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.
LOVE IT? PIN IT!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
How to Use SVG Files: Tips and Tricks
How to Convert a JPEG or PNG into a Cut File
Wow nice and simple, what a well written article!
I have a question- once the svg is transferred to Scan n Cut and lets say I am cutting it on HTV as mirrored image, how do I then transfer it to the Fabric all as a single piece. Because the cut piece will be individual letters, it will be a nightmare to get it all together individually aligned on the fabric to iron. I struggle with that part while using a non-script font. Can you please help. Is there a clever way to ‘connect’ non script font so it peels away from Mat as a single item? Thanks in advance Adi
Hi Adi! Heat Transfer Vinyl comes with a carrier sheet. After your file is cut, weed away the excess vinyl and you will be left with your design attached to the carrier sheet. Then just flip the sheet over and you can place your design onto your fabric in one piece. Hope this helps.
Hi Kelly, you wont believe I have been lookingfor this tutorial for almost4-5 months now. I have gone through tons of youtube videos but none has explained it so beautifully and so easily as you did. However, after image trace when I use direct selection tool to select both the text and image and do “compound path-make” the image gets a big black square box with it. I used a black heart png. I dont know why this is happening. Can you please help me out. Looking forward.
Hi Shadaan! I’m glad you found my tutorial useful. If you are getting a black box, try using the “group” command instead of “make compound path”. This step isn’t always necessary…it just makes it so the design is all grouped together and you can move it in one piece.
This post was very helpful! You explained everything in an easy to understand way. Thank you so much! XO
Thanks so much, Diana! I’m glad you found it helpful.
Hello! Thank you very much for information! I try to make some svg design. If it will consist two colours or more, need to put them on different layers?
Yes, put each color on a different layer in Illustrator.
As an Illustrator newbie trying to expand into cut file development (to hopefully sell), you nailed it! I was able to easily follow your steps and create my own svg cut file without trouble. It uploaded into Cricut Design Space seamlessly. Thank you so much for your time and energy in putting this together.
I’m so glad you found the tutorial helpful.