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Tag Archives | Hybrid Scrapbooking

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!

Vendor Spotlight: Wacom Bamboo Craft Tablet

Reported by Jessica Ripley

There are those certain items in the store that we daydream about. We visit the aisle they are in, probably pick them up and read the box, but then put them back down because well… do we really need it? And then we decide to let it remain a daydream for now.

That was my relationship with a Wacom Tablet until I was granted the most wonderful opportunity to review the Bamboo Craft. I had heard of the tablets and their capabilities, but since I wasn’t a digital designer per-se and felt like I could get by okay with what I did do using my mouse, I hadn’t thought it a necessary purchase.

But now that I’ve had the time to play with this amazingly fun piece of technology, that thought would pretty much be the same as “Well I have scissors, so do I really need a paper punch?” Yes! Yes I do!

It’s always hard to touch on every single aspect of either a tech tool like this or software, but I’ve included some of the main points and highlights in the review below as to what convinced me.

In the Box:

As listed on Wacom’s website:

  • Bamboo Craft tablet
  • Bamboo Craft pen
  • Quick Start guide
  • Installation CD (includes driver software, interactive tutorial and user’s manual)
  • Software DVD (containing Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 7.0 Win/6.0 Mac, Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4.0, Nik® Color Efex Pro™ 3.0 WE3)
  • DVD with 26 scrapbooking lessons from Jane Conner-ziser and a library of digital craft embellishments
  • Offer for free 8″ x 8″ photo album from Shutterfly
  • Offer for free online store from Café Press
  • Offer for free one-year subscription to Scrapbooking & Beyond Magazine
  • Offer for free online training with DigitalScrapbookPlace.com

That is a lot! And so much too. For the price of what I might just only pay for the tablet, also included is great software to use it with like Photoshop Elements. If you haven’t made the jump into purchasing really great photo editing software yet, this just may be the reason you should. Not to mention the fun free offers that come with the tablet as well (in the form of coupon codes to use online).

Installation (Technical Mumbo Jumbo):

The Wacom Bamboo Craft Tablet works with both PCs and Macs. System requirements are PC Windows 7, Vista or XP with Service Pack 2, Mac, or Mac OS X (10.4.8 or higher). You will also need a color display, powered USB port, and a CD/DVD drive. Installing the software and tablet is extremely easy. Simply place the installation CD into your computer’s drive, plug the tablet into a standard USB port, and follow the prompts to get up and running. I installed the software on both my Desktop PC (running on Windows 7) and my Laptop PC (running on Vista). It installs quickly, in about 5 minutes.

The tablet is ambidextrous, you can set up the orientation for whether you are right or left handed. The cord is also nice and long as you can see in the photo above, so there is ample room to play with setting up the tablet to fit your work space. It measures approximately 10″ x 7″, though the area where you can actually gesture and write is smaller, about 5″ x 3.5″ for gesturing and 6″ x 3.5″ for the pen (both proved to be plenty large for me).

Getting Started:

After installation is complete, the fun can begin! Well almost. I’m one that normally wants to jump right in and start playing with a new toy rather than read through the manual or instructions, but not only is that step necessary in order to getting started with the tablet, some practice is needed as well. I highly recommend going through the tutorials, otherwise it can be a bit frustrating at first to get used to the gestures and movements.

There are two sections for the tutorials, one for gesturing with your fingers, and one geared toward using the pen.

Gesture movements will be very familiar to anyone with a touch screen device (such as a smart phone) as they are very similar (think pinch-out to zoom for example). In this way, the tablet is basically an enlarged track pad (what tracks cursor movements on a laptop). While using the pen is my preferred method for doing just about everything on the tablet, being able to gesture as well makes it such a fantastic tool for my laptop. I’ll never leave home without it in my laptop bag again.

Pen movements are extremely easy as well, and don’t have as much of a learning curve as gesturing does. I was surprised to learn that when using the pen to move a cursor around the screen you don’t actually touch the pen tip to the table surface, it only needs to be a little off the surface (we’re talking millimeters) to work. Touching the pen to the surface is like a mouse click, and works the same as left clicking does (tap one to click, twice to double click, hold to drag and select). The pen and gesture movements are fully customizable, everything from pen pressure to speed can be set to your tastes.


I actually was a little frustrated with the performance speed at first, I thought it was slow, until I realized I could customize it for me. Thinking I had to crank it up all the way I did so, and that was way too fast! So I was then easily able to find a happy medium.

There are also 2 buttons on the pen itself, and 4 buttons on the tablet which you can customize to whatever you would like. These are called “Express Keys”. For example, I’ve customized some of mine to be a right click and un-do, and even programmed one of the Express Keys to open up Photoshop Elements. Just another way the tablet can make your digital editing or web surfing that much easier.

