Introduction: Craft Cutter Tips and Tricks

Picture of Craft Cutter Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips for using your home craft-cutting machine. These tips cover materials and techniques that I don’t see documented very often on Instructables in relation to craft-cutters. They include some post-processing techniques plus some ways to expand your craft-cutter projects into the third dimension.

I seem to use craft cutters differently than most people; more like mini CNC mills or a practice version of a laser cutter. Sure, I make flat scrapbook pages just like everyone else. But I also use many of the same techniques that I learned in my shop classes – only on a much smaller scale.

These tips are based on my experience with the Silhouette Portrait. It’s one of the smallest and cheapest of the hobby level craft cutters. But it is incredibly powerful and full-featured for the price point. Your machine will be different, but many of the techniques should apply with minor modifications. (Disclosure: This machine was awarded our team for its participation in the 2015 Makerspace Challenge. Thank you Instructables and Silhouette – we have made good use of it)

If you find yourself using a lot of these materials and techniques, you might want to consider upgrading to the Silhouette Curio. It is a much more powerful machine, capable of handling much thicker materials with ease as well as having embossing and scribing functions built-in.

And always remember: Using any material not approved by the manufacturer can dull your blade, wreck your machine and void your warranty. Experiment wisely and at your own risk.

Step 1: Working With Craft Foam

Picture of Working With Craft Foam

Yes, your craft-cutter probably works on “Craft Foam,” that rubbery, colorful material that is so versatile and easy to play with. Once I discovered how the COSPLAY community shares techniques to take craft-foam from a cute playschool look to full-on heavy-metal industrial goth, well it's become one of my favorite materials.

But there are limits to the thickness and density of the foam you can use with a hobby level cutting machine. Luckily, there are some simple tricks that make the results more reliable.

Not Too Thick, Not Too Dense

Craft foam comes in several thicknesses and densities. Some are almost paper thin (0.5mm) and very spongy. Other sheets are a full 3.0mm thick and so dense they feel like solid rubber. The very thin and spongy sheets are easy to cut, but don’t provide much structural stability. The very thick, very dense sheets are almost impossible to cut reliably. The foams right in the middle of that range give me the best results.

  • The super-thin (0.5mm) sheets cut all the way through very easily even with a duller, well-used blade. But they are extremely flimsy and mostly useful to me as decorative accents. These tend to curl too much if you apply heat to get a surface effect. You can, however, glue together multiple layers of the cut pieces to achieve a structurally sound object.
  • My favorites are sheets about 1mm thick with a medium density. You can cut all the way through them if you double-cut or repeat the cuts. And this thickness handles embossing/debossing and the scoring-and-heating techniques well. All but the squishiest types have good structural stability.
  • I have cut through some 2mm sheets successfully using the tips outlined below and a new, sharp blade. But I often have to make the final through-cut by hand with a craft knife. However, the score-and-heat technique works very well on these sheets and the resulting grooves really show up well.
  • The 3mm sheets are almost impossible to cut because most won’t even fit under the cutting head.

Keep the Shapes Simple

Even the thinnest foam sheets tend to bind, then stretch and move during the cutting. If your design is too complex the details can be lost, or the foam will begin to dis-adhere from the cutting mat as the needle drags the sheet.

Simple details like scallops, zigzags and sharp points are all possible. But intricate filigree is probably not going to turn out well. With my cutter, any detailed cuts less than 2mm wide tends to go awry during cutting or it wrinkles so quickly after cutting that it become useless. But if you want to make a frilly, almost wooly edge, go ahead and cut 1mm wide strips and let them curl up.

Pincher Wheels

My hobby level craft cutter (the Silhouette Portrait) has two large wheels at each end of the roller bar plus two smaller wheels towards the middle of the bar. These wheels pinch the cutting mat and material to help move the mat back-and-forth under the cutting head. But the pinching action of the wheels can limit you.

With foam and other thick materials, I try to avoid putting the material under the larger, outer wheels. I cut the material to a smaller size so it fits between the outer wheels. The looser inner wheels still pinch the foam, but the two big pincher wheels ride on the bare cutting mat. With foam, this is an especially useful trick because the foam is slippery and squishy, so the wheels can bog down, bind or slip as they pinch the foam.

Some of the 1.5 - 2mm foam might even require you to pre-cut it small enough to fit between the two inner-most wheels. Soft foam with a high-grip finish doesn’t require it, but dense or slick-surfaced foam does.

