This article is part of my “How to Make Planner Stickers to Sell on Etsy” guide.
Printing and cutting planner stickers is the most critical part of the entire sticker making process. You will find that most of your production errors happen during one of these two steps. If you are not careful, you may end up wasting a lot of resources in efforts to get your print and cut quality perfect.
I have experienced my own fair share of struggles with my printer and cutting machine. As I explain the printing and cutting process below, I will try to include helpful tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. I will also be writing this article from the perspective of owning a Silhouette Cameo, so I apologize if the steps are not directly applicable to Cricut’s software.
1. Import your sticker designs
From the previous article, you should already have a few of sticker designs saved as PNG files. You will need to import these files into your cutting machine’s software. In Silhouette Studio, you are able to import PNG files simply by using the open button in the main tool bar.
2. Create the cut lines
There are several ways to create cut lines. Each method is optimal for different types of stickers, so you may need to utilize more than one approach. You should add cut lines for both around each kiss-cut sticker, as well as the final sheet as a whole. Personally, I use a combination of all 3 methods regularly.
* Method #1 - Create cut shapes using Photoshop or other design software:
This method is very versatile; however it works best on complicated shapes and designs. The general idea of this method is that you will create a second PNG image. This image will just have solid black shapes, which will designate the desired cut shapes. The outline feature of Photoshop makes adding a consistent offset to each image super easy, while still allowing you to easily paint on any additional cuts or adjustments you would like. Once the final PNG image is saved, you simply import into the cutting software and use the tracing tool to cut along the outer edge. This method does not work well with straight lines or perfect geometric shapes.
* Method #2 - Use the trace and offset tools in the cutting software:
Cutting software was literally designed to create cut lines. Thus, it comes with a good variety of built-in tools to make the process easier. Two of the most popular tools to make cut lines are the trace and offset tool. The trace tool lets you select an area of an image, detect the edges of each design, and trace around it. The offset tool will allow you to select a group of existing cut lines and offset them to your desired thickness. This method is less work than method #1 and typically produces smoother cut lines as well. However, you may have difficulty using this process with complicated or widely space shapes; If shapes are too far apart, they will treated as two separate stickers and you will need to manually edit the path lines to bind them together.
* Method #3 - Manually draw lines and shapes:
Similar to method #2, another set of built-in tools are the standard line and shape tools. These tools allow you to quickly and easily make straight lines, rectangles, circles, arcs and more. It should go without saying that these tools are the quickest and easiest way to make cut lines for geometric shapes. The more curves that a shape has, or the more organic/freeform it is, the least suitable this method becomes.
3. Assign line colors to different cut settings
Did you know that you can specify multiple cut settings during a single cut session? This is how you can easily kiss-cut the stickers and slice all the way through the page for the final sheet all at once. To do this, you will need to distinguish between the two types of cuts using color categories. Each type of cut should have its own color. After you assign a color to each cut line, open the advanced cut settings panel. This UI will let you select a color category and specify the cut settings for that color. At this point, you should also rearrange the colors so that the kiss-cut category is prioritized first.
You will need to find your own perfect cut settings based on your current blade and sticker paper. My settings are currently rachet blade=4, speed=4, thickness=8 for kiss cut, and rachet blade=4, speed=8, thickness=28 for standard cutting.
Note: The rachet blade setting should use the same number for both types of cuts. If you do not use the same blade setting, the machine will stop after each category and ask for you to manually adjust the physical blade to the correct setting.
4. Save each sheet separately
Once you have the completed image and its entire cut marks, save the file. Each sticker sheet should have its own saved cut file, ready to use when needed.
5. Create a new document with registration marks
When you’re ready to print, open a new document and add registration marks. These marks are very important; you will not be able to get accurate cuts unless you use them! Then, open all saved files of the individual sticker sheets and arrange them on the page. The machine will only be able to cut within the registration area, so if you have any marks exceeding the boundary, they will be ignored.
To print your document, use the print button within your cutting software. When the print dialog opens, remember to adjust the printer settings to use the correct type of paper and size. These adjustments are especially important for laser printers because the temperature and amount of toner applied can vary greatly between the specified types of paper. I typically use “Mid-Weight” for my matte paper, and “Heavy-Glossy” for my glossy paper. If I do not use these settings, my printer does not get hot enough and the toner may be susceptible to flaking.
7. Load into the cutting machine
Once printed, you can follow your cutting machine’s instructions to attach the document to the mat and load it into the machine.
Note: You should always partially de-stick your new cut mats before using them to make stickers. If your mat is too sticky, you will find it impossible to remove your sticker sheets without tearing the paper, or making the sheets curl beyond the point of usability. To soften the stickiness, I usually take a clean piece of denim material and continuously stick and de-stick it against the mat until I am able to place and remove a piece of sticker paper without it being ruined.
8. Start the cutting process
Once loaded into the machine, follow the instructions in your software to begin the cutting process. In Silhouette Studio, there is a simple button you press to begin. The machine will search for the registration marks, then cut according to your specified settings. Once finished, your sheets should peel nicely off the page, leaving your final, professional product! There’s nothing more satisfying that seeing your finished sticker sheets freshly removed from the machine!
…and you’re done!
You will find that this process requires trial, error, and lots of practice before you will be able to get consistently good print and cut results. To ease the learning process, my next article will be covering some common errors and troubleshooting tips that I have learned throughout my own endeavors.