3D Printed Embellishments for Scrapbookers

3D Printed Embellishments for Scrapbookers main article image
Posted on March 9, 2021 by D Weiss

When people think of 3D printing they think of sculptures and figurines, big things. But 3D printers can also make amazing small things as thin as chipboard and perfect for adding color and pizzaz to your scrapbook pages.

This article covers:

  • What You Need

  • I Am Not a Scrapbooker, But I Have Friends That Are

  • Choose Your Art

  • Choose Something that Says Something

  • Thicken it up

  • Time to Tinker

  • Whoa That’s Big

  • Cura is the Slicer

  • Slice But Not Dice

  • So Many Colors

  • Print Them

  • Raise up to the Occasion

What You Need

To follow the steps in this article, you will need three things and two pieces of software:

  1. A file in the SVG format. Creative Fabrica has thousands if not tens of thousands to choose from.
  2. A computer (Windows, Mac, Linux, all good, just not a smartphone) to run the free software
  3. A 3D Printer

The software is free, and is found at:

  1. https://www.tinkercad.com – Web based, all you need to do is set up a free account
  2. https://ultimaker.com/software/ultimaker-cura – Select the free version. Runs on your computer, just select the type of computer you have (Windows, Mac, Linux)

I Am Not a Scrapbooker, But I Have Friends That Are

This post is based on my personal experience. I have been in the Information Technology (IT) field so long that when I started it wasn’t even called that (It was called Data Processing (DP)). I first was introduced to 3D printing in the early 90’s when 3D printers cost hundreds of THOUSANDS of dollars instead of the couple hundreds of dollars they cost today.

I am not a scrapbooker, but I have friends that are. I envy the tools that scrapbookers have at their disposal. Not just the punches and dies, but things like the Cricut which is based on the exact same technology as my 3D printer. I believe that a 3D printer is a premium addition to the scrapbooker’s tool set. Don’t let the technology make you shy. For what you spend on a Cricut you can get a 3D printer and do amazing things.

Even if you do not consider yourself a “computer person”, this article is for you. If you can use the web (which I know you can since you are reading this), open a file in a program (Word, Paint, Notepad, whatever) and save the file, then you have all the skills you need.

Choose Your Art

There are sooooo many computer file types for art work. If you make use a vinyl cutter (or a Cricut) you are already familiar with SVG files. If not, the SVG (Structured Vector Graphics) format is different from photo file types like JPG and PNG because it uses lines (vectors in computer speak) to draw a picture instead of pixels (tiny dots of color). For computers, the advantage of vector graphics is that no matter how much you zoom in, the image is crisp and sharp. Fonts are vector graphics for this reason. Because the file understands the lines and curves of an image it can communicate that to devices like vinyl cutters and 3D printer. So, let’s begin by selecting a piece of SVG art.

Choose Something that Says Something

When laying out a page, any embellishments should connect on both a thematic as well as stylistic and color basis. Dimensional embellishments are often made from chipboard (thin or thick) covered with artwork. In the case of a 3D printed embellishment, the piece will in the style of a die cut embellishment. The entire piece will be a single color, unless you paint it, and will be bound by the same issues that die cuts are, specifically that all the parts must be connected into a single whole.

Let’s start by searching on the theme “Beach Vacation”. This brings to mind, palm trees, flip flop sandals, nautical elements like anchors and much more. Niba Art Studio from the UK has many great sets of art that work perfectly as dimensional embellishments.

Thicken it Up

When you use a punch or a die cut, you take something thick and cut a shape into it. In this case we are going to take something very thin and add may layers of it to make a thicker piece. Some scrapbookers will layer two or three layers of thin chipboard to get a thinker piece. 3D printing works a lot like that. Each layer is only .2 millimeters thick. To make a one (1) millimeter thick embellishment, which is still thinner than some chipboard, takes five layers. The good news is that the 3D printer produces a solid piece. To go from SVG artwork to embellishment we need to use the web based tool called TinkerCAD

Time to Tinker

Open your web browser and go to Tinkercad.com. If you don’t have an account already it is quick, easy and most important of all free to do so. When you are logged in, click on the button in the upper left corner to create a new design.

