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Tag Archives | card making

CHA Summer 2011 | ProvoCraft Cricut Mini and More

The newest member of the Cricut family is the Cricut Mini. Provocraft’s Cricut Mini is a small, lightweight, ultra-portable way to make almost anything you want – out of many different types of materials, including thick and thin paper, fabric, vinyl, magnetic material, craft foil, and lots more. With Cricut Mini, it’s easier than ever to make projects and be more creative!

This small, portable, and lightweight machine is a great space saver. It works with any computer PC or Mac with a standard wireless or wired Internet connection. Simply plug it in, turn it on, connect to Cricut Craft Room – the online design tool where you can see and design with every Cricut cartridge – and start making projects. It cuts up to 8.5” x 12” paper and other materials. Cut small shapes and fonts from ¼” to larger cuts up to 11½”.
Here’s a little video walk through of this hot new little machine…

Also in the Provocraft booth at the show was Jinger leading attendees through Cricut classes right on the showroom floor.

There are also plenty of new cartridges for your Cricut machines, like these boxes. Extremely cute!

Plus, there are cupcake inserts. Anything that is cupcake compatible is good in my book.

Plus cool new flower cartridges.

And a really cute new cartridge for the Cricut Imagine that will please your little pirates:

And if you are a fan of space (and who isn’t?!), you’re in luck with robots, space ships, and planets in this new cartridge.

And a gorgeous frame cartridge that is sophisticated and delicate.

So, what do you think of what ProvoCraft has in store for you? What do you think of the new Cricut Mini? What cartridges do you hope they come out with next?

Vendor Spotlight: Letraset Safmat

Reported by Anam Stubbington

When I was asked to try the SafMat inkjet printable film from Letraset, I was intrigued, as I am well used to printing on stickers and transparencies. I wanted to see how it fared in relation to those.

According to the Letraset website, SafMat is…

“Ideal for use on paper and card – just print, cut out and stick Safmat is a highly transparent, self-adhesive film for use with your printer. It enables you to create your own unique text and graphics for applying onto almost any smooth surface.
Ideal for scrapbook pages, homemade greetings cards, wedding invites, technical drawings, packaging mockups… Safmat is the perfect solution for applying printed designs onto materials that wouldn’t normally go through a desktop printer. eg heavyweight card, acetate, large 3D objects…
Commercial designers and students use Safmat for creating realistic product and packaging mockups. It’s also popular in many crafts and creative leisure pastimes. No other product gives the same result – it’s like creating a unique, fully personalised transfer.
Safmat is acid free for archival longevity. It’s an excellent versatile solution for Scrap Booking, Card Making and many other craft activities. Anywhere it’s useful to apply personalised printed phrases and images.”

My biggest complaint about other films is that they often looked washed out, don’t dry quick enough and with transparencies nearly impossible to adhere but by the end of my packet of the SafMat film, I was hooked by its versatility and the brightness of the printed colors.

I used Adobe Photoshop to create pages of images that I wanted to print, but any programme that allows you to place images or text will be perfect.

As you can see, with good placement you can get a lot out of a single sheet, which makes it a really useable product.

I went about trying to use it on a variety of different items from paper to glass. With glass products like mirrors and windows, you will see the edges as it’s not 100% transparent, but it did not distract for me. With the paper products, the edges were hardly noticeable.

I made this layout to hang in our new home. The SafMat worked really well on the doily; it is really hard to see the cut edges. Given that there is no way I could print on the doily directly (and even if I could, it would bleed), so the SafMat made it all possible as you can still see the texture of the doily under the poem.

Here are two cards I made using SafMat as I used the SafMat for printing off my own sentiments and just having them to hand when I need them is an added bonus without having to resort to stamps and ink.

For scrapbooking and cardmaking, the possibilites are endless, and the self-adhesive properties make it far more usable than transparencies. The lovely Satin finish makes the finished product non-reflective which is good for photographing.

When printing, it needed no special settings and dried quickly. Try not to touch it with wet hands as it will smudge a little. It cut easily and if you cut close the printed image, the result is as if it was a rub-on. It adhered nicely – bubbles were easily rubbed out, and if it went down in the wrong place, with care it was easy to remove and replace .

I punched out some images (it is super easy to punch) and used them as stickers on some candy for my kids – a extra sweet touch to personalize any event – perfect for parties, weddings or even just for school lunches! I used some of the punches images as letter seals for that extra touch.


I loved how easily it went on walls, and can see myself putting my own favourite quotes on the walls in our new home. If you wanted sayings larger than what would fit on an A4 sheet, you could easily split it up over several sheets and it would still cost less than buying a custom decal.


My all time favourite fun thing was to make my own window decals. I printed them in reverse (see top picture) so they could be stuck on the inside of a window – like inside a car – and seen from the outside yet protected from the elements. And becuase they are easy to remove you could have different ones every week or for the seasons. (hint: Star Trek Spock Hand Print)


I loved working with the Safmat and can see it being part of my toolbox when it comes to projects. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to personalize their projects, especially if there are no stamps in a language you want such as Italian, Greek or Japanese.

