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How to Customize Your Mask – Add a Little Charm to It

How to Customize Your Mask – Add a Little Charm to It main article image
Posted on February 9, 2021 by Christy Madokoro
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It’s a new year, and new norms are shaping what we wear when we go in public. Masks have become part of daily life and adding mask decorations are a simple and fun way to add a little “charm” to your look as well as using up pieces of scrap acrylic that would otherwise be unused or thrown away.

Equipment Needed (and used):

Laser Cutter (Glowforge Basic)

Sublimation Printer (Converted Epson WF7720)

Craft Cutter (Silhouette Curio)

Heat Press

Materials Needed for Simple Charm:

White or Clear Acrylic-1/16th to 1/8th inch thick

Jump Rings

Lobster Claw Clasp

Sublimation Paper and Ink

Parchment or Baking Paper

Files used in examples:

Zentangle Charms

Coffee Charm

Stock Lunar New Year’s Bitmap Images

Design software used:

Inkscape

Silhouette Studio Business Edition

Process:

Choose an image you would like to use for your charm. In your design software (in this example Inkscape was used), adjust to your desired size. It’s recommended to stay under 1-inch (see notes).

Add an outline to the shape using a red stroke and no fill. You can either draw this, use a general shape, or a tool like “dynamic offset.”

Using dynamic offset is both helpful in creating a good size for your outline, and for simplifying many unnecessary small details that would otherwise be lost in laser cutting, but in exchange for a more accurate shape, it requires clean up.

For the dynamic offset method, your image must be a vector file. If you are using a vector image like the Zentangle Seahorse or Jellyfish, skip down to “dynamic offset.”

Raster images will need to be converted to vector. You can tell if your image is vector or raster by selecting the “edit path by nodes tool” and clicking on your image. If nodes show up, then it is a vector image. Or you can go into your viewing options and choose “view outline.” A raster image will be a rectangle with an “x” over it, where as a vector will show the paths of the image.

Outline View Mode-Vector vs Raster image

You can use your software to convert your image into a vector file using the trace function, though this takes a bit of playing around and testing.

Tracing a Bitmap Image to produce a Vector Copy

When you get a clean vector image, go to “Path” in the menu options and select “Dynamic Offset.” This will bring up a tiny white diamond somewhere on the image. Drag the diamond upwards to make the image larger.  If there are a lot of small details in the vector, some of them will go crazy. Just ignore them for now.

Dynamic Offset of Vector Image

Vector Image after Dynamic Offset diamond is moved

When you have reached your desired size, go back up to the “Path” menu and select “Object to Path.” This will allow for node editing once more. With your distorted vector image still selected, return to the “Path” menu and choose “Break Apart.” This will separate every path in the vector into its own object. To get the outline we desire, select the outermost object and drag it away from the rest. The other leftover paths can be selected and deleted.

Dynamic Offset to Object to Path

Break Apart Object

Delete paths that were separated from the outline

Using Dynamic Offset to Create outline for Vector Jellyfish

The next step is cleaning up the outline. Inspect it for any areas that look unconnected or overlapping. Use the node editor tool for this. You can delete unnecessary nodes and manipulate the curves to maintain the shape.

Duplicate Nodes Show Break in Path

Clean up Messy Areas to Simplify Cut

When you have cleaned up the outline, you can click on it, and your original raster image. Using “Align and Distribute” center both horizontally and vertically. The outline should be centered on the image, if not, position it to where you like it. If you cannot see your outline after doing this, it could be that the raster image is covering it. Simply click on the image, go to “Object” selection in your menu, and choose “Lower” or “Lower to Bottom.”

Raster image and new outline Centered

Next you will want to add an additional cut or loop to attach your jump ring. You can add a circle to the image (see notes). Assign it a different color than red if you want to assign your laser to cut the inner parts first.  This is recommended for laser cutting because it preserves proper placement.

If adding a loop, create a circle in your desired size. For something as small as mask charms, an outer circle of 0.125 inches to a maximum of 0.25 inches is recommended. All the samples in the photos use a 0.125 diameter circle as the outer loop. Duplicate the circle and resize the duplicate to 0.06 inches for your inner cut. Center these two circles both horizontally and vertically. Assign the inner circle a different stroke color.

Creating Loop with Inner Cut

Select both circles (or group them for easier movement) and move them to the desired position on the outline. I like to move the group of circles to a location that will keep the charm center while dangling. Move the circles on the outline until the inner circle is just above the outline.

Placement of Loop

Loop Placement Jelly Fish

If your circles are grouped, ungroup them now. Select the outer circle and the outline, and “Union” them.  his should weld the two together to make one path.  eave the inner circle as is, since we want to maintain the different color.

Selecting Objects to Union Jellyfish

After Union

Save your file as a “Plain SVG” and upload it to your laser cutting software (in this article, Glowforge Interface was used).

In your laser cutter’s user interface, ignore any image engraving. You just want to cut the inner circle and the outline. Set the directions so that the circle is cut first. Place your material and cut.

Files in Glowforge Interface

Cut order in Glowforge Interface Coffee Charm

In your craft cutter software, upload the SVG file you just saved. Some software programs may not recognize SVG files unless you upgrade. If this is your situation, upload your original image and resize it to match what is in the SVG file. Then trace or create an outline in your software to cut around the image.