CAD is short for “Computer Aided Design” and is used to create new designs and take existing designs and make them ready for use by other computer programs. In this way it is not very different from a program like Adobe Illustrator. CAD is the chicken that came before the egg of programs like Adobe Illustrator, but both have influenced each other and TinkerCAD is much less technical and more artistic than its grown-up siblings used to design cars and rocket engines.

On the right side of the screen are the two buttons we will use:

Click on “Import” to bring up the Import box:

Notice that one of the three formats supported is SVG, perfect for our needs.

Click “Choose a file” and choose the SVG file you want to convert from flat to thick.

When you open a collection like “Summer Clipart, Beach Svg, Sunglasses” from Niba Art Studio each of the pieces we want to work with are stored separately in ready to use SVG files. For this example we will use “flip flops.svg”.

Whoa That’s Big

If you just hit import the Flip Flops will be HUGE. In the Dimensions section you can see it is currently 900 by 900. Let’s change that to 50 by 50 to get to a more reasonable size.

Initially the flip flops look like platform flip flops. That’s because any flat SVG file is thickened to ten (10) millimeters automatically. If you click on the flip flops, and then the square between them (red in this picture) you can change the thickness by changing the dimension number that comes up. Change it from 10.00 to simply 1.

Now we are ready to save the 3D flip flops we created. Click on the flip flops and then on the export button. Click on the “.STL” button to save the file in the format needed for the next step.

Cura is the Slicer

Now that you have an STL file we are in the world of 3D printers. The final step is to use a “slicer” to read the file STL file we just created and prepare it for printing.

If you have not already downloaded and installed the Cura software, do that now. Cura let’s you set many things about how your embellishment will be printed. I am going to believe that the person you know that has a 3D printer already has those settings tuned for the printer. They are probably using Cura already since it is very popular (and free).

Opening the file centers it on the virtual 3D printer in Cura. If the embellishment is too big, or you just want it a different size, you can do that now with the controls in Cura. When you have it the way you want, click the “Slice” button in the lower right and Cura will create the special information (called GCODE) that your 3D printer needs.

One thing to keep in mind if you do change the size in Cura. The default setting is to change all three dimensions equally (height, width and thickness). This means if you go bigger it will get thicker, and if you go smaller it will get thinner.

I added this sun embellishment, and it came in thicker than I wanted. To get this to print at the thickness I wanted without changing anything else, I clicked off “Uniform Scaling” and then changes the “Z” value to 1 mm.

Slice but Not Dice

The reason this software is called a “slicer” is because it literally slices the solid objects into .2 millimeter slices. Then it writes the instructions on how to make that slice to a file, followed by the command that raises up that printer tiny distance and begin the next layer. The arrow on the left shows how two objects are in this one set of instructions. This is handy if you want to print many things, or many copies of one thing. On the right the program estimates how long the printing will take. 3D printing is not fast. Other projects I have written about take several hours to print, and big sculptures can take days. Cura also estimates how much material is required. Small items like this require very little.

So Many Colors

Most 3D printers can only print one color at a time, so choosing what color that is, is a lot like choosing what type of paper to make an embellishment out of. Instead of paper, a 3D printer uses material called “filament” and it looks a lot like plastic wire. And just like there are many kinds, of paper, there are many kinds of filament for 3D printers. I belong to a sample subscription that sends me eight samples every month and I have several hundred kinds of filament. Some are glossy, some are silky, others are matte. Some have wood or metal in them, and some have glitter or glow in the dark (or both). The picture above is a tiny sample from my personal collection.

Print and Paste Them

For these pieces (shown still on the printer) I went with filament that is sold as being gold colored. Your thoughts from the picture? In person it looks much more orange than gold. Maybe I should have used the gold in the picture above. In any case the embellishments are ready to be added to your page or perhaps to be put away for a future project you have in mind.

Raise Up to the Occasion

My experience is that anyone truly dedicated to a hobby always strives to collect more and different tools and accessories. In my opinion a small 3D printer like the one I have is a perfect addition to create creative embellishments and elements (like buttons for instance). So, take your favorite art and rise it up to be a dimensional embellishment. And tell us all what you have done in the comments below.

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3D Printed Embellishments for Scrapbookers

1 Comment

March 11, 2021

Love the creativity with this project! :) The filament subscription also sounds so handy to have a nice selection of colors to choose from!

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