One of the big issues that crafters have to deal with when learning how to use their cutting machines and design software is understanding what types of files their machines can use. All Cricut and Silhouette machines use vector images, but there are different file types under that broad category that will only work in one software or another. This article answers the questons: what file types can be used, and how to convert images to vector format for Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio.
You’ve probably already read a lot of terms like vector graphic, SVG, JPG, PNG and DXF. This article is to help you sort through this alphabet soup and build confidence in your knowledge of cutting software and your crafting machine.
Before this explainer gets too technical, let’s just define our terms.
Cricut & Silhouette Compatible image file types:
Note: The FREE version of Silhouette Studio will not open your SVG files, but the paid upgrade Silhouette Studio Designer Edition allows you to import SVGs.
It also appears that you can send SVG cut files to your Silhouette directly via the Silhouette GO app, bypassing Silhouette Studio completely.
(Cameo 4/Plus/Pro, Portrait 3, Curio)
Cricut Design Space
(Explore Air 2, Maker, Joy)
What are SVG image files?
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) is a basic image used in printed illustration projects, crafting software and web graphics. Its main advantage is that it can be used to present an image in any color or size without losing image quality.
SVGs are vector images, made up of points connected by lines and curves, and the information contained in the file plots the position of the points, the angles and curves of the lines, and the color of the fill in each shape.
Because all data stored in the file is essentially mathematic information, the file size can be quite small, even if you expand the image size to be as large as a billboard. No matter how big or small you make it, you cannot diminish the image quality.
SVG files are the primary vector image type used by Cricut Design Space and Brother Canvas Workspace. They are one of the most common vector image types available for sale or free for craft cutting projects.
What are DXF image files?
DXF files are another kind of vector image. DXF files (Drawing eXchange Format) are an older, sharable AutoCAD file type developed in the early 1980s. These files are also popular with people using CNC cutting machines.
Silhouette Studio has a free version and three paid upgrades. A user must pay to upgrade to Studio Designer edition before they can use SVG files in the app. If you are using the free version of the software, Silhouette only tells you can use JPG and PNG images in your projects.
Users might not know that Silhouette Studio is built on the same foundation as AutoCAD, so despite their efforts to exclude users from using vector images in the free version of the software, the DXF format still works in Silhouette Studio Basic.
What are JPG/PNG or other bitmap images?
Bitmap images are the primary filetype for digital photos and most web graphics. If you post a photo of yourself or your cat to Facebook or Instagram, it’s likely going to be a JPG or PNG file and both are bitmap images.
The difference between a vector and a bitmap is that while vectors are combinations of points, lines and curves, a bitmap is essentially a grid of squares (pixels) and the file information has to account for the color of every square in the grid.
That makes the file sizes very big, and it also makes it difficult to retain image quality when you want to blow up an image. We’ve all tried to make a small image bigger, only to have it appear pixelated and blocky.
This is why vector images are preferable to JPGs and PNGs in your cutting software. You want to be able to make smooth, clean cuts no matter how big or small your image is.
Cricut Design Space and Silhouette Studio both have tracing features that convert bitmap images to vectors, and these work fine a lot of the time, but problems can arise and you might not always be satisfied with the results.
Other Vector Image Formats
When you are searching for vector images for your crafting or cutting projects, you will probably find other file types you may not be familiar with.
AI – Adobe Illustrator file. The default format of vector images created in Adobe Illustrator (a premium design software). These files cannot be opened by Cricut Design Space, but can be opened by Silhouette Studio Business Edition.
EPS – Encapsulated Post Script file. EPS files are another common vector file type you will see when searching free image libraries. They are common in the print and publishing industries, but are not used in web applications.
PDF - Portable Document Format file. PDF files are sometimes bundled with other vector files on image download sites. While PDFs aren't vector images, they can contain embedded vector files that can be read by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition and other cutting software platforms.
CDR - Corel Draw file. The default format of images created in Corel Draw. These files are sometimes included in dowloadable file bundles from image library sites, and they can be opened by Silhouette Studio Business Edition, but not Cricut Design Space.
How to Convert Vector or Bitmap images for your Cricut or Silhouette Machine for FREE
If you have downloaded a free vector image that you want to cut or draw on your Cricut or Silhouette, but it’s not in the right file format (SVG or DXF) there are a few options you can try, and you don’t need to pay for any file conversion.
Convert image to vector using Inkscape or other free editing software
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor for Windows or MacOS computers. It is a free alternative to paid design software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, and with some dedicated learning and practice, it can become a very useful tool in your design repertoire.
Not only can you make designs from scratch with a wider array of tools available in Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio, you can import bitmap or vector images and save them as SVG or DXF files for whatever cutting project you have.
Converting vectors to vectors is easy, you simply need to open your original file (AI, CDR, EPS) and save it as your desired file type (SVG or DXF).
Converting a bitmap image to SVG or DXF will still require you to trace your image. Tracing will generally render your image into black and white shapes that you should consider the starting point for your design.
This example shows what even a fairly basic photo bitmap looks like when it’s “rendered” as a vector. If you want to end up with useful cutting files, start with bitmaps that have basic shapes and blank backgrounds.
Alternatives to Inkscape:
Convert images to SVG or DXF with other free online tools
Several online file conversion tools can quickly convert images from file type to file type. Here’s a list of several free services that can quickly convert your vector or bitmap images to SVGs or DXF files for Cricut or Silhouette.
Note: Not every file will be perfectly converted all of the time. Each site listed will have different capabilities based on its underlying programming. You may have to try more than one conversion site to get the results you seek. I have tested each of these sites, converting SVG to DXF, PNG to SVG and so forth and have had good results, but I can’t make guarantees on every file conversion.
Convertio is a great tool for converting all types of image files. Simply upload the original image from your computer, select the new format you want and wait for the conversion. When it’s done (typically just a few seconds), download the new file. The free version of Convertio allows 10 minutes of conversion time per day.
Supported files: AI, CDR. EPS, SVG, DXF and many more.
Convertio also converts audio, video, documents and fonts, and allows multiple file conversions at once.
Online Convert is another massive free file conversion website. You can convert to multiple file types, including SVG and DXF. This is also a very handy site to convert audio, video and document files.
This site works like Convertio, except it only allows two file conversions at a time.
Cloud Convert supports conversion to SVG and DXF.
AnyConv supports SVG and DXF file conversion.
With these tools, you should be able to convert image to vector graphic so you can cut or draw beautiful projects using your Cricut or Silhouette machine.
Check out our top sites for finding free vector images for your vinyl and paper projects!
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