If you have to place the foam under any wheels, always try to put the material under both of the matching wheels. If the material is under only one wheel on one side, the cutter tends to start shifting the mat, sometimes even rotating it slightly. With the material under both of the matching wheels, the cutter usually maintains reasonable accuracy. Circles might be a little more elliptical, but they will be “closed” and “shadow cuts” will be kept to a minimum.

Measure Once, Cut Twice… or Three Times

Sometimes, even with a sharp blade, the foam doesn’t get cut all the way through on the first pass. The Portrait’s Silhouette Studio software has a “Double Cut” checkbox in the cutting set-up menu that automatically repeats the cuts before ejecting the mat. This usually takes care of the problem, or gets close enough that you can tear the shapes loose from the sheet.

However, on some foams I have to repeat the entire cutting process again. Before you remove the foam from the cutting-mat, click the “Cut Again” button that appears at the end of the cutting process. This should make the cuts deep enough so that you can hand-pull the cut pieces apart with minimal fuss.

With dense foam, you might even need to make a first pass with a depth setting of 5, then a second pass with a depth setting of 10. This is similar to making multiple passes with a traditional mill or lathe. If you try to cut all the material away at once, you can overtax the machine, get poor quality cuts or break the blade. By taking smaller nibbles in several passes, you can sometimes get better results.

Remove Carefully

Use tools to hold the foam pieces in place while you separate them. Most of my foam based projects are decorative and don’t require very precisely sized foam pieces. But I have also over-stretched pieces of foam while peeling them off the mat. The minor warping has never ruined a project, but I have had to take extra time fixing warps and wrinkles left from the un-matting process.

Apply Some Heat

One of the neatest things about craft-foam is how it reacts to heat from a hair-dryer or heat-gun. The foam gets soft when heated slightly. If you press into the foam while it’s heated and softened, any mark you make will remain when the foam cools. It’s easy to emboss/deboss and create intricate reliefs and textures.

If heated even more, the foam starts to shrink. This can be a bad thing when unwanted, but you can also create some very cool effects by scoring the surface of the foam and heating it until the cuts widen into grooves. Add a little paint into the grooves for some visual appeal.

Save your foam scraps, they are great for practicing your heat treatments. Getting the right heat and timing can be tricky, so it’s best to know how a particular foam reacts to heat. Why not practice on scraps?

The best source of detailed tips on this technique is the COSPLAY community. Those folks create clothing, weapons and incredibly detailed full sets of armor using similar materials and techniques.

Speed and Depth Settings

I wish I could give you some absolute rules, but every manufacturer makes a different type of foam that requires new settings. Here are some generic strategies that work well on most foams:

  • Use a slow speed. I try to keep the speed setting on “one.” Since I only cut simple shapes, this doesn’t increase the cutting time much.
  • I use the maximum “Thickness” setting of 33.
  • On the super thin sheets, a needle depth of 5 can work well. Anything thicker and you will probably want to use a setting of 10. Remember, making multiple passes of increasing depths (5 on the first pass, then 10) can yield better results.

NOTE: These settings are for Portrait with the standard blade, not the “Deep Cut” blade that has a 2mm depth or the more powerful, deeper cutting Curio machine.

Step 2: Working With Plastic Sheets

Picture of Working With Plastic Sheets

You may not be able to cut or route thick acrylic sheets like you can with a laser cutter or CNC mill. But you can get similar effects with your hobby cutter and thin plastic sheets (like 0.25mm thin). Do not try cutting thick acrylic sheets, however.

Types of Plastic

If you use manufacturer approved plastics, simply follow the directions on the product package. But if you scavenge and experiment like I do, you will need to understand the limits of your machine and how it works on different types of plastic. I know there is PETG, PVC and vinyl etc. And the recycling code tells you a lot about the properties of the plastic. But I categorize plastics by the way they feel and act in my hands. Here are some loose guidelines that I use:

  • If it has a slightly rubbery feel and you can roll it into a tight tube without damaging the sheet, then you might be able to cut all the way through it. Examples would be those clear “report covers” from office binders or the really thick, deluxe shopping bags that bedsheets or shower curtains come in. I seldom use this type for making signage, but it’s good for fashion and home decor projects. Think clear pockets and miniature umbrellas.
  • If you can bend it into a large tube so the edges touch - but it creases when bent too tightly, then you might have trouble cutting all the way through it. Those clear plastic cover-windows that come on seemingly every package these days, or the lids on some take-out salad plates are good examples. These are good for making engraved or side-lit signs and for making folded gift-boxes.
  • If the plastic is stiff, creases or breaks when bent too tightly, and if it makes a metallic-whipping sound when you shake it, then you should try the score-and-break method instead of trying to cut all the way through it. This type is often the clearest and conducts light the best – so it makes great engraved signs and light tubes. But you will probably have to try heat bending the sheets to make any kind of gift box or enclosure.

