Add colorful images and patterns to your Cricut projects with the Print Then Cut feature! Learn how in today’s easy, step-by-step Cricut tutorial.
Colorful Cutting with Cricut
Whether you chose the Cricut Explore One, Explore Air, or Explore Air 2, your Cricut cutting machine is capable of doing some pretty amazing things. Chief among these is its ability to cut out complex multicolor and patterned images with the Print Then Cut feature. If you aren’t using this feature of your Cricut machine, you’re missing out on some really fun design options!
What is Print Then Cut?
As we all know, colors and patterns are staple design elements for paper crafters. However, a typical cutting machine doesn’t recognize these as cuttable. It will either try to cut each color on a separate layer of paper, or disallow the cut altogether. However, the Print Then Cut feature of the Cricut Explore line of cutting machines offers an innovative solution to this problem: print the colored and/or patterned images first, and then cut them out. Genius!
How Print Then Cut Works
Print Then Cut works in conjunction with Design Space — the online software on which your Cricut machine runs. In a nutshell, you add images to a Design Space canvas, and then edit them as needed for printing. Design Space then sends the images to your household printer. Along with the images, it prints a series of registration marks.
When you load the printed sheet into your Cricut machine, it reads the registration marks, and then cuts out the images just as precisely as it would any regular cutting file. Pretty amazing, right? Let’s take a look at how to use the Print Then Cut feature so you can put it to work for you today!
Calibrate for Print Then Cut
Before you use Print Then Cut for the first time, you’ll want to calibrate your Cricut machine in Design Space. Naturally, every Cricut machine has slight variations in how it cuts, and Design Space needs to know what those are for your machine to ensure you get the best cuts.
Calibration is a guided step-by-step process, just like when you set up your Cricut machine the first time. To calibrate your Cricut machine:
1. Connect your Cricut machine to your computer or iPad, make sure that the machine is powered on, and then log into Cricut Design Space.
2. In Design Space, click on the green, square user icon at the top left corner of the screen.
3. A drop-down menu will appear on-screen. Click Calibration in this menu.
4. Follow the prompts in the following series of screens to complete the calibration process.
How to Use Print Then Cut
Print Then Cut is so easy to use! Here’s how.
Step 1: Open a Blank Canvas in Design Space
First, you need a blank Design canvas to work with:
1. Connect your Cricut machine to your computer or iPad, make sure that your Cricut machine is powered on, and then log into Cricut Design Space.
2. In Design Space, click the blue, square Create a New Project button on the screen. A new, blank, Design Space canvas will open. (Note that your screen view may look slightly different than mine depending on the device you’re using).
Step 2: Add Images to Your Canvas
Now you need to add some images to your Design Space canvas. You can add images from Design Space, or ones that you’ve uploaded yourself. Any JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, SVG, or DXF image can be used.
To add images to your canvas:
1. Click the Insert Images button in the tools column to the left of the canvas grid.
2. The All Images screen will open. Scroll through this screen to see the latest images available from Cricut, or use the Search bar to locate a specific image.
3. Once you locate an image that you want to use, click on it. A green box will appear around it, along with a green check mark in the upper right corner of the image.
4. When finished selecting images, click the green Insert button at the lower right of the image selection screen.
Design Space will then insert all of the images you selected into your canvas.
Step 4: Arrange and Size Your Images for Print Then Cut
Next, you need to arrange and size your images for Print Then Cut. One really important thing to know here is that the useable print space is limited. There are two reasons for this:
- Design Space needs room to print the registration marks around your images.
- Each Internet browser imposes different limits on what the total print space of a page can be.
So, in order to use Print Then Cut, you first have to know the amount of space you have to work with, and then layout and size your images to fit into that space.
What is the Useable Print Space for Your Browser?
Here are the useable print space sizes for Print Then Cut for various Internet browsers:
- Chrome: 5.5″ wide x 8″ long
- Firefox: 6″ wide x 8.5″ long
- Safari: 6″ wide x 8.5″ long
- Internet Explorer: 6″ wide x 8.5″ long
TIP: If you save a canvas of images in one browser, and then open it to use later in a different browser, you may need to adjust the image sizes and layout.
Make a Print Guide for Your Images
One easy way to ensure your images are laid out and sized to fit into your useable print space for Print Then Cut is to make a print guide for them on your canvas. To do this, simply add a rectangle shape of the correct size to your canvas:
1. Click the Insert Shapes button in the tools column to the left of the canvas grid.
2. From the menu that appears on the screen, choose the Square shape.
3. Design Space places a square shape on your canvas. Click on the square to select it, and then click the Edit tab in the Layers panel at the far right of the screen.
