For Cricut users new and old, one of the eternal frustrations I read in comment sections is “How can I make my Cricut fill in letters with a pen?”
Cricut’s default setting with fonts is to treat them as outlines, whether your operation is drawing, cutting or foiling. If you are drawing a font with a pen, all you are going to get is an outline of the letter, not a solid shape. This works OK for some situations. If you are trying to write with a fancy script font, you get a bubbled look. This really distracts from the sentiment.
We have a popular article about single line fonts you can use for writing, but what about when you want to use a font that isn’t single line-ready?
We’ve got a clever hack that anyone can use with Cricut Design Space. You don’t have to import lined patterns or use any other workaround. You can use Cricut’s new Offset Tool to fill in fonts and give them a perfect solid fill look.
This tutorial is essential if you want to use script fonts on paper or cardstock, or if you want to expand your card making repertoire to include chunkier serif or sans-serif fonts. Let’s get started!
Note: This tutorial uses the Cricut Offset tool, which is not available on the mobile version of Cricut Design Space. You need to use the desktop version of Design Space to follow these steps (ie on a laptop or desktop computer). It will not work on a smartphone or tablet.
What you will need for this tutorial:
- a Cricut machine (Explore, Maker, or Joy)
- Cricut Design Space desktop app, NOT THE MOBILE VERSION (Offset Tool compatible with Windows 10 and higher; MacOS 10.15 and higher)
- Cricut 0.4 mm standard pen (I chose black for this tutorial)
- 1 mm Cricut marker or other marker of your choice
- paper or cardstock
- Cricut light grip or standard grip mat
Video: How to make Cricut fill in Letters
Step 1: Open Design Space on your computer and add your text
For the basic steps of this tutorial I’m going to start with a script font that is not a Cricut font. Cricut has its own selection of fonts that are designed specifically for writing, but they don’t really satisfy every need. When I need more formal or fancy script fonts, I usually have to find third party fonts. These fonts are not specifically designed for Cricut. They look great on the screen, but we have to make adjustments in Design Space so the final product looks as good as it did on your computer.
The font I’m using is Badgear Demo from Fontspace – I recently used it on an anniversary card, and I use it for this example because not only is it a fancy script font, its lines are uniform width. It doesn’t have a thick-then-thin swooping quality you get with caligraphic script fonts, so it should be pretty easy to illustrate how to fill it in.
Another interesting aspect to this font is that it looks good in Cricut Design Space, but it doesn’t weld. Letters like the lower case ‘s’ and ‘e’ fill in when welded. This method of filling in a letter with the offset doesn’t require you to weld the font before making the project! Even a font with problems like Badgear works!
I’m going to set the text to 4.5 inches wide. Most of the writing I do with my Cricut machine is for card making projects. The most common size of card I make is 5″ x 7″, so this font size should give a pretty reasonable expectation of how this method will work in “real world” situations.
Step 2: Set your Operation to Draw
After you’ve added your text, set the operation type to Draw > Pen. The default operation mode in Cricut Design space is “Cut”, and default mode shows your text as a solid shape. When you change the operation mode to Pen, you see the text as an outline. The next step is where we start to fill in this outline with the offset tool.
Step 3: Use the Offset tool to fill in your text
Once you’ve got your text set up on your card, click the Offset tool in the upper toolbar. The default setting is +0.25 inches, and it will preview as a bubble around your text. The key to this method is to set the offset value to negative, so it appears inside your text.
Because I’m going to use a 1.0 mm Cricut marker to fill in this text, I want to make the internal offset about half that distance. 1mm = 0.04 inches, and you can see in this example, I’ve actually set the value to –0.025 inches, and the preview indicates the offset will draw a uniform shape inside the original lettering.
Click the “apply” button in the Offset tool to create the new shape inside your text.
Step 4: Set the pen type for the Offset
Now that we’ve created the internal offset, we have to adjust the operation type. Because it is an offset of a Draw operation, it will also be set to Draw when it’s created. But we have to change the pen type from default 0.4 mm pen to 1.0 mm marker. When Design Space sends this project to your Cricut machine, you will be prompted to change pens from 0.4 mm pen for the outline to 1.0 mm marker for the fill.
To change the pen type for the offset shape, make sure the offset shape is clicked and active (there will be a bounding box around it when it is selected) and then click the pen color selector next to the operation menu in the top bar.