I mostly use the clear types of these plastics. But the tinted-translucent and the colored-opaque versions have some great uses. Stained-glass effects are possible, and the opaque sheets can be cut and assembled much like wood veneer and inlay work. (50s styled plastic future look). So save those pearlescent plastic scraps from your last cosmetics purchase and look for ways to reuse them.

(BTW: Your craft cutter can also probably cut sheets of “Shrinky Dink” as well)

Cutting Can be Hard, But Scoring is Easy

Some plastics can be quite rough on your cutting blade, especially if you try to cut all the way through the plastic. So save your blades and use an old-school trick from acrylic workers. Instead of cutting all the way through, just score (a shallow cut) the plastic, then bend along the score-line. After a few bends back-and-forth, most plastics will break cleanly along the score.

Note 1: A very shallow score (like 1 or 2 depth) is usually enough to accomplish your goals with these plastics. They still break cleanly and even a shallow line shows up well when it is lit brightly. Using these shallow cuts instead of deep ones helps keep your blades sharper longer.

Note 2: Plastic sheets are slick and tend to slide around if not secured for the cutting process. So, unlike craft-foam, you might get better results by making sure all the pincher wheels are rolling over the plastic sheet to help keep it secured to the mat.

Backlighting and Side-lighting

Some plastics transmit light through the length of the sheet very well, and some don’t. Usually, the harder plastics seem to carry light betterWhile the soft rubbery ones don’t. You can get the look of a milled acrylic “OPEN” sign, or effects similar to rasterized laser engraving with the highly transmissive plastics. Just place a light source behind the plastic or along the edge of the sheet. The location of the light source will determine the effect you get, so experiment.

You can cut out the letters and shapes completely so the letters become separate physical objects from the sheet. You can then light the letters (positive shape) or the sheet with the holes from the missing letters (negative shape) so that their edges glow.

You can also just lightly etch the outline shape of the letters into a sheet and light the entire sheet.

The scored outlines of the letters or designs show up well when lit, even when there is just a single layer of plastic. But to really get that look of a deeply carved acrylic sign, you can stack multiple copies of the same design on top of each other.

“Light tubes” can often be found in electronics projects. An example is a plastic tube that carries light from an LED on the main-board up to the surface of the case. You can use strips of plastic to accomplish this.

A lot of the light “leaks out” of the plastic’s surface before it reaches the cut edge that you are trying to illuminate. You can preserve more of the light and make it travel farther by using reflective paint (or film) on unseen areas.

Hatching and Cross Hatching

If you have ever done a pen-and-ink drawing or a linocut, then you know about hatching and crosshatching. You can use these same techniques on plastic sheets to give a more 3D shaded appearance to the images.

Step 3: Working With Wood

Picture of Working With Wood

The Portrait does cut some types of wood, but doing so dulls the blades extremely quickly. And just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I still use a craft knife and Dremel for woods except on very special projects. But I also know there are other tinkerers and experimenters out there who will try it, so here goes.

Yes, I have successfully cut 1/32” thick balsa wood and unapproved “cardstock paper” veneer-like products with no significant problems. But I have also completely destroyed a blade on a “hard spot” in an otherwise soft piece of balsa wood – so be careful if you must experiment with unapproved woods.

Real veneers are out of the question on the Portrait.

Like Foam, Only Wooden

Think of your craft-cutter more as guide-line scriber than a saw. Except for the paper-thin veneer products, you will likely be doing a lot of clean-up with a craft knife or Dremel because the cutter has a hard time making a clean through-cut.. But having those guidelines on your work-piece can make creating complex, precisely spaced shapes much easier.

Check out the section on working with craft-foam for some good tips on working with thick materials. (stick to simple shapes, make multiple cuts, taking nibbles of increasing depth etc.)

Tape Backing

One of the biggest issues, for me, is how to get the cut parts loose from the sheet and the adhesive cutting-mat without breaking the delicate wood. Sharp blades can cut a piece cleanly, but I usually wind up with a feathery fringe that I have to clean-up by hand with a craft blade. I most often damage a piece during this clean-up phase, cracking the delicate parts trying to remove a stubborn piece from the sheet.

