Adorning Cuts – Practical Mat Decoration

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Sometimes our mental image of a decorated mat includes frills and swirls and patterns on every square inch.  However impressive this may seem, a better idea is to add just a small touch.  This column will focus on decorative ideas you might use every day.  We all have skills and we should use them regularly – to keep our work interesting and to keep our customers thrilled.

Sometimes our mental image of a decorated mat includes frills and swirls and patterns on every square inch. However impressive this may seem, a better idea is to add just a small touch. This column will focus on decorative ideas you might use every day. We all have skills and we should use them regularly – to keep our work interesting and to keep our customers thrilled.

 

 

Adorning Cutouts

Decorative cutting.  Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the thousand silhouette cutouts that are in every computerized mat cutter program.  There are sports symbols, animal outlines, and geometric shapes, to name only a few.  We add them to reinforce the significance of the picture we are presenting.  These silhouettes cut as an opening and a contrasting color shows through the cutout.  Often we look over the finished mat and think that this idea falls a bit flat.  Aside from questions about ornaments overshadowing a serious piece of art, a big part of our uncertainty is that the cutout does not nestle naturally with the opening for the picture.

One idea for helping the silhouette relate to the other openings is to frame it with an opening of its own.  A rectangle will be cut on the top layer (or layers) and the silhouette will be cut in the bottom layer.

This idea is nothing new.  It has been presented in many other places.  Here we will concentrate less on the design and more on the process of making sure that each item cuts on the proper layer of the mat.  As usual in this column, the steps will be detailed using the Wizard software, but every computerized mat cutter program will have an equivalent process for making these kinds of changes to the cutting instructions.

 

Beginning in the Design Screen101 In MD

Here are three stars framed by a rectangle.  The final ornament in its opening is small enough – 2 x 4.25 inches - to be added with just about any size picture.  In this array, the stars are 2 inches, 1.25 inches, and 1 inch across.  The CMC is capable of cutting very small geometric shapes such as stars.  Experiment to see how smaller items cut – if delicacy is a concern.

An obvious beginning for a project like this would be to use one of the thousand silhouette cutouts in the program.  Any one of them could be enhanced this way, too, but it is important to show that you are not limited to just the prefabricated designs – nor are you limited to just one shape inside the rectangle.  These stars are designed using the template shapes.  There are also circles, hearts, and diamonds in the template library.

It looks promising in the design screen.  There is a double mat opening framing the stars.  The left point of the big star will be cropped under the opening.  That is an intention of the design.  Then when the three layers are cut and assembled, it will come out just as we intended.  Right?

 

The Need for Cutting Changes102 In Cut Screen.TIF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks promising in the design screen, yes, but the cutting preview screen shows us a problem.  Look at the items in red in the illustration.  The stars and the outer layer of the rectangle will all cut on the top layer.

Let us quickly clarify exactly how we want this to be cut.  There will be three layers to this ornament.  The top layer of the rectangular opening will cut on the top layer.  The inner reveal of the rectangular opening will cut on the middle layer.  The stars will cut on the bottom layer.

We need to give the shapes new cutting instructions so that they all cut on the correct layers.  In some programs, you will open the design in a drawing program, but in the Wizard program, you will send the design to PathTrace.

 

New Cutting Instructions

Before we begin making changes, let’s review a few points about PathTrace.  Look at the tabs across the top.  Under each tab, there is a list on the left and you can select the exact operation you need.  The Prep Design tab and the Trace and Draw tab have the operations you need to make changes to the shapes of the objects.  The Set Bevel tab and the Order Cuts tab have the functions you need to change the cutting instructions.

Along the right side there are several functions you will use no matter which tab you are under.  Zoom functions are at the top and the Undo button is the fourth button under Tools.  Hover over each button and a tool tip will appear in a few seconds to remind you of its function.

Here, the Set Bevels tab is selected.  On the left under Bevel Type, Normal Bevel is chosen.  We will use only Normal Bevel for this entire project.201 Start in PT

At the bottom, under Current Layer, Layer 1 is specified.  In PathTrace, Layer 1 is always the bottom layer.

When a particular layer is specified, the items set to cut on that layer will be displayed in dark colors.  All the items set to cut on other layers will be displayed in faint colors.  The inner reveal of the rectangle is now the only item set to cut on this layer.  (If an item has no cutting instructions, it will be displayed as gray or black.)

As you move the cursor around the design, you will see a blue arrow point move from spot to spot.  In this illustration, the blue arrow point is at the corner of the bottom star.

 

Setting the Bevels for Layer 1202 Layer 1 Set

To set the stars to cut on Layer 1 (the bottom layer), move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is at a point on one star.  The point you choose will be the starting point of the cut for this star.  This design is not so intricate that we need to worry about which corner we choose for a star, nor do we need to worry about which star cuts first, second, or third.

Click one time.  You will see that star change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this star will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 1.

Move the cursor and click points on the other stars, too.  In this illustration all three stars have been set to cut on Layer 1.

Note that the inner rectangle is still set to cut on Layer 1.  Do not be concerned by this.  We will change this in the next step.

 

Layer 2203 Start Layer 2

Change the Current Layer at the lower left to 2.  This is what you will see.  Every shape will turn faint blue except the outer rectangle.

Move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is a corner of the inner rectangle.  Traditionally, we choose the lower left corner to begin the cut of a rectangle.  This is because of the placement of the clamps that hold the matboard in place in the machine, but that is not critical with something as small as this.204 Layer 2 Set

Click one time.  The inner rectangle will change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this rectangle will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 2.

Once again, note that the outer rectangle is also set to cut on Layer 2.  We will change this in the next step.

 

Layer 3

Change the Current Layer to 3.  This is what you will see.  Every shape will now turn faint blue.  Here we will be creating an entirely new Layer 3.205 Start Layer 3

Move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is a corner of the outer rectangle.

Click one time.  The outer rectangle will change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this rectangle will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 3.206 Layer 3 Set

Save the design.  In almost every program, you will save these new items in the format of the special cutouts you add to a layout.  In the Wizard program, you will save it as a CutArt.  You will add it to any layout as you would add any other CutArt to a layout.

 

This is the most elementary way you might include an ornament like this in a design.  Here it is centered between two 5 x 7 inch openings. 302 In Grouping

As an exercise in your design program, rough out a design like this without the rectangle around the stars.  There will be enough blank space between the two rectangular openings to make you scratch your head and reconsider the effectiveness of the stars.  The frame around the stars helps make sense of the separation.  As a bonus, there is more color.  Plus the layers provide physical depth and the cutout is more dramatic.

Brian Wolf has been a picture framing educator since 1979, specializing in decorative matting techniques. He is the artistry ambassador for Wizard International, Inc. Contact hime at WizardU@wizardint.com  Brian's column is sponsored by Wizard.  www.wizardint.com or call 1-888-855-3335

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