The first item in the pulldown menu is the pen type selector, and it will be set to default Fine Point 0.4 mm pen. Select “M – Marker (1mm)” from the drop down list. You will see the offset lines get thicker in the preview window.
Step 5: Fill in any gaps with a second offset
At this point, you may notice that there are some spaces inside the letters where the offset has left a gap. To make sure all the spaces get filled, you can put a second offset line inside the first offset.
Select the offset shape from the layers menu on the right hand side of Design Space. Click the offset tool, and it will remember the last values you entered. The preview will show you the new offset filling in the gaps!
Step 6: Attach Text + Offset layers and make the project
If all the gaps in your text have been filled by the offset tool, you should be able to send this project to your Cricut machine for drawing. In order for everything to be drawn correctly, all of the layers must be attached. Select the text layer and the offset layers – I usually click the layers in the right-hand sidebar to highlight them – and then click the Attach icon at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. (You can also use the right click on your mouse to pull up the shortcut menu and select Attach there.)
Step 7: Pay attention to Design Space’s prompts
When Design Space is sending your project to the Cricut machine it will do every step in a specific order: scoring, drawing then cutting. When you have a project with multiple pen operations (ie. using different pens and markers), the order will not always be the same.
I did this project a few times in preparation for writing this article, and sometimes I was prompted to load the 1.0 mm marker first and then the 0.4 mm pen, and sometimes it was the opposite. Pay attention to Design Space! It will tell you what order to load the pens.
So after all of these steps, and watching my trusty Explore Air 2 work its magic, here’s the finished result. The font is flawlessly filled in! It looks great and it didn’t take much extra time.
I’ve included the original font with no fill to illustrate how dramatic the results are when you use this method. You can see that even though I couldn’t weld the font, the final results look fantastic. But this is just a basic example of what this technique can do. Check out a few more examples of the cool fill options you can use with the Cricut Offset tool.
Advanced Fill Examples
The basic fill example I used above was just two offset shapes inside the text. But what if you want to fill in really chunky thick fonts? You can just keep adding Offsets inside of offsets like a Russian Doll until you’ve got the space filled. Here’s an example I used with a Cricut Metallic marker on black cardstock. I used the classic “Broadway” font, which features a thick/thin style, and I repeated the offset until the letter was completely filled in.
If you look closely, the results are a little rough, like I was asking the marker to do too much, which is fair. There are limits to how far you can take this technique before it becomes obvious that you are filling in a large space with a small marker. We wouldn’t try to paint a wall with a sharpie, would we?
Mixing fill colors for unique looks with great results
Here’s another experiment I tried with this technique: Filling in a font with colored marker. I really wanted to try this with a traditional looking thick serif font to replicate an old-school tattoo look. I chose “Gravitas One” as my font, set the initial pen outline to the default, 0.4 mm and set the first Offset line to 1.0 mm black Cricut marker. Then, I made several successive Offset strokes to fill in the letter and set them to 1.0 mm red marker.
One thing to note – Design Space doesn’t make allowances for all different types of marker in all different colors. The red marker setting is labeled as a 1.0 mm infusible ink marker. I selected it anyway, even though I was using a 1.0 mm Crayola marker, and the results were fine.
As you can see below, the results are great! This has a great retro look, but you could apply this to literally any project that you want to add color to your text!
Trial and Error will be your friend
This is just a reminder to be patient and allow yourself time to practice with this technique. The Offset tool is great, but it’s not an automatic done deal. You may have to try a few different settings before you get the pen and marker combination to fill in everything without any gaps.
Here’s an example of a font that I had a lot of trouble filling in (Cricut cutting font Annie Leu). It takes practice and adjustment. There are variables to consider. How big or small is your font? Sometimes a really large font just can’t be filled in correctly. A small font might get blotted out because you used too large of a marker to fill it in. Be patient and you will get the results you’re after!
My recommendation is to always try fill the font on a practice sheet of paper (I used regular copy paper) before you are working on your main project. Be patient! Practice with different pens and colors. The results will amaze you and delight your friends.
I hope this tutorial has been helpful to you when it comes to making new projects with your Cricut. It’s an amazing machine, and finding new ways to push its capabilities opens up lots of opportunities for new, creative thinking!
Let us know what kind of projects you are making and post your results to our Facebook page or tag us with #sniptoit.
Are you looking for help with any other Cricut Design Space issues? Let us know in the comments and we’ll create a tutorial to help solve the problem!