I have found that a cheap low-tack painters tape or packing tape can be used on the back (bottom) of the wood sheet to form a helpful matrix while you clean-up the cuts. I am talking the cheapest of cheap dollar-store brands - the type that is so low-tack you don't want to use it for its intended purpose.

Use the sticky side of the tape on the wood sheet and adhere the non-tacky side of the tape to the cutting mat.

Once you have cut your shapes into the wood with the craft cutter, remove the entire sheet of wood along with the tape. Move them to a safe cutting surface like a self-healing cutting mat and use a craft knife to make the final cuts and clean up. Then carefully remove the low-tack tape.

Bending and Shaping

You can bend most balsa and veneers a little, but they will eventually break when the bend gets too tight. There are several ways to get tighter bends without breaking the wood. Test these techniques on a sample before using them on a critical project.

If you soak the wood in water for a few minutes or hours, the wood becomes limber and you can get a tighter bend. Tape or tie the wood so that it holds the desired shape until it dries. You can also “set” the bend by applying heat or hot air to the wet shape. Using steam increases both the speed and bendability of the wood.

You can also use ammonia to physically break down the cellulose in the wood and get incredibly tight bends. It is the most effective method, but also the smelliest. Always work in a well ventilated space, use gloves and face protection when using ammonia. You can immerse the wood in a mixture of warm water and ammonia for an hour or more. When the wood is pliable, bend the wood into the desired shape using a template or jig and secure it. Let the shape dry completely in a well ventilated area. When the wood has dried, remove it from the jig. The wood will maintain its bent shape.

Notice that the wood bends easiest parallel to the grain. Even after soaking in ammonia for hours, the balsa will still break if bent too tightly across or perpendicular to the grain. You can get tighter bends across the grains if you use “kerf cut” or “live hinge” techniques. I have not been very successful doing this with balsa or the pseudo-veneer; the wood appears to still break, just in smaller and more controlled segments that give the appearance of bending. My only tips are to go slowly and sequentially, bending each segment slightly then repeating until you get the desired curve. Having a curved form, like a PVC pipe, to work against also seems to help. My curves never look pretty, especially on the cut side, so I don’t like to use this technique when the result can be seen. But I have used them as inner plies in a laminated box and where the curve can’t be seen.

Home-Made Plywood

If you need something more structurally sound than a single layer of balsa or veneer, you can create a type of plywood by laminating or gluing several sheets of balsa and/or veneer together. Be sure to alternate the orientation of the grain in the sheets. By running the grain up/down in the first sheet then left/right in the next sheet you can form relatively strong sheets and shapes. It’s not as strong as “real” plywood, but you can cut it on a hobby craft cutter. If you cut the patterns out before gluing them together, you can create fairly complex shapes – just remember to rotate the patterns to give you alternating runs of the woodgrain.

I also reverse half of the pieces when I lay out the patterns. Wood has weaker and stronger areas. If all the pieces in the pattern are cut facing the same way, the weak areas will all align when assembled. But if half of the pieces are reversed, half will have the weak spot on the left (for example) and half will have the weak spot on the right. So the weak area becomes less concentrated and the assembly is less likely to break.

If you plan to do a lot of this type of work and really need to cut designs in plywood, it would probably be best to get a CNC mill, a laser cutter or at least a scroll saw. These solutions give a faster and higher quality product. But for a few fun experiments, this technique is a great way to learn.

Step 4: Working With Metal

Picture of Working With Metal

Metal is tough. Do not even think about cutting metal unless the package states that the sheets are designed for safe use in craft cutters. There are tons of good “cutter safe” sheets in all kinds of metal and all kinds of finishes, so there is no good reason to risk damaging your cutter on sheets of hardware-store metal.

Silhouette makes the inexpensive Curio for working with metals. If you need something better, and can’t afford a CNC mill, there are loads of good tutorials on Instructables for making your own Arduino and GRBL based CNC mill.

But what if you still really want to work with metal thicker than the cutter-safe foils? Well your craft cutter can make several techniques easier to accomplish.

Acid Etching with Resist (Template Stencil)

You can’t route out deep grooves in thick metal like a CNC mill, but you can etch intricate designs onto metal with the acid resist method. You could also make flexible circuits and even PCBs with the same method. Just cut a mask out of adhesive vinyl or plastic to use as a resist. Then use acid to eat away the metal that is not covered by the mask stencil.

