5 software titles you can use with your ScanNCut
Using alternative software with the ScanNCut
One of the most limiting factors with any cutter is its proprietary software; however, this needn’t be the case with any cutter so long as it can read SVG files. Some software can even export to your cutter’s native format (FCM in the case of ScanNCut).
Here’s my top alternative suggestions based on your most important limitation…
1: Easiest for beginners: Affinity Designer
Available from: affinity.serif.com
Affinity Designer has the widest range of adaptable shape tools meaning many tools are capable of creating multiple styles of shapes. This is great for designing projects with a range of shapes such as cogs, flowers, leaves, drops, clouds and many more.
In terms of working with text, you still have all the same text tools as CanvasWorkspace etc but with a greater control over settings, glyphs and character pairs. Meaning your script fonts will look even better than your normal software. You can still apply text to paths and shapes too for wordy borders, frames and sentiments.
The star of the show in Affinity Designer is Symbols. This means we can take a repeating element such as a flower, turn it into a symbol. Bring in as many copies of the symbol as you like. You can then go inside any of the symbols and live edit – meaning your changes will be applied to every symbol copy live as you make them. This means we can quickly create patterned borders, frames and even doilies accurately. When you are happy, you can merge them all into one shape while still keeping a saved copy of the symbol to use for other elements of the design.
When you export to SVG, you just need to make sure everything is converted to curves, choose 96dpi, rasterise nothing and untick Set ViewBox. This will then mean your design is transferred accurately size wise either direct to your cutter or into the native software for transferring to your machine wirelessly.
Drawbacks: No tracing function, no shape/text warping
Additional Benefits: One off payment and currently on offer at half price, available on PC/Mac/iOS, can do print and cut and accurately preview designs using scans of materials/patterns.
2: Best for Budget: Inkscape
Available from: inkscape.org
If you’ve outgrown your native software, and looking for something with more features, then Inkscape might be a good place to go next if budget is an issue. This package is proof free doesn’t necessarily mean under-powered.
It comes with a whole host of extensions built-in, but even if you can’t find what you are looking for, you can always add another extension. An example of this is Ink/Stitch for converting your Inkscape designs for electronic embroidery machines as well as realistic rendering to PDF. Meaning you can combine embroidery elements and appliqué elements cut by your cutter.
The Inkscape software itself has many features electronic cutter users will love: built-in single line fonts, offsetting, layered tracing for image panels/shadow boxes and custom borderless pattern creation. It also includes extensions for creating boxes, spirograph style artwork, book binding templates and more.
Drawbacks: Steep learning curve, user interface and extensions system can confuse users who don’t continually use the software.
Additional Benefits: Free, available on PC/Mac/Linux, can do print and cut and export to other purposes, tailor with additional open-source (free) extensions.
3: Best for Plotter Enthusiasts: Sure Cuts a Lot (SCAL)
Available from: surecutsalot.com
Sure Cuts a Lot enables so much for being such a little program. It focuses one exactly what you need without inflating the software with tools you will never use.
One of the biggest benefits is how easy it becomes to do projects like stencils, rhinestone designs (without buying additional kits), distort words and shapes and even fill shapes with no outline.
When you’ve finished creating your design, you can export to your native plotter format (even FCM without losing data or adjusting sizing) to USB or for some cutters you can send to cut directly. You can also upload your design to the standalone SCAL marketplace to sell or share to other SCAL users.
With SCAL, you can erase and/or cut into shapes manually as well as having access to all the usual calculations. This means you can create layered designs really easily: even more so than some of the other pro software on this list.
Drawbacks: Registration marks don’t work yet for Brother mats, we don’t currently recommend the tablet version of the app.
Additional Benefits: Available on PC/Mac, can do print and cut, QR codes, generate puzzles and nesting.
4: Best for Semi-pros: Adobe Illustrator
Available from: adobe.com
It might surprise you the way round I’ve put these last two options, but there is method in my seeming madness. Adobe Illustrator is a pro-grade design software with a price tag to match. It is a commitment as you pay monthly to use it and tie yourself in for a year. However, you may find, used correctly, it will pay for itself.
For starters, many cutters have had plug-ins designed to enable you to use your cutter with Illustrator directly: Brother ScanNCut Link, Silhouette Connect and more professional machines will come with this supplied. It also gives you options to use other add-ons such as font creators like Fontself, tools like Super Magic Eraser, templates and routines like Mandala Creator.
The whole focus of the development of Adobe Illustrator is productivity. You can do many of the things you do in Illustrator in other software, but Illustrator will get you there faster. Time is money after all. You also have a fully functioning marketplace where you can download and/or purchase additional elements for your designs if you don’t want to create them from scratch.
Drawbacks: Expense, not as user friendly for beginners
Additional Benefits: Available on PC/Mac as well as a separate version for iOS, can do print and cut and export to other purposes, tailor with additional pro-level plug-ins.
5: Best for Pros: Corel Draw
Available from: corel.com
Corel Draw can be subscribed to monthly or outright purchased, but it is expensive. We bought ours through Humble Bundle in order to save on the cost. However, we think, for the right user, the cost is outweighed by what it can do. If you are regularly producing complicated designs for other to reproduce, the dimensioning and labelling tools will help you immensely when creating comprehensive instruction guides for assembly.
One of my other favourite features is Centreline Trace; enabling you to take any image and convert it for the Foil Quill or drawing with a pen, including shading and stippling. You also have two other trace modes available, so even if welding doesn’t work, you can still convert everything to one shape.
It also has its own dedicated marketplace for add-ons: patterns, fonts and more can be downloaded and/or purchased here.
Drawbacks: Expense, not as user friendly for beginners
Additional Benefits: Available on PC/Mac, can do print and cut and export to other purposes.
I hope you’ve found this brief guide to your software options valuable, and I look forward to your comments below.