Following my initial trials with the Silhouette Portrait (described in previous blog posts), I began to think about pre-printing the sides, so that no painting would be needed at all! The Silhouette machines have the important provision to align the cutter with a printed image, which makes this possible.
Just after I had been exploring this, JCL posted another excellent tutorial in the Silhouette Forum at http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/?p=1298181 but, since I have adopted a complementary approach, I think it is worth posting my method as well.
JCL started from an image and placed the cut-lines onto it, whereas I already had a vector drawing, made with AutoSketch, and wanted to add colour to it. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the basic Studio software does not facilitate printing the cut pattern to an ordinary printer (EDIT - see footnote). One possibility would be to draw with a pen (using the Silhouette pen holder) and then scan the drawing into Photoshop. I found, however, that I could transfer the image directly, by using the 'Print Screen' command in Windows. Providing you have a reasonably high screen resolution (mine is 1680x1050) and you zoom into the drawing so that it fills as much of the screen as possible, then you can get a reasonable image by importing the screen-grab into Photoshop, with the 'New from Clipboard' command. I used the 'Sharpen Edges' command, to make the image crisper, and the 'Levels' control, to improve the contrast between the cut lines and the background.
I believe that 'Inkscape' has provision to export a drawing directly as a bitmap, so this could also transfer a drawing to Photoshop. I use an old version of AutoSketch, which does not have this facility, but I do have a very handy free program called 'PDF Creator' (from http://www.pdfforge.org/pdfcreator ). This utility installs as a printer driver, which then allows almost any document to be 'printed' to a PDF file. Once the image is in PDF format, by whichever method, it can be opened in Photoshop and edited there, as indicated below:
Once in Photoshop, the various layers of a cutting diagram can be coloured as appropriate and the final image saved as a TIFF file, which can then be opened in Silhouette Studio. Open the TIFF image in Studio, copy it and paste it into the cutting diagram. Use the 'Arrangement' command to sent the TIFF image to the back and then re-size and align the image with the cutting marks as accurately as possible on the screen (use a magnified image and make sure that 'Snap to Grid' is 'off'). Once you are content with the alignment, turn 'on' the Registration Marks in Studio and Print the image on your colour printer (in my case an HP Deskjet 6980), using the highest print-quality settings and good quality heavy-weight paper, which will form your model. The print-out will include the alignment marks, which will be read by the Silhouette cutter.
Attach the print-out to the cutting mat, make sure that 'Alignment Marks' are still turned on, and start cutting the image. The cutter will first seek out the alignment marks and should respond with a screen message that they have been found. The cuts will then be made in the appropriate places on your image.
I tried all this and it worked very well, so I became more ambitious! I had already coloured an old photograph of my chosen U29 carriage, so decided to see if I could import this into Photoshop and incorporate it into my cutting diagram. My method was to open both the real coach photo and the cutting diagram, alongside each other in Photoshop. I adjusted the photo of the coach side to be roughly the same size as the cutting diagram as shown below:
Then I selected the cutting diagram and pasted it over the photograph. Make a duplicate of the background ('Layers' menu), so that the image can be moved and re-sized. Next, reduce the opacity of the top image to about 40%, so that the photo shows through, select the photo layer and adjust both its size and position for an exact fit. Re-set the top layer opacity to 100% and select the areas where you want the photo to show through, then use the 'Cut' command (Edit menu). There's more about manipulating layers in this way on my website at http://home.btconnect.com/mike.flemming/layers.htm
I superimposed this image on the cutting diagram in Silhouette Studio, as described above, and cut out the layers to produce the 4mm-scale coach side shown below.
This is just a test assembly (and not firmly stuck together) but the alignment seems to be very good and I find it satisfying to think that this model shows all the scratches and wear patterns that were on the original coach, on the day it was photographed in the 19th century!
Footnote (added Aug 2014) thanks to a post by JCL, I now know that it is possible to print a cutting diagram from the Silhouette software. See http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/?p=1542453
"To print out the outline of your objects, you need to select all of the objects you need to print, then click on the "Open the Line Style Window" button (to the left of the "A" and tick the "Print Lines of Selected Shapes" box."