Creating in the Negative: Apertures from SVGs

Creating in the Negative: Apertures from SVGs main article image
Posted on March 17, 2021 by Natalie Ballard

For this tutorial, I’ll be using files from the Digital Craft Emporium by Gentleman Crafter.  

When looking at an SVG file, especially a coloured design, it can be hard to see the negative spaces so you can imagine other ways of using files. I’m going to start with a simple “one piece” design so you can see my though process and method.

In this sample image, I’ve highlighted two aperture options that we could easily work with, even if you are a beginner.

Showing aperture options of an oval topper SVG file in red and blue lines

The red outline is a simple aperture you could punch into a card front, and then print or draw the frame with you sentiment onto the inside of your card or insert.

The blue outline gives you the opportunity to create a simple aperture in your card blank, add the frame as a decorative element around your card as a layered piece, draw/print the SVG onto your card blank or layer up behind the larger red aperture. 

Just bear in mind how to align the elements if you are including your printer in your workflow.

Start by opening up the SVG you want to play with in your design software. I’m using the Oval topper from the DCE1 folder.

Opening up the SVG

When this SVG comes in, it does so in lots of little pieces. Start by organising these pieces so it is a bit easier to use the design in the  creative process. Press and hold [SHIFT] while clicking on the swirl shapes. Once you have all of these selected press [CTRL/CMD]+[G] to group the shapes.

Organising the SVG pieces

Do this for the border detail and the top and bottom holes; then, group everything into 1 group so we can concentrate on our project base.

Now, this technique you could use for adding an aperture into a page layout, card blank or a gift box/packaging. I’m going to keep it simple with a card for this tutorial so you can practice this technique first. Once you’ve practiced you’ll be able to transfer this process to much more complicated nets (which is what you call box files when they are flat for cutting). 

If it makes it easier, hide your panel group first.

Bring in a shaped card base or use a basic shape to create your card blank at your preferred size. If you want to work with a pre-cut card blank, you could also scan in your card (if it has decorative detail) or place a reference shape to the same size as the card blank.

Setting up the card base

Add a score line to help you place your panel element. Start by adding a line using the pen tool that snaps to the middle points of your base shape. If your program doesn’t support snapping, use [SHIFT] to keep your line straight and clicking at the top and bottom of your card. You can then use align to force the score line to the centre. Nudge this score line slightly to the left to give your card blank a leading edge. Score-lines can be set to draw for use with an embossing tool or erasable pen or simply to “hide” it from the cut blade.

I’ve used this same technique to add guides for the decorative detail on my card base rather than scanning it into my software. Group the card base together  and move it to the bottom of your layers. Lock this group to prevent selecting it by accident. 

Reveal your panel and position and size the group to suit your project base. Make sure you select the whole group and not one element or sub-group. I find, if the card blank doesn’t work with your mat grid, its easier to hide the grid to align shapes manually.

Positioning the panel onto the card base

With your group now sized and positioned. You need to decide how you want to work with the red and blue outlines of your SVG from the top image.

I’m going to insert a decorative panel behind the aperture with the decorative frame. I’m also going to add a drawn sentiment that we can draw inside the card. This means we need to have two cut lines from the panel as well as the shape for drawing.

Start by duplicating the panel group so if you do need to step backwards you can easily. We are going to focus on the cuts first. So we need these to be separate so we can switch them individually.  

Using the red line of the panel to create an aperture

The red line is the really easy one as we will just subtract this from our card base. That keeps your life simple when sending the pieces to cut. Unlock your card base, select the card shape and your black oval and subtract. Depending on your software, you may need to ungroup your duplicated panel first; in Canvas, I had to drop my shape into the card base first  and then subtract it from the card base.

With the colour added to preview what the card base will look like

I’ve added a colour to the card base so you can see the subtraction clearer. Use colour in Canvas as way of easily identifying the shapes you are working with rather than as a design. This will help you even more with shapes you are planning to fill so you can check you will get the results you expect. 

Adding the insert panel using the remaining elements of the panel

Preview of the decorated panel in situ before the subtract applied

Add a panel for your backing piece for your aperture from which we will subtract our blue line from the top image. You can then move it to the bottom. You’ll be able to see  this here as I’ve lowered the opacity on my card base so you can see through the layers. 

With the subtract now applied to the panel so fill will work correctly when drawing

Working with the panel group, select the individual sub-groups and elements and use subtract so its ready for drawing. Set it to draw and give it a fill if it doesn’t already have a colour. Group this shape with the insert panel. 

Entering the text of your verse

Adjusting the layout of the verse

Now that we have done the front of the card, we can do the verse. Select your Text  Tool and type your chosen element. I’ve chosen one from the DCWV Quote Reference Book 3. You want to place this so it is “inside” your centre aperture. Group your text elements. I used a font of my own creation for this.

You will now have 3 groups: one for the outside of the card blank, one for the insert panel and one for the inside of the card blank. So, next you need to send each layer to your machine for cutting and/or drawing or foiling.

Image showing the background scan of the card blank and placement of the aperture

Now, aligning your card blank may vary by machine; due to my card blank lining up to my active area I had to move it along so the card sat aligned to centre on my cutting mat. Also, as my blank was pre-cut, I removed the outer cut line so I didn’t damage my mat or my card blank. It was also pre-scored so I didn’t need to use that section either. 

Drawing the verse

Once the aperture has been cut, you can flip over the card and align in the same place to do the verse. This is really easy to do if you’ve cut your card base from larger card as you can leave the waste in place and use it to align your card based for the verse.

The completed foiled panel

Next, choose an alternative colour for your panel insert and draw or foil first and then cut out. This panel can then either be adhered to the inside back or inside front of your card.

The pieces ready for assembly

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Love how this looks! Thank you for the very detailed explanation Natalie!

PlannerCraft's profile picture

July 23, 2021


Thank you Linnea

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