…making cricut ready files from PDFs…
I love a good printable. I do not love fussy cutting, especially since my good sharp pointed paper scissors have disappeared. I love die cuts and ephemera. I do not love the international shipping costs that are required to get most of them in my hot little hands. I do, however, have a cricut and a healthy sense of adventure.
Friends, it paid off. I have a lovely little bowl full of pre-cut paper goodies ready for all my advent journaling. Design Space doesn’t allow PDF imports, but I was able to wrangle a combination of photoshop, procreate, and my Cricut Maker, and come up with a solution. Two solutions, actually. And yes, I know none of these are cheap, however I have all of them, and a working proficiency in all of them, so in my case, an hour or so of stuffing around with files was a better option than paying international shipping. Plus, I actually kind of like mucking around and finding new ways to use the programs and tools I have on hand.
The first step was to convert to PNG – this is the file type you want to get those great transparent backgrounds. I used Photoshop, because I wanted to remove the background at the same time – it’s less fiddly than using the “remove background” in Design Space. If you don’t have photoshop but do have Acrobat Pro, you can export to PNG from there as well, without removing the background. There may be free tools out there that will also do this step (unfortunately Canva doesn’t do PDF uploads), but since these are the tools I have, these are the tools I use. If you know a free option, drop a comment below and I’ll update the post for people who don’t have photoshop.
To get started, open the PDF in Photoshop. I chose to simply work with one page at a time, so selected the page I wanted to
Once the file is open, I want to remove the background. I could choose to do this in Design Space, but doing it now is quicker & neater. In the layers panel, double click in the open space next to the name of the layer. It will bring up the dialogue box below left. Towards the bottom, there are two sliders. The one we are working with is the top of the two – “this layer”. You want to grab the white end slider, and bump it just a touch to the left – so it says 254 not 255. We are only trying to get rid of the white, not any of the other, paler colours, so just a single step is fine. Being a digital file, it is a true, solid white we are working with, so that one step will knock it out.
Can you see now on the right, the background has turned from white to checkerboard? That’s it, that’s the background removed! At this point, we could also use the eraser tool to remove the items we don’t want cut. Because I wanted to add the edging in Procreate, I left the logos in place to erase on my iPad where my Apple Pencil gave me more control.
With the background removed, it’s time to do the final PNG conversion step! Go File –> Export –> Export As –> PNG. You want to save it as a png to preserve that lovely transparent background. If you save as a JPG, you’ll end up getting a white background again!
CONVERTING FROM ACROBAT: Your PNG will still have a white background. Once you import it into Design Space, use the remove background function to delete any of the white that you don’t want printed/cut.
The first cut I did, I found the edges weren’t very clean – the background removal had picked up some roughness along the outside of the graphics. I decided to add a small white edging to smooth out any inconsistencies, or small details that wouldn’t translate well to the cutter. There’s two different ways to do this – of course I chose the more involved way!! It did give me a bit more control, but also took longer. I actually did most of the outlining while playing a boardgame with the family!
METHOD ONE – PROCREATE
My laptop is a MacBook Air, so I was able to simply AirDrop the PNG across to my iPad. When I was working on a PC laptop, I would transfer using either DropBox or iCloud. Once I have the file on my iPad, I import it to a new file, then add a new layer, and drag it underneath the PNG. Turn off the background layer so you can see where you are working, or alternately, set the colour to something different to your chosen outline colour. Select a monoweight brush (I used my favourite freebie from Every Tuesday), choose your outline colour, and set the size to about twice the width you would like your outline.
Using the outside of the graphic as a guide, trace around the outside. Once you’ve gotten all the way around, drag your colour spot to the image to flood the background with colour – this is particularly helpful if there were white spots that are part of the design, that got removed in photoshop when we deleted the white.
Once all graphics are outlined and you are happy, simply export, upload to Design Space as a print & cut file, and off you go!
METHOD TWO – OFFSET
This method is quicker, but more blunt, and doesn’t give you the ability to change your outline for individual elements on the page. It can mean your elements have outlines touching, that will need to be cut apart later.
Import your PNG to design space. If you haven’t yet removed the background, now is the time to do that. Add your graphics to the canvas, and adjust the sizing to your desired width. With that done, look at the tool bar up the top, and select “offset”. It automatically starts with a 1/4″ offset, shown with the blue line in the first photo – clearly too large! I dropped mine to 0.01in, which gave me a border that looks good to my eye.
Once you are happy with the outline and click “apply”. This will create a new outline with black shapes. Simply select the new layer, and change the colour to white in the Operation section of the top menu bar. Then select both layers, and choose “flatten” from the bottom of the layers panel.
Voila!! You now have a nicely edged Print & Cut file!
I printed mine on standard 80gsm printer paper, using my Epson eco tank inkjet printer. Ideally I like to use a heavier paper, or cardstock, for printable and ephemera, but I didn’t have any to hand. It worked out fine though, and I have a lovely little pile of goodies I’ve been having a blast working with in my advent bible journal.