The trick to high quality and good looking vinyl stickers begins with a quality vector file. Even with a quality vector file ideal for print or display, there are still some pricks to making it ideal for vinyl plotting.
This instructable will demonstrate how to do just that! Here we are going to start with a JPG found through Google images and create a vector file that will make later assembly as simple as possible. These instructions have also been simplified to get you from image to vector file in the least amount of time possible, and explained in a manner that requires no prior software experience beyond what may have been necessary to find this page :)
The only "equipment" necessary to follow along in this instructable is a Workstation with Corel Draw X5. I MADE THIS AT TECHSHOP! so the computer and software is already included and no SBU required. To note however, there is an SBU required to use the "US Cutter / MH 1351" Vinyl Plotter:
• CNC102: CNC Vinyl Cutter SBU - Level 1
Classes for this SBU can be found here.
Step 1: Select an Image
Begin by selecting the image you would like a vinyl sticker of. Note that the lower the contrast or the greater the detail, the greater the challenge. Included is the image selected that you can use to follow along exactly for your first try. Notice the reasonably well defined regions and high contrast.
Save the image in a place where you can find it again. If you are using an image from Google Images, be sure to save the "Full size" image, and not just the preview.
Step 2: Start Corel Draw X5
Start Corel Draw X5 and and create a new, blank document.
Step 3: Import Image
From the File menu, select "Import". Select the image you downloaded, then click and drag to define the region where you would like the image to be placed.
Step 4: Outline Trace
With out image selected, go to the "Bitmaps" menu, go to "Outline Trace", and select "Low Quality Image...".
The reason we select Low Quality Image is because the picture is more of an approximation of what we want rather than EXACTLY what we want, and fewer adjustments will need to be made in the future.
"Delete original image" because it will no longer be used.
"Remove Background" with automatic color selection, but do NOT "Remove color from entire image".
"Merge adjacent objects of the same color", "Remove object overlap", and "Group objects by color" makes everything easier to work with and ensures that our final result in final will be flat.
Do NOT click "OK" yet as we still need to adjust our colors to the color of the material we are going to be using...
Step 6: Simplify Colors
Next, go to the color tabs. Select all the colors / areas that you want to make one color. In Corel Draw X5, multiple colors can be selected by holding the 'CTRL' key while clicking to select / deselect specific colors.
In this case I selected all the "white" (R250 G250 B250, R251 G251, B184, & R237 G237 B144), then clicked "merge" at the bottom. Next, to keep the colors balanced, selected the Pink (nose), Dark Orange (mouth) and the black (stripes and lines) and merged those because I didn't want to need to get vinyl just for those small pieces.
Still, don't click ok just yet. The "merge" averaged the colors instead of simply making them the colors we wanted...
Step 7: Set Colors
At the bottom of the window next to merge is the "edit" button that allows us to specify exactly what colors these areas should be. Select the color you want to adjust and click "edit". From that window switch from the "Palettes" tab to the "Mixers" tab.
For the black we are going to set R, G, and B to "0". Alternately, you can type in the entire code to the right, "#000000", then click "OK". Do this for each of the three colors you have. To note, "White" is "#FFFFFF" and the orange (I used) is "#EA5921".
Once finished, it should look like the second picture.
Now you can click OK :)
Step 8: Shape Layers
Next, we want to define what the shape of each of our color layers are going to be. Cutting the black to the shape in the original image would be a nightmare, so to make things much easier we create a black base, then place our orange and white layers on top.
The first step in this process is to duplicate our entire vector image we created and place it next to it.
Second, drag a box around the entire first copy to select it, then go to the "Arrange" menu and "Ungroup". This allows us to modify the shape of each of the pieces.
Third, from the "Arrange" menu again, go to "Shaping", and select "Weld". This fuses together all the layers.
and finally, last step from the "Arrange" menu, select "Combine". This makes all the parts one single piece.
Don't worry if your selection becomes "invisible", the pieces are merely white with no visable boarder. They are still there, but be sure not to de-select them.
Step 9: Set Color and Outline
Next, if the "Object Properties" toolbar is not already open on the right, you can open it now by right clicking on the selection and clicking "Properties". In the "Outline" tab, set the Line Width to "Hairline". Next, go to the "Fill" tab, "Fill Type" to "Uniform Fill", and set to black.
Step 10: Realign Layers
Now that our base is finished, we can put the layers back together again. At this point since both the objects are the same size and overall shape, we can simply align them both to the center of the page and they will match up perfectly.
To accomplish this, first select all objects. This can be done by either dragging to select around all, using the key combination "CTRL-A", or going to the "Edit" menu, option "Select all", and click "Objects". Any of these three methods will accomplish the same thing.
Next, go to the "Arrange" menu, "Align and Distribute", and click "Center to Page".
It should now appear to be one image.
Note: should it so happen that aligning the images results in the black layer completely covering the image such that you see no color, click off to the side to deselect everything, click on the black layer, and put it in the back. To accomplish this, go to "Arrange", "Order", then click "To Back of Page".
Step 11: Remove Extra Black Layer
It may appear as though we are finished, but there is one final issue: we only need the one simple black layer and not the complex black layer on top. Unfortunately, if we had removed the extra black layer before aligning the images they would not have aligned correctly because there would be very slight differences in the size.
Click on the black and hit the "delete" key. The image will appear to not have changed, but the extra layer should now be gone.
To double check your result, save your project and drag each of the colors apart from each other as was done in the second image (outlines were set to black for emphasis but were not saved that way). Once confirmed you can either "undo" or revert to saved.
Congratulations! You are finished with all your editing.
Your file can now be exported for use by the plotter. To do this, go to the "File" menu, then choose "Export...". Set "Save as type:" to "EPS - Encapsulated PostScript", choose a file name and location, then save. As for the "EPS Export" settings, nothing should need to be changed. Click "OK", and you are ready to plot.
For more fun things you can do at TechShop, check out http://www.techshop.ws.