slider to zero, instead (not marked below, but it’s the sunburst icon above (V3) and beside (V4) the Gamma icon).
Chopping the clipart apart…
Decide where to cut the clipart apart that will result in an interesting selection of shapes that you can use as building blocks. Here’s how I split mine. I colored the pieces so you could see the different shapes.
Now here’s a little trick. If whoever created the clipart didn’t overlap the pieces, you may not have to use the knife tool for all the cuts you want to make. To check, select the image, and release the compound path (right-click, choose ‘Release Compound Path’ from the menu). This will break the vine apart into its component parts. Try dragging the pieces away to see where the separations are located. Look what happened on my vine. It turned out that all but one of the pieces I wanted was already separated. I only had to make one cut!
If releasing the compound path separated pieces you didn’t want separated—for example, my orange, green & yellow sections were made up of more than one leaf piece that became separated—select the pieces you want to stay together and group them (to do that, right-click, select ‘Group’).
To make a cut, first select whatever’s left of your vine and change it into a compound path (right-click, choose ‘Make Compound Path’). For me, that included the green and pink parts.
Knife tool time. Click on the ‘Knife’ icon(D), select ‘Solid'(E) (because you want the cut pieces to be solid enclosed pieces, not open-lined shapes) , then draw a line where you want the cut to go, and release the cursor to execute the cut. For this clipart, I drew my cut line as close to the leaf as I could so it remained leaf-shaped after the cut. If you have the Designer Edition of the software, select the cut shape you want (I use the straight cut for almost everything) and you can uncheck ‘Auto Apply'(F), which will allow you to move the line exactly into position before hitting ‘Apply’ to execute the cut.
If you have more cuts to make, keep cutting as above until the clipart is broken up as you wanted. Once that’s done, then it’s time to create a mockup of your letter so you can fill it with vine-y bits.
Creating a mockup of the letter…
To make sure that the vine you create fits in your letter, replicate the exact shape of your letter in Silhouette Studio. There are a few ways to do that:
- Take a picture with your camera or phone and open the jpeg in Silhouette Studio.
- Scan the letter on a scanner and open the jpeg in Silhouette Studio.
- Measure and draw your letter using the Silhouette Studio drawing & point editing tools. (only if your letter doesn’t have curves—it’s hard to replicate them exactly)
My V is all straight edges, so rather than fiddle with gear, I quickly recreated it using the drawing & point editing tools. A detailed how-to of that process is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but for you experienced or adventurous souls in the bunch, here’s an overview of what I did:
#1) – Measured the V (in blue)
#2) – Drew a rectangle the length and width of my V.
– Drew lines the length of the top & bottom parts of the V (in green), and used them to show where corners should be.
– Double-clicked on the rectangle to show the editing points.
– Added three new edit points.
#3) Moved three edit points.
Reshaping the vine into a letter…
This is the fun part.
STEP ONE: Drag your letter image to the middle of the mat.
STEP TWO: Duplicate each of the ‘building block’ parts several times (to duplicate something, select it, right-click, choose ‘Duplicate’) and leave a group of each at the side of the mat. Here’s what my mat looked like. Notice I’ve flipped some of the pieces (to flip something, select it, right-click, choose ‘Flip Horizontally’). This makes the pieces look different, and I can use flipped and unflipped images together to get the vine-y look.
I’m happy with the size of the vine-y bits compared to my V, but feel free to adjust the size of either of them so they fit together better for you (select the V and drag a corner to resize it, or select all of your vine-y bits and drag a corner to resize them all together).
STEP THREE: Starting with the larger pieces (for me, that’s the pink and turquoise ones), drag and drop them one at a time onto the letter to make a central vine. Try different pieces—work that undo button!—until you get a vine shape you like. I started at the bottom and worked my way up one side and then the other. Here’s my basic vine shape for the left side:
Because my HTV would be black on a white letter, I worked with all of the pieces colored black (left), but to show you which pieces make up the vine, I’ve colored them (right). I used pink-pink-turquoise-pink-pink.
Don’t worry that it looks a little skimpy. We’ll fill that in later. The idea is to get the basic vine shape wiggling up the letter. Use your knife tool to lop off anything that goes outside the letter or overlaps leaves you want to keep. I usually drag the cut bits into a reject area to the right of the mat. Some of them may be just what I need later to fill the white space. Check out all the leaves I cut (the x’s to the left of the V). Yes, I’m feeling like a Silhouette knife ninja, I am, I am.
STEP FOUR: Once you have a basic vine shape you like, start adding in the smaller building block pieces and cut bits to fill out the vine. Again, use the knife to cut things apart to get the shape you want. Audition pieces, turn pieces, flip pieces, cut pieces…play and experiment until you’re happy with the design. Here’s what my left side looked like with the basic vine shape (black) and the filled in parts (colors).
STEP FIVE: When you have the first part of the letter done, go on to the next one. Repeat Step Three and Four to create a vine. Here’s what the other side of my V vine looked like, colored so you can see where the parts came from.
STEP SIX: Select the letter and all the vine bits, and group them together (right-click, choose ‘Group’). Select the vine+letter image and resize it to the exact size of your letter. With the image still selected, ungroup it again (right-click, choose ‘Ungroup’).
STEP SEVEN: Drag the letter shape off the mat, select all the vine-y parts at once and weld them together (right-click, choose ‘Weld’). If welding gives you multiple selection boxes, group them together.
Cutting & applying HTV…
Remember to mirror your design before cutting so it faces the right way when applied (select the vine, right-click, choose ‘Flip Horizontally’). Cut the flipped design from HTV, and weed out the background and all of the little non-design bits (can you see where I missed one on my V?).
If your letter is bulky, it’s best to use an iron to apply the HTV. Use the cotton setting and make sure the iron is dry (no steam!). Place the HTV where you want it, shiny carrier sheet side up, cover with parchment paper or Teflon sheet and press for 15 seconds. Remove the carrier sheet, and yo, you’re done!
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