Cutter Plotter (“Vinyl Cutter”)

The Makery has two cutter/plotters:

The Cricut is perfect for smaller projects. It can draw on and cut through a variety of materials including paper, fabric, thin leather, even thin balsa wood. We have a variety of blade types for the machine, as well as ink pens of many colors, including fabric pens.

The Graphtec is set up to cut adhesive-backed vinyl, but can also be used to plot large diagrams (like blueprints.)

Both machines can be used to create:

  • adhesive-backed vinyl signs and stickers
  • painting stencils
  • iron-on t-shirt vinyl

To get started, walk in during our open hours in Rose Library or make an appointment (select “vinyl cutting”). As always, assistance and materials are provided by Makery staff

How to Use the Cutter/Plotter

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Getting Started

Vector vs Bitmap

The cutter/plotter is driven by vector images, not bitmap images.  If people bring in a design that’s in a bitmap image, it will need to be ‘traced’ and converted to vector. 

More info on vector and bitmap images: 

To convert a bitmap to a vector in Adobe Illustrator (“Ai”), make sure it is “embedded,” select the image and hit “image trace” at the top. 

Some bitmaps are more easily converted to vectors than others: 

The first one won’t work well because of the gradient. The clean lines of the second one will allow the image trace to work easily.  If a patron brings in an image like the first, you should suggest they redesign the image; if they’ve downloaded it from the internet, encourage them to either modify the image to make it more clear, or find a different one. 

Designing/Modifying Images for a Cutter 

Every line that shows up in Cutting Master 4 will be a cut.  

If there are more lines than expected, go back into Ai and revisit the design. If you hover over a shape with the mouse and it reveals a line that you didn’t realize was there, that means the shapes are not grouped together so Cutting Master still sees them as separate shapes… Go to Window > Pathfinder. The Pathfinder tool has a lot of different options for grouping items together. Select the appropriate objects and try out the different options. Depending on how you want it to look, you may use “Trim” “Merge” or any of the other options in the Pathfinder box. If it doesn’t do what you wanted just hit Edit > Undo, and try again! The best way to learn is to try it! 

Cutting Master will cut everywhere there is a stroke (what lines are called in Ai) BUT the thickness of a stroke will not affect how Cutting Master views it. If you want it to cut on either side of a line, make sure there is a stroke on either side of the line, don’t just make the stroke thicker. 

Loading Media into the Cutter/Plotter 

There’s more information in the plotter’s user manual beginning on page 2-6. 

  1. Lower the media set lever to raise the push rollers. 
  2. Please the media in the plotter, passing the leading edge from the back of the plotter so it emerges from the front and covers the media sensor. 
  3. Position the media and the push rollers to correspond with the width of the media. 
  4. Raise the media set lever to lower the push rollers. 
  5. Set the Media Type. 
  • Once you’ve loaded the media, the Media Type menu appears on the plotter’s display.   
  • If you’ve loaded a roll, select roll, rear set (1). The plotter will measure the width of the media, but not the length. 
  • If you’ve loaded a sheet, select sheet (3).  The plotter will measure both the width and length of the media. 

Sending an image from Illustrator to the Cutter/Plotter 

  1. From the File Menu, select Cutting Master 4 > Cut/Plot… 
  • If this option is grayed out, Cutting Master 4 is likely already open (probably with the last project sent to it.  Find that window, close it, then try again.) 
  1. Here is the window for Cutting Master 4: 
  • Press the button with a question mark on it to poll the cutter/plotter so that Cutting Master 4 knows the size of the media loaded into the machine.   
  • Adjust the size as necessary.  “Fit to Media” will automagically make the image as large as the media.  “Proportional” will adjust height and width at the same time, keeping the image… proportional. 
  • Adjust the position as necessary.  The button with a humanoid icon allows you to switch between ‘landscape’ and ‘portrait’ mode – that is, allows you to rotate the image in 90 degree increments.   
  • Click on “Send” to send the job to the cutter/plotter. 

Weeding and Transferring the Vinyl 

Once the vinyl has been cut, you’ll need to manually remove the vinyl that’s not part of your design from the backing.  We provide dental picks to do so.  You may also use a hobby knife, but ONLY if you’re wearing cut-resistant gloves, which we can provide.

Once the extraneous vinyl has been weeded, cut a piece of transfer tape slightly larger than your design, and carefully place it flatly on top of your design, taking extra care to make sure there are no bubbles in between it and the vinyl or backing.  It’s easiest to place one corner of the transfer tape down, and then slowly press it across the design while peeling its own backing away.