Monday, 12 September 2016

Silhouette Basics - What are Vector Graphics?

What are vector graphics - Silhouette Basics tutorial by Nadine Muir

Hi gang.  Nadine here today with a Silhouette Basics tutorial on vector graphics.  Silhouette Studio uses vectors which can seem alien to people who haven't used graphic design software before.  Trust me though, the Silhouette Studio software is very accessible and can let you design and make truly wonderful creations.

Difference between Bitmap and Vector Graphics

There are two main types of graphics.  Bitmaps, also known as raster, are images made up from a grid of tiny coloured squares, called pixels.  Photographs will typically have millions of these pixels, each the size of a pin head.  As you zoom into a photo, the image loses quality and will look blocky as you can start to see each individual pixel.

Vector graphs on the other hand, consist of shapes called objects, and each object can be edited separately, by changing the shape, size, position and adding colour.  Vectors can be scaled to any size, from miniscule to billboard size and beyond without any loss of quality.

Difference between bitmap jpeg and vectors - Silhouette Basics tutorial by Nadine Muir

Vector Cut Lines

It's not just about being able to scale your design though, the vector graphics have lines that the Silhouette machine can cut to.  Whilst the human eye can generally easily see the lines in a photo, the dots don't give the machine a path to travel along.

Top tip
Silhouette Studio Designer and Business Editions allow you to open SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics), which is the standard vector graphics format.  This is great as there are lots of royalty free and commercial licence sites, or you can import your own from other software.  Don't fear if the shape doesn't cut, just go to the cut settings window and select 'Cut'.


Points and Handles

When you double click on a shape in Silhouette Studio, it will bring up the point-editing window.  Here you can see how the shape is made up of a collection of points, also known as nodes, whose shape is controlled by the little blue squares called control handles.  These lines, called Bézier curves, are a very simple and easy way for the computer to make smooth curves.

Nodes and control handles on Bezier Curves within Silhouette Studio - Silhouette Basics Vector tutorial by Nadine Muir

Fonts are Vectors

All your fonts already installed on your computer are also made from these magical Bézier curves, which means that they will work automatically in Silhouette Studio, yay!  Any fonts you buy from the Silhouette Design Store will be installed on your computer and can be used outside of Silhouette Studio.
Top tip
Some fonts can be too skinny making your papercut weak.  You can use the Offset tool to make it a little bolder, even just 0.02mm makes all the difference.  Similarly, use Internal Offset to make fonts thinner, useful when using sketch pens.

Convert Bitmaps to Vector by Tracing

Let's say you have a hand-drawn image or some handwriting you'd like to convert to a cut file.  Silhouette Studio overs this functionality via the Trace window.  The Trace tool scans the pixels in your image, looking for differences and will create cut lines depending on the various settings you can chose.  For an in-depth guide to tracing, I recommend the Tracing without Tears series of video tutorials by Cleversomeday.

Tracing within Silhouette Studio to convert bitmap jpegs to vectors - Silhouette Basics Vector tutorial by Nadine Muir

Benefits of Vector Graphics

I hope that this post has been helpful, I've compiled a little table which summarises the benefit of vector graphics over bitmaps.

Benefits of Vector Graphics
Smaller file size than bitmaps
Able to scale without losing quality
Images are more precise
Individual elements can be grouped
Bitmaps can be traced to form a vector path

1 comment:

  1. I think this will be a useful, clearl tutorial for many, Nadine. Love your header graphic!