Make sure you have the registration marks showing and your image file is within the print and cut area. If you are using white acrylic, mirror the image file. If you are using clear acrylic, mirroring is not necessary.  Send this print and cut file to your sublimation printer.

Registration Marks and Cut Lines Silhouette

Printer on Sublimation Paper

After printing, use your craft cutter to cut out the small prints. The craft cutter is very useful when trying to do small projects like this, because the more accurate the cut, the easier it is to line up on the laser-cut acrylic.

Cutting with Curio

Turn on your heat press and make sure it is set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or 180 degree Celsius. You may be able to use a Cricut heat press if it can reach the appropriate temperature, but please note that firm, stable pressure is required to transfer the ink.

Heat Press Warming Up

Now we can begin the assembly process.

If your acrylic has a paper-masking, remove it from the side you will place your image.  If it has a plastic masking, remove it from both sides.  Place your image onto the acrylic and after it is aligned, secure it (see notes). On your heat press, place a bit of parchment or baking paper on the bed. Put the cut acrylic on the bed with the sublimation paper side facing up toward the heating element. Put another piece of parchment or baking paper on top and press for 100 seconds.

Masking Removed, Cut Images Placed on Acrylic

Place acrylic paper side up on baking paper

Cover with baking paper

These pieces will be HOT. So be careful when removing them from the bed. Try to keep them as flat as possible because the acrylic will be soft and pliable. In the future, this could add an interesting element to the charms by shaping them carefully while still hot-but for now, keep them flat.

After pressed for 100 seconds

You’ll want to peel off the sublimation paper. Do not be alarmed if they are stuck to the acrylic. Running the charm under cold water and rubbing the paper with your finger will take it right off.

Attach a jump ring to your charm and lobster claw clasp. Clip to your mask strap and enjoy! If you are up for a challenge, check out some of the other awesome graphic files found on Creative Fabrica and get creative!

Zentangle jump ring

Finished Ox Charm

Finished Jellyfish Charm

Challenge Project

Get creative! Using the “Today is a Multiple Cups of Coffee” SVG, you can use elements of the design to create your own unique charm. Here, additional icons were added with a splash of color, and set into the coffee cups from the original file. The charm attaches to the mask using slots created by welding and subtracting bits and pieces of the steam element.

Coffee Charm

Coffee Charm on Mask

Things to Note

When designing your file, keep in mind what types of connectors you want to use. Jump rings are sturdy and keep the charms from twisting, but the width and diameter of the jump ring will determine the width and placement of any holes you create.

A circle of 0.06-inches in diameter is recommended when adding a cut to the charm. If you are looking to add extra to the outside cut to avoid a hole through your picture, adding a circle 0.125-inches in diameter to the outside cut, with the 0.06-inch circle in the center, should be strong enough not to break the acrylic when adding a jump ring.

You can also use clear elastic cording or thread depending on your design.

Using clear elastic cording

Using red silk thread

Kerf is the amount of material that is lost when cutting an object, either by laser or blade. In laser cutters, the kerf varies based on material type and the speed and power of the laser while cutting. To avoid mistakes with size and fitment, tests should be done with your material to adjust for size. However, for this project, it is recommended to offset (or make the outline a little bigger) than your image. This is helpful for placement and gives you a margin of error that won’t be noticed on something so small.

In your file, you should eliminate small cuts or details in the outline. It not only poses a fire hazard in something so small, but fine detail will be lost due to kerf. Even though it looks cool in the file, the charm is so small, the additional details will either not be noticeable, or they will fuse back to the main charm and create a dirty look. It’s just best to simplify and get rid of those details.

Before removing inner cuts

Fine detail that needs to be addressed

Cast acrylic often comes with a paper masking. You need to remove the masking on the side you wish to add your image. It is not necessary to remove the masking on the opposite side before using a heat press, it still peels off easily if you wish to remove it afterwards. If it is a plastic masking, remove it from both sides before putting heat on it. The plastic gets melty and stinky.

If you want to add an image to both sides of the charm, this will have to be done one side at a time. Trying to put sublimation paper on both sides at one time will result is a fuzzy and faded image on the side that is not touching the heating element.

Acrylic becomes soft and can bend when heated. You should use something smooth and nonstick under and over your acrylic when heating it. In this project, baking paper was used. Teflon sheets will leave a woven pattern on the acrylic that may not be desirable. Heat tape may also leave indentations in the acrylic if used to secure the image.

Heat Tape Indent

In this project, a VERY light spray of Easy-Tack was used on the images to adhere them to the acrylic. Too much can cause the ink to bleed or leave a sticky substance on the finished charm. Though the stickiness can be cleaned off, sometimes it interferes with the ink being sublimated to the acrylic. Putting them in a box and spraying a general mist high above the cut outs should give it enough tack to stay in place.

Easy-Tack

Spraying Easy-Tack over a box

To prevent warping before the acrylic has cooled, you can cover it when a flat, heavy object like a book to maintain the flat shape. It the acrylic has warped, simply heat it again and flatten it out.

In order to avoid ear-strain from mask straps, try to avoid making the charms too large or heavy. The charms in this project are 1-inch or smaller. The total assembled height of the coffee charm is 1.5 inches. If you feel like the weight is adding strain to your ears, considering using an ear saver. This will remove all mask strain from your ears and help you achieve better fitment of your mask.


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