4. The Edit tab opens to show the dimensions of the square. Click the lock icon to unlock the proportions of this shape, then type the correct values for the useable print space for your browser into the Width and Height text boxes. Press Return/Enter on your keyboard, and the square will be transformed on the canvas into a rectangle of the appropriate size.
6. Click on the resized rectangle, and drag it into the uppermost, leftmost area of the canvas grid.
7. With the rectangle still selected, click the Arrange button on the tools menu that runs across the top of the canvas grid.
8. From the drop-down menu that appears, select Move to Back. This will ensure that the rectangle stays behind any images you place over it.
You now have a perfectly sized print guide on which to lay out your images!
Arrange the Images on the Print Guide
Click and drag each image over the print guide to see how they fit in the useable print space. If your images don’t all fit on your print guide (rectangle), then you’ll need to size them down.
Resize the Images
To size down images that are too big for the useable print space:
1. Click on the image to select it.
2. Click and drag the Resize button towards the image. If you go too far, simply drag the Resize button the reverse direction.
Step 5: Delete the Print Guide
Now that your images are sized appropriately, you don’t need the rectangle print guide. Delete it by clicking on it, and then pressing the Delete key on your keyboard.
Step 6: Make All Images Printable
Next you need to make sure that all of the images you added to your canvas are printable. Print Then Cut can only handle images that are. To check this:
1. Click on the Layers tab on the Layers panel at the far right of the canvas.
2. Look through the list of images. Under each image title, you should see one thumbnail image that has a printer icon displayed next to it.
If you find a thumbnail in the list that doesn’t have a printer icon next to it, or an image that has multiple thumbnails displayed under it, you’ll need to edit it first for Print Then Cut to be able to use it.
Editing Thumbnails Without a Printer Icon
1. Click on the thumbnail image to select it in the Layers Panel, and then click on the icon displayed next to it.
2. The Layer Attributes panel then opens on the screen. Click the printer icon at the top of this panel. Back in the Layers panel, you should see that the icon next to the thumbnail has changed to match.
Repeat these steps for any other thumbnails that don’t have printer icons next to them.
Flattening Images With Multiple Thumbnails
Once all thumbnails in the Layers list have printer icons displayed next to them, it’s time to flatten any images that have multiple thumbnails. Otherwise, your machine will cut out each thumbnail separately after printing. To flatten an image:
1. Click on the image title in the Layers panel to highlight all sublayers of that image.
2. Click the Flatten button at the top of the Layers panel. You should now see just one thumbnail image under the image title.
Repeat these steps for any other images that need to be flattened.
Step 7: Print Your Images
Now it’s finally time to print your images!
1. If you haven’t already, connect your Cricut machine to the computer or iPad you’re using with Design Space, and then power your machine on.
2. Load the paper you want to print on into your printer.
TIP: Always use white, 8.5×11-inch paper or cardstock with Print Then Cut. Otherwise, your Cricut machine may not be able to read the printed registration marks correctly.
3. In Design Space, click the green Go button at the top of the canvas.
4. The Print Preview screen will open. In this screen, verify that everything looks correct, and then click the green Go button at the bottom left of the screen.
5. The Print Page screen will open. Here, verify that your Design Space has detected your machine, and then click the green Print Page button.
TIP: If your printer allows it, adjust the printer settings to “Best” or the equivalent printing option, so that your images and the registration marks print as clearly as possible.
6. While the printer is printing your images, set the Smart Dial on your Cricut machine for the kind of paper you’re printing to.
A Word About Print Bleed
By default, your images will print with a print ‘bleed’. This is a fuzzy bit of extra ink around the outside of each image. Don’t worry — there’s nothing wrong with your printer! Print bleed helps ensure no white edges show around the images once they’re cut out.
Step 8: Cut Your Images
Last but not least, you need to load the printed sheet into your Cricut machine for cutting. Do this the same way you would load paper for any other project — by attaching the printed sheet to a cutting mat, and then loading the cutting mat into your machine. Don’t forget to press the Go button on your machine after loading to start cutting!
Your Cricut machine will spend a little time scanning the registration marks on the printed sheet. Then, when it has all the data it needs, it will start to cut. When it is finished cutting out all of the images, unload the mat from your machine per usual, and then admire your finished images!
Now you just need to find a project to add your Print Then Cut images to. That won’t be hard at all, will it?
Share Your Thoughts
Have you or will you use the Print Then Cut feature of your Cricut machine? What kinds of images do or will you use this function with? Do you have questions that I can help answer about Print Then Cut? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
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