I prefer the vinegar-salt-and-9-volt-battery method of etching. It uses household items, is relatively safe. It does produce small quantities of poisonous gas, so work in a well-ventilated area.

  • Create a stencil. Craft-cutter vinyl works very well for this.
  • Apply the stencil to uncoated metal. Copper sheets work well.
  • Mix some salt and vinegar in a non-metal container.
  • Attach one end of an alligator-clip jumper-wire to the positive terminal of a 9v battery. Attach the other end to the metal piece you want to etch.
  • Attach another jumper-wire to the batteries negative terminal.
  • There are two common methods for the actual etching:
  • (Option #1) Put the other end of the negative wire into the salt-vinegar solution and submerge the metal in the vinegar-salt solution enough to cover the stencil, but not the attached "positive" alligator clip. If you see bubbles in the liquid then the process is working. Those gas bubbles are poisonous, so be sure they get vented away from your lungs and eyes.
  • (Option #2) Attach the negative jumper-wire to a cotton Q-tip or cotton swab. Dip the attached end of the swab into the vinegar, then rub the swab over the metal surrounding the vinyl stencil. If a residue appears on the cotton-swab (green for copper) then you are making good electrical contact and the acid is etching into the metal. Remember, this creates poisonous gas, so ventilate your work area.
  • When the etching is deep enough, remove all the electrical connections from the battery. Wash the metal very well in warm soap and water. Also wash your jumper wires.
  • Remove the mask or stencil and rewash the metal. Seal the metal with a clear coating to prevent oxidation (unless a patina is desired.)

You can also use other materials, or use the stencil to mask the metal while you apply nail-polish, Vaseline, paint or wax. These substances also shield the metal from being etched away, but remember, this method exposes the opposite portions to the acid so you might need to cut a reverse stencil.

I have seen tutorials that use plain salt-water, but I don't know if or how well that method works.

If you need to etch away lots of metal, you may need to invest in some of the industrial strength acids and study some related tutorials.

This stencil and acid method also works for glass etching.

Template and Snips

With a good pair of snips or a Dremel tool, you can cut fairly thick sheets of metal. Use your craft-cutter to cut out a template. Adhere the template (or just trace around it), then hand-cut the shapes out of the metal.

Roll and Stamp Embossing

You can emboss and deboss metal foils or fairly thick sheets of metal if you have a good form or stamp to make the impressions.

Cut shapes out of chipboard or craft foam and glue them to a baseplate. The baseplate can be anything flat and hard, from another piece of cardboard or some scrap wood. You might need to use multiple layers of the shapes to give you the depth you need.

Or, use the piece with the negative space left from removing the cut shape. Press the metal into the recess.

Now lay the metal foil over the shapes on the baseplate and use your fingers or a rounded, non-abrasive stylus (or a popsicle stick) to push the metal down around the edges of the shape. If you don’t need crisp edges you can also use a soft brayer (fancy name for a roller) to roll over the entire sheet quickly.

For thin metal foils, you can place the foil face down on a soft piece of foam and press the cut shapes into the back of the foil. The “stamping” process leaves an impression on the foil.

You can leave your cut shapes under the foil, or remove them for the finished project. Now that you have a craft-cutter, it's cheap and easy to make custom embossing patterns.

Step 5: Expanding Into 3D

Picture of Expanding Into 3D

Beneath that Rough Surface, Cardboard is your Friend

Save time and start with something that already has three dimensional qualities. Many types of cardboard have a corrugated middle layer. Some even have a honeycomb pattern. There are also types of plastic sheets that use the same type construction. Exposing these corrugations creates a nice industrial look.

It can sometimes be difficult to find cardboard thin enough (less than 1mm). But you can duplicate the look with a simple technique. Just peel off one face of the cardboard and clean up any stubborn debris in the troughs. Then cut out some letters or shapes on a piece of paper. Glue the paper onto the corrugations.

They even sell sheets of corrugated paper without the topping paper. These premade sheets have a much cleaner look, no glue streaks and no tattered edges to clean up. .

Some cardboards have a "finish layer" separate from the basic cardboard. You can sometimes You can also use a finish that differs from the corrugations, or paint the corrugations. This really makes the cut-out area pop visually.

Stack It Up

Perhaps the simplest way to make a 3D object is to stack layers on top of each other. You can make topographic models, solid objects and hollow boxes. You change the color or even material on different layers.