Pros:

  • Fast drying time
  • Crisp, bright printed colors
  • Inkjet printable
  • Acid-free

Cons:

  • Not waterproof (although that can be said of all inkjet printable products)
  • It was not as transparent as I would have liked, but made up for that with being non-reflective
  • $10 for a pack of 10 but to be honest to get so much to a page that that works out as good value

Have you used the Letraset SafMat product yet? What do you like about the product? What would you use it on? Leave a comment and let us know!


Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Silhouette SD

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Of all the craft products that are on the market today, it seems to me the most difficult one to reach a decision on when it comes to what to purchase is a die cutting machine. Not only does there seem to be a version of every shape and size from capability to budget, choosing a die cutting machine is not really a “this one is the best” type of purchase. When reviewing all that is out there, we also have to take into account our personal feelings and needs, because in truth all those machines are “good,” it is just a matter of which one is “best” for us.

We are faced with questions such as:

  • Do we want excellent portability, or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?
  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we okay with strictly pre-made ones?
  • How computer-savvy do we need to be to use the thing?
  • At what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

I have asked myself all of these questions before, and that led me to originally choose a different die cutting machine for my needs. I won’t be comparing the two in this article, as again which machine we prefer can be just as much of a personal choice as anything, however I do feel like I should mention testing out and playing with the Silhouette SD has probably changed my mind on which machine I would recommend to a friend if they were faced with those same questions above. Here’s the lowdown that I’d share with them, which I hope you find helpful in your pursuit of the perfect machine for you too.

What you get

Out of the box the Silhouette SD comes complete with just about everything to get you up and running.

  • The Silhouette SD machine, which is lightweight and not overly bulky (a must for precious craft space).
  • An electrical cord and USB cord for computer connection.
  • 2 cutting mats (one for thick media, one for thin media).
  • 3 blade caps (you replace a cap on the blade for different cuts when it comes to the Silhouette SD rather than the blade itself, which I did like).
  • 1 installation CD (complete with 50 preloaded designs) and 1 detailed tutorial CD (Software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher).
  • A basic manual.
  • $10 download card for the Silhouette Online Store.

What else you need (or might need)

  • A computer, Mac or PC.
  • A longer USB cord. I found the cord which came with the machine too short for my particular set up, however an existing (much longer) cord from another machine I had on hand worked great.
  • Material to cut of course (paper from your stash, or anything from Silhouette’s line of other materials including heat transfers, temporary tattoo paper, vinyl, etc).
  • Basic computer skills.
  • An SD card to make the most of the Silhouette SD’s capability (it seems to me like they could have tossed one in the box, but most of us probably have one on hand).
  • Patience and time for the learning curve.

Set up

Initial set up of the Silhouette SD was quick and easy. The software installed on my Windows 7 PC in minutes (though do make sure all Windows updates have been applied to your computer first, as this did add to the total time for install on my end).

As far as physical space, the machine does not take up a lot of room. You do need space in front and behind it for the material to move while being cut. The machine cuts 8 1/2″ x 12″ size or smaller using a mat.

The technical side (software and online)

The paper manual which comes in the box is enough to get you up and cutting quickly, however the array of tools and options in the software does require you take some time to watch the tutorial CD and learn the basics. The tutorials are very well put together and easy to understand, especially if you are a visual learner like I am.


I liked the look of the software; it is slightly customizable in appearance (color and button size), and pretty easy to navigate. Here’s an image of the basic desktop you start off with for each new design.


I especially appreciated that hovering with the pointer over a particular tool brought up its name until I got the hang of what they all were. If you are familiar with photo editing or drawing programs, the software will seem very intuitive to you. If not, the tutorials (which are very specific) will give you a great handle on it quickly.

You are able to cut just about any design (pre-made, your own, or a traced scan) with the Silhouette SD. All True Type fonts installed on your computer can be cut, which opens up the flood gates for font possibilities in projects.

As mentioned above, the Silhouette SD software comes pre-loaded with 50 extremely usable designs:


Right at your finger tips is also a link to the online store with thousands of options to choose from (most are 99 cents each, though subscription programs are available which reduce the cost greatly), including designs from well-known companies like Hero Arts and Donna Downey. I quickly spent the $10 download card that comes with the machine while looking at all the great options!

Of course, possibilities are endless when you take into account designing your own images as well. Here’s a simple project made by creating my own design using standards fonts (Impact and Lucida Handwriting). The weld tool makes easy work of combining letters.

My design in the software:


And the finished project:

Performance

Though I only had opportunity to test the Silhouette SD on regular cardstock and paper for this review, it worked absolutely great. The machine is noisy when cutting, but does the job. I appreciate the 2 different cutting mats for different thicknesses of media, between which the only difference is the amount of adhesive (the lesser amount of adhesive meant for thinner materials).