The tutorials on the installation CD are very helpful and enough to get you going. There are even smiley faces along the way when you practice a gesture correctly, and sad faces if you don’t. You also won’t be moved along to the next step in a tutorial until you correctly perform the gesture or pen stroke you have been taught (though you can cheat and skip ahead too if you know you understand and want to just move on… cheater). While these tutorials are fine, I found the video tutorials by Jane Conner-zier included with the tablet on a separate CD to be much more helpful.


These are actually geared toward digital scrapbooking, and made the technical necessary movements of the pen make more sense to me.

After I completed the basic tutorials I did some general playing around, and kept thinking how beneficial it might be if I could actually share those experiences with you via a few screen videos. So I’ve done so. Below is a brief intro to one of the Wacom Tablet’s features, and then we’ll get into the crafty applications.


Using the tablet and software, a few highlights:


As mentioned above, the tablet comes with some most excellent software, included Photoshop Elements 7, Corel Painter Essentials 4, and Nik Color Efex Pro 3. While the versions of PSE and Corel Painter that are included are the full versions (seriously, wahoo), it’s important to note that the Nik Color Efex is just a sampling of 3 available filters to whet your appetite for them.

I primarily use Photoshop Elements to edit photos, and was anxious to try out the tablet using the pen on a specific technique, extraction. I found that using the pen in extracting an object worked wonderfully, much easier for me than using a traditional mouse. Here’s a video which shows the process taking place on my computer screen:

I had never used Corel Painter before so am not as familiar with what I should try in the software using the tablet, however I can tell you that it is so much fun! Navigation is easy, and pen strokes are picked up just like paint strokes on a canvas. This is a program I will be playing with a lot in the future!

And speaking of canvas, it’s worth mentioning that the tablet surface was designed to mimic the feel of writing on paper and absolutely delivers on that. It’s very comfortable and doesn’t feel slippery or anything like that at all.

I also wanted to briefly show you one of the filters that comes with the Color Efex software, I’m not sure I’m that tempted to buy the full expensive version of Color Efex, but it is fun to use the samples:


When it comes to digital scrapbooking, I again primarily use Photoshop Elements. Just in case you are unfamiliar with even the basics of digital scrapbooking however, that is no reason to think the tablet isn’t for you! As mentioned above it comes complete with a CD of tutorials geared towards using the tablet for just that, as well as online training at DigitalScrapbookPlace.com. Wacom has even included several digital kits to get you started right away:



Utilizing the pen when creating a digital page is just as easy as using a traditional mouse, and then some. I found my navigation faster and my strokes more precise. One thing I wanted to try in particular was adding my own hand writing to a digital page. Here’s a video showing that process:

(Digital supplies used in the above video by Bluebird Chic at Misstiina)

While I have to admit I’m not completely thrilled with the result of my handwritten date, I can also tell you that it’s 10 times better than when I first picked up the pen, and that I know with practice it will just get better.

Finally, I wanted to use the tablet to create a hybrid element. I also wanted to try it out in an art program which didn’t come included with it, so decided on regular old “MS Paint” Here’s a look at my experience in doing so:

It worked great! Not saying my artwork is great, but you know what I mean.

Here’s the finished hybrid project once I printed my flowers out, a cute little storage pouch for the tablet itself so it stays safe while traveling in my laptop bag, which it will be doing often!



In Summary:

I’ll be honest, of course didn’t expect I’d not like the tablet when it arrived, however I can also say I didn’t expect to like it so much due to all the wonderful things that come with it. At a price of around $129 it seems steep at first (hence always putting it back on the shelf) but the software that comes with the tablet more than accounts for the cost and then some. If you already have Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter, it may not be as wonderful a bargain, but in that respect, if you do have those programs already the tablet will enhance their performance for you, increasing their value. It’s an easy to use, fun, capable piece of technology, and I highly recommend it.

It’s difficult to sum up the pros and cons for something that has so much to it, but here’s a few in general.

Pros:

  • Delivers big-time on what is advertised, including making navigation in programs (and on the web) fast and fun, and enhancing ability to create digitally or edit photos.
  • Comes with full versions of 2 excellent photo editing programs, Photoshop Elements 7 and Corel Painter Essentials 4.
  • Takes a lap top’s capability up a notch, acting as a larger track pad for finger gestures.

Cons:

  • This is not a “jump right in and be an expert” tool. It takes practice and patience in order to fully utilize what it can do, and can be frustrating at first.
  • Price might be a factor if you already own the software which it comes with, thus reducing the overall bargain (or if you would want a higher version of either of those).
  • If you are not a big photo editor or digital scrapbooker, this may not be something you would get as much enjoyment out of as someone who is.

Now I’d love to hear what you think. Do you own a Wacom Bamboo Craft Tablet and love it or no? Have you picked one up and put it down before and didn’t buy one? Tell us your thoughts and let’s discuss.

Disclosure

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

Happy National Scrapbooking Day!

Some of our best scrapbooking product reviews
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Also be sure to tune into our Facebook Page all day to see how our reporters and readers are celebrating National Scrapbooking Day!


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Do you have any plans to celebrate National Scrapbooking Day today? What are your favorite scrapbooking products?

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