Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, AutoDesk AutoCAD 2012
Step 1: Cleaning Your File
In Photoshop, I want to isolate the black line work, which can be done through “Select” > “Color Range” and clicking on the color I want. If the file is messy you might need to adjust the Fuzziness so that it is less specific and select a wider range of pixels from the one you clicked. Depending on a wide range of variables (too many to cover here) you might need to adjust your levels (Ctrl+L) or desaturate the image into grayscale (Ctrl+Shift+U). These can also be found under “Image” > “Adjustments”. Play around with the sliders, and remember that the final result is essentially a black and white stencil – the part you keep and the part you cut away.
The black portion selected is actually what I want to keep, so I could either copy and paste a new layer, then delete the old, OR right-click and “Select Inverse”, then delete. Note: you must have either the Marquee (M), Lasso (L), or Wand (W) tool selected for the “Select Inverse” option to appear in the right-click menu. The image is now only black and white.
Step 2: Vectors in Photoshop
Personally, I don't like this method as it simplifies the curvature too much, but it depends on the image and the desired results/precision.
Step 3: Vectors in Illustrator
Personally, I don't like this option much because while quick, it doesn't give me quite the control I'm looking for.
Step 4: Vectors in CorelDraw
Bring your image into CorelDraw either by importing or copy/paste. Sometimes a PNG file works better than a JPEG, but don't worry about that for now. Make sure your image is selected and then (at the top) click “Bitmaps” > “Outline Trace”. There are a few options and after tinkering around a little I haven't found major distinctions, or more importantly a way to make a 'wrong' decision. Defaulting with “Line art” or “Logo” have worked well enough for me.
Stopping here would net you similar results to Illustrator, but in the new window you have the option to adjust a few variables. Play with the “Smoothing” and “Corner smoothness” sliders until you achieve your desired results. A few things to note: check the boxes “Delete original image” and “Remove background”; in the Colors tab set to two colors if your file is a JPEG (black and white), but one color if your file is a PNG (black only since the background should be removed already), and afterward don't adjust the “Detail” slider of the Settings tab because that will override your setting. Finally, if you are working with hyper detail conversions, wait for the green progress bar to finish before making more adjustments to the sliders. I have managed to crash Corel this way, but again these were exceptionally detailed files (and I like stress testing!).
One last part is to simplify the file. Illustrator and Corel will both create a vector of the black shape and the white shape which can result in double lines, and double the cutting time. This can be avoided by using a PNG file (no white background), otherwise click “Window” > “Dockers” > “Object Manager”. A layer property menu should appear on the right side, right-click your object and “Ungroup”. Go through and delete all of the white layers based on the icon's color.
Step 5: Vectors in AutoCAD
Without going into excruciating detail, I made sure there were no solid shapes contained in a void by either removing them, or creating a stencil effect. Look at the eyes and buttons in both pictures for examples of each method. I also checked to make sure the thinnest parts were at least 1/16” (0.0625) and adjusted shapes as needed. The vast majority of commands used were Move, Trim, Offset, Scale, and Distance. Re-save the DXF file.
The project continues with part 4!
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FlowJet Series Part 1: AutoCAD Basics
FlowJet Series Part 2: Applying AutoCAD
FlowJet Series Part 4: Cleaning Vectors for FlowPath
FlowJet Series Part 5: Manual Pathing in FlowPath
FlowJet Series Part 6: Using FlowNest
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