As far as actual cutting, the Silhouette SD has more than just one option too. It also perforates. I love this option which makes super quick work of folded projects such as this pillow box (this template comes with the software).


Other features

The Silhouette has a Print and Cut feature which for me was the tipping point on why I’d now lean towards recommending this machine to a friend. I am a very big fan of cutting elements out of patterned paper for projects, and this option is quick, easy, and works great.

As an example, these 3D flowers were available in the online store.


First I printed them with the necessary registration marks so the Silhouette knows where to cut (this is covered in the tutorials) and then simply loaded into the machine for cutting. Here’s a peek of the Silhouette SD in action with the lid raised.


And the result:


Here’s a card using the finished flowers (which would have been about $2.99 in a pre-made pack).


The card template and sentiment also come preloaded with the software, and the dress form is from the online store.

To make the Print and Cut feature even more appealing, the software also includes a trace tool for tracing scanned images you wish to cut out. The trace tool takes a little getting used to, but once I practiced a bit I was able to make a near perfect replica of this vintage doily in a few easy steps. First I scanned the doily into Photoshop Elements and saved the image as a bitmap, then opened the bitmap image in Silhouette SD Studio and followed the steps to trace it, and finally proceeded just like I would with a print and cut image:



Finally, the Silhouette SD has portability thanks to the SD card slot located on the machine.


Designs are able to be loaded onto an SD card and then retrieved by the machine for cutting while not connected to a computer.

To sum up, let’s revisit those primary questions above when purchasing a die cutting machine.

  • Do we want excellent portability or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?

You don’t have to necessarily choose with the Silhouette SD. Thanks to the SD card slot, you are able to pre-load designs to be cut onto an SD card (not included), unplug the machine from your computer, and take it with you to a crop or anywhere else. You must, of course, take the time to load up the SD card with images first, however if you do so with ones you use often that can become very handy. I myself don’t crop out of the home much, but traveling from my craft area (where my husband is playing a loud video game) to the dining room table (where I don’t have to hear “watch your back!” every few minutes) is a nice option.

  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we OK with strictly pre-made ones?

Again no choice necessary here. Countless designs are available online, many great ones come with the machine preloaded in the software, and designing our own is a piece of cake once you get the hang of the software. And, no need to buy many designs we don’t care for either just to get a few that we do.

  • How computer savvy do we need to be to use the thing?

Basics are definitely needed, and knowledge of working with other drawing type programs would put you that much further ahead of the learning curve, however the tutorials are very good at explaining each and every tool. So there should not be any intimidation about the computer needs as long as you are willing to take the time to learn.

  • And of course at what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

There is certainly more freedom in how we can answer this question with the Silhouette SD versus other machines currently on the market. For one, designs can be purchased separately for 99 cents, however if you become good at it you can also design your own for free (or download the weekly freebies from the online store to build your collection also). If you find you are constantly wanting to use new images, you can choose one of the subscription plans available which roll over from month to month if you do not use them up. Also there is no third party software to purchase in order to increase the capability of the machine, it simply comes with the flexibility we wish they all had.

Pros:

  • The Silhouette SD can cut just about any image, increasing its value potential over other machines.
  • The software and online store are user friendly and fairly easy to navigate after a bit of learning time.
  • Many options are available from cutting style (straight line or perforated), cutting mat (thin or thicker media), to material which can be cut (Silhouette also offers vinyl, heat transfer material, flocked paper, and even temporary tattoo paper).

Cons:

  • Initial purchase price of around $200 is expensive and may not fit your budget, no matter what the possibilities for use could be.
  • The Silhouette cuts a smaller size overall than other die cutting machines (8 1/2″ x 12″ vs 12″ x 12″ or larger), and if you have large 12″ x 12″ stash you will be trimming a lot before cutting is possible.
  • Like other machines, eventually the blade and mats will need to be replaced which will be an added cost.

Good DEALS…
Our friends at Silhouette are providing our readers with some fabulous offers… from now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (that’s a $120 savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.
 
AND A GIVEAWAY!

They’ve also given us a Silhouette SD and two packages of their Tattoo Paper to give away to one of our very lucky readers. First enter by leaving a comment below answering the following question(s):

Do you own a Silhouette SD or are you considering purchasing one? What are your thoughts on how this machine can do versus other machines you know of? 

We can’t wait to hear from you on this one! This will give you one entry but wait, there’s more…

Optional Bonus Entries
Earn additional entry for each of the following:

■ Tweet about the giveaway! (example): WIN a Free Silhouette on @CraftCritique from @silhouetteam and read the Reviews. http://is.gd/QxOcYB

Like Silhouette America on Facebook and let them know you saw them on Craft Critique!

■ Link to the giveaway on Facebook!

Please enter one comment per entry. So, once you have done any of the additional entries remember to come back and comment to let us know. Contest closes at midnight. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!