Dash, Skip, Dash and… Stretch

Let’s stay in the 2.5D world for a moment. A simple, repetitive cutting pattern (ABABA then BABAB) can yield a nicely expandable mesh pattern when used with paper, thin plastic and especially craft foam. Add some simple flourishes like a scallop or indent to make the pattern more interesting.

If you use a similar cut-skip-cut pattern on a closed shape like a circle or square, the deformation is limited to the Z direction while the X and Y stay constrained. See the photos for more info.

Fold, Bend and Mucilage

Just a list of how to find good references for different paper crafts:

  • Pop-up cards and structures are a great place to start with real 3D assemblages.
  • The packaging industry has a lot to teach crafters - try searching for something like “folded paper package.”
  • The educational artists of the world also teach geometry and mathematics with folded paper structures – try searching for something like “folded paper geometric shapes.”
  • There is a whole family of flat geometric shapes that can be assembled into 3D configurations. There is probably a fancy Latin term for this, maybe a subset of tessellations.
  • Origami usually refers to folding a sheet of paper into 3D shapes.
  • Pepakura is a way of folding cut paper into shapes. The results are similar to a low polygon count 3D computer model.
  • Tab-and-Slot building covers a variety of techniques, from dovetail and puzzle-edge to interlocked-slices to cute bi-plane earrings
  • Then there is Yoshinobu Miyamoto

Helpful Software

Autodesk has a great collection of free software that helps you turn flat sheets into 3D shapes.

123D Design is a powerful, yet easy to use 3D modeling program. You can create complex forms minutes after starting to use the software. And there are tons of good tutorials on how to use it.

123D Make is a playground full of options for turning flat sheets into 3D objects. It’s so cool that 123D Design has an automated export function that sends your 3D model directly to Make. Your model appears in 123D Make, and just by selecting a “Construction Technique” from a menu you can create files for making:

  • Stacked Slices – creates a Topological Models from stacked shapes. You can select the thickness of the layers and even choose whether to add a registration dowel for help stacking the slices. The software generates files in several formats that can be used in the Silhouette Studio software.
  • Interlocking Slices – Creates a 3D matrix of tab-and-slot shapes that can be assembled into a sort of honeycombed 3D grid. The software allows you to choose how many slices, their thickness and how they are oriented on the model. There are several similar slicing options that work better on differently shaped models. For instance, one creates slices that radiate from a central point while another creates a rectangular XYZ grid.
  • Folded Panels – This option creates flat files that allow you to fold the cut sheets into Pepakura-style, low-polygon count 3D shapes. You can control the number of facets and even have a choice on how the “tabs” for gluing are created.

The “Folded Panels” option is great, but it sometimes tries to put facets onto faces that don’t need them.

Luckily, another free Autodesk product called Meshmixer has a similar function called “Unfold” that allows you to make much smoother surfaces in some situations. It also creates a flattened cutting pattern for you.

“Unfold” works better for me when I know I can cut the surface from a flat sheet of paper and bend it without wrinkling. So I use Unfold if I can cut a four-sided shape with arcs on each side, then bend the surface of the paper. However, if the surface also needs to “dome” or bend in both directions simultaneously, then I use Folded Panels.

How to Combine Score and Cut on a Beginner Level Machine

Folded paper is an ancient art form, and I have little new to add except for one tip about how to combine the “cut” and “score” functions on beginner machines like the Portrait. The score-lines make folding accurately so much easier and cleaner.

Fancy machines and software (see the Curio and the paid version of the Silhouette software) have two blades which allows you to cut at two depth settings at once. The paid version of the software also has "Layers" functions that allow you to assign specific lines to specific blades (and thereby, depths).

But the Portrait and its free software do not provide this capability. So how can you accomplish this with no layers in software and only one cutting head? Just use the "Group" function and change the blade depth between cuttings:

  • “Group” all the “cut” lines that into a single object.
  • Then “group” all of the score lines into an object.
  • Bonus points: Give each object a different line color.
  • Set your grouped cut line object to “cut.”
  • Set your score lines object to “no-cut.”
  • Cut the sheet as usual.
  • Now reverse the settings – set the “cut” object to a “no-cut” status, and your score lines to cut.
  • Adjust your blade depth to make a shallow scoring cut.
  • Recut the sheet with the shallow blade settings.
  • Your sheet will now have score-lines on the cut- out shapes.

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