Creating Cut Files from Stencils

Hello and Happy June!  I am excited to share a technique that I have been planning to try for a while now.  I decided to create a scrapbook layout with the method and this is my page below.

(I would like to preface this post be adding, I am in no way a computer expert…I just know the basics!)

The Crafter’s Workshop provided me with some product to create this project. The opinions I share are solely my own.

Instead of using a cut file to make a stencil, I did the opposite.  This approach allows you endless options and doubles the use of your stencils!  Obviously, not everyone has a Silhouette, but that is what I used for this method.

The first step is to scan the stencil.  I used this 12×12 stencil and some of it did not get scanned since I don’t have a large format printer/scanner. I placed the stencil down and added a piece of black cardstock behind it, just to assure contrast. After saving the .pdf, I opened it in Photoshop, although I am sure any editing program would work, including free ones like  In Photoshop, all I did was to save the .pdf as a .png (.dxf would work as well).

The next step is to open your Silhouette software, File>Import>Import to Library.  Clicking on the newly imported file, you resize it to fit your page.  I enlarged it to bring it back to the size of the actual 12×12 stencil.

The next step to make the image into a cut file is by clicking on the ‘Trace’ tool.  Click on Select Trace Area>UNcheck the High Pass Filter box>Adjust the Threshold slider until the outlines are smoother.

Click on Trace under the Apply Trace Method title.  You will be able to see a red outline around the edges of the shapes, butterflies here.  Then you click on the black part and move it to the side.  This separates the image from the cut file you just defined.  (There are loads of YouTube videos and tutorials that explain this better than I do…)The entire image is still one block so you can still adjust the size easily.  I cut the first set of butterflies from a piece of white cardstock.

Here you can see the full sheet that I cut and the remaining cut out pieces. I chose this striped wood grain patterned paper to layer behind the cut out stencil. Next, I cut the same cut file from a piece of watercolor paper and after pulling it off the cut sheet, I replaced the cut pieces where they belong.I painted stripes across the butterflies to loosely align with the patterned paper.After the butterflies were dry, I added Gold Gesso to the edges of most of the wings.
Finally, I adhered some of the butterflies over the places they were cut, bending up the wings for more dimension.  I added my photo and a couple die cuts clustered around it.I also added a strip of the paper to the right to anchor the side down and a tiny sliver on the left, to tie it all together.I am so pleased with the way this turned out!  It sounds like a long process, but honestly after the first time, it isn’t, plus then you will have the cut file in your library for future use.  Also, looking back, since I didn’t do anything but add one layer of color, I could have omitted the watercolor paper and just used the original cardstock.

Thank you for stopping by and sticking with me thru my long description!  You can always do this method the old fashioned way, tracing out the stencil with a pencil and cutting the pattern out using an x-acto blade.  I really hope you give this a try and share your creation on social media, tagging TCW!


TCW9003 – Gold Gesso

TCW712 – 12×12 Doodling Template – Butterfly Trail

Be sure to share your stencil creations on our Facebook page or by tagging The Crafter’s Workshop on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest!

Jenni Calma

The Crafter’s Workshop Design Team Member

3 thoughts on “Creating Cut Files from Stencils

  1. Beautiful! I’ve just started working with gesso doing some mini canvas ideas with different inks. If I don’t have gold, do you think I could add gold ink to color it to my liking? I love anything with butterflies, so I know a stencil I have to buy too…oooo and another idea for my canvas!

    1. Thank you so much! I’ve found that so metimes gesso or paint tinted with gold ink just makes it yellow and it looses the metallic luster. That is why the Gold Gesso is great! But give it a try, and the ink alone would probably be fine! Share your work and #TCW so we can all see! 🙂

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