Learn how to make cut files using Illustrator for use with Silhouette or Cricut.
Cut files (also known as SVG files) are one of my favorite crafty items to create. But for the longest time, I didn’t know how to make them. I relied on using other people’s cut files and soon got frustrated when I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. Now that I know how to create an SVG cut file, I want to share this knowledge with you so you can also create cut files using Illustrator.
WHAT IS A CUT FILE?
If you’re reading this post, I assume you know what a cut file is. But just in case you don’t, a cut file is a specific type of file that is used in personal cutting machines like Silhouette and Cricut. Cut files are also known as SVG files which stands for scalable vector graphic. Because it is vector, and SVG file will not lose quality when increased in size. Here is a post that gives you an overview of SVG files.
WHAT SOFTWARE IS USED TO CREATE SVG FILES?
There are several software options to create SVG files. For this tutorial, you will need Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is not free. You will need a monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud in order to use it. It is an investment but I highly recommend it if you are serious about creating cut files. You can access a free trial if you’d like to try it out.
Up until recently, I was very intimidated about using Adobe Illustrator. I thought that it was too complicated to learn and I stayed away from it for a very long time. But when I wanted to start to create my own cut files, I knew that Photoshop wasn’t going to be able to the job done because a cut file is a vector file and Photoshop produces raster files. So, I took the plunge and bought Creative Cloud and started to teach myself Illustrator. And guess what… it’s not so scary and I learned that there is no reason to be intimidated. This program can do some pretty cool stuff.
HOW TO MAKE CUT FILES USING ILLUSTRATOR
Open up Illustrator and click “Create New”. It really doesn’t matter what size you make your file. You can always resize the cut file after you create it. I chose a “5×7” but other good sizes to choose are 8.5×11 and 12×12. These are the sizes that match up with Silhouette and Cricut cutting mats.
Next, add some text. Click on the “T” tool and choose a font from the dropdown menu on the right. I recommend putting each line as a separate box so you can easily adjust each line as needed. When creating text cut files, you’ll want to use a font that is not too jagged around the edges. The more jagged the font, the harder it will be to cut. Some hand-drawn fonts are not really suitable for cut files so you’ll have to be aware of the font that you are using. For this example, I’m going to use Bebas Neue. If you like script fonts, one of my favorites is Miss Magnolia.
Outline your text. This is very important. Click TYPE>CREATE OUTLINES. When you outline your text, you are changing it into vector format. This is important because it allows the file to be opened on computers that don’t have the specific font installed. After you outline your text, you can no longer edit it (change letters, etc.) so make sure to have it exactly the way you want it before you outline it.
Unite your text This is optional. If you have a non-cursive font, you do not have to do this step. If you are using a cursive font, select the text with the direct selection tool and click WINDOW>PATHFINDER >UNITE. This will unite all the text together. If you skip this step with a cursive font, the font will be cut out as separate letters and not as one continuous piece. In the image below, you can see that the script letters are connected.
If you are creating a text-only file, you’re done and you can save it by clicking File>Save>SVG. But if you want to add some graphics, then follow these next steps.
Import or draw your graphics. To import, click FILE>PLACE and navigate to your graphic saved on your computer. Or just drag and drop the graphic into your document.
Convert the imported graphic to vector. Click OBJECT>IMAGE TRACE>MAKE AND EXPAND. Note: If you draw your own graphic within Illustrator, it will already be in vector format so an image trace is not necessary.
Select your entire design with the direct selection tool and use the pathfinder tool to create a compound path. Or click OBJECT>COMPUND PATH>MAKE. This groups everything together so the entire design can be moved as one object.
Save as an SVG. That’s it! Now you can open your newly created cut file in any program that accepts SVG files.
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