If you want to take your Cricut crafts to the next level, you’ll want to learn how to make an SVG file for Cricut – and this post can help! This post contains affiliate links.
I’m so excited to be teaching you today how to make an SVG file for Cricut crafting!
When I first started making Cricut projects, I was stoked to be able to combine my love for functional crafting with my illustration and graphic design skills. A few projects in, I knew I had to learn how to make an SVG for Cricut so that I can take my design ideas from concept to reality.
Table of contents:
- What is an SVG file?
- Raster images
- Vector images
- Why an SVG is the ideal file type for your Cricut crafting needs
- There are 2 main ways to make an SVG for Cricut
- Which program should you use to make an SVG or Cricut crafts
- Making it into an SVG
- Designing an SVG from scratch
- How to make an SVG for Cricut – step by step
What is an SVG file?
There are many graphic terms that you may have heard – or even used – in the past, but not fully understood what they mean.
Before I teach you how to make an SVG file, I want you to fully understand what it is.
There are two types of computer graphics. The first is raster, and the second is vector.
One is your typical photograph. This is called a raster image and is made up of a bunch of tiny little squares called pixels. The quality of your image will be called the resolution and this is measured by how many pixels you have in a square inch of your image – or the DPI (dots per inch).
If you zoom in really close, you’ll see the pixels.
The reason you need to understand this is simple. When you make a raster image larger, your program needs to guess how to replace the pixels. This often results in a fuzzy and unsharp image. Otherwise, the image will appear pixelated – or you’ll see those dots.
This is called a lossy image type – when you make it larger, you lose quality.
Some examples of file types that are raster images include JPEG and PNG. Yes! While PNG files can contain transparency (so your image can have a shaped border), they are still determined by the visual that you see, with no hidden layers, and with pixels.
The second type of image is a vector. This image is determined by the path that outlines it and the fill information contained within. The coolest thing about vector images is that you can make them infinitely larger without losing quality.
An SVG file is a vector image.
Many people will refer to any clipart type image as a vector, however, this is a mistake.
This was likely created as a vector to begin with (or so I’d assume from the flat style of the image), however, when saved as a PNG, it becomes a raster image.
Why an SVG is the ideal file type for your Cricut crafting needs
An SVG file is also capable of containing layers, making it fabulous for your Cricut crafting needs.
It’s the ideal image type for your Cricut crafts because it’s determined by an actual path – that you can convert to different line types. When you upload it to Design Space, you can convert any path within the SVG to cut (the default that it uploads as) or even draw, deboss, engrave, foil…
As you enlarge your SVG file, you won’t get jagged edges. PNG images, however, often result in rough cuts with much longer cut times.
The exception to this rule is with using the print then cut feature on your Cricut. Since this prints a flat image, it essentially rasterizes it first and then cuts it. The ideal file type for this is PNG because you have a transparent background that determines the cut border.
However, you may wish to use an SVG file type for this too, since you can first resize it in Design Space – keeping sharp edges – and then flatten it. You can also change colors and remove elements before flattening it if it’s an SVG.
There are 2 main ways to make an SVG for Cricut
One is to turn a flat raster image into a layered vector for your Cricut crafting needs.
The other is to create a vector image from scratch.
Since creating a vector from scratch requires much deeper knowledge of your vector illustration program (see below for which I recommend), this tutorial is going to be about how to make an SVG for Cricut from a raster image such as a JPEG or a PNG.
So yes, this assumes that you already have the art.
If you want to make them from scratch, I do recommend you take an extensive computer graphics course.
I typically start with an illustration that I made digitally using Sketchbook on my Surface Pro. More on that below.
Which program should you use to make an SVG or Cricut crafts
Making it into an SVG
There are two main programs that creators use to make an SVG for Cricut:
- Inkscape – this free software is the choice for many hobbyists, due to it being free. I played with it once for a few minutes but found it a bit cumbersome so I decided to stick to the next option.
- Adobe Illustrator – This industry standard design software is the ideal choice due to its extensive features and smooth running.
This tutorial shows you how to use Adobe Illustrator. I’m not sure if Inkscape has a live trace option. If it does, you should be able to use that too.
However, if this is something that you plan to do regularly, I highly recommend that you invest in Illustrator. It’s more affodable than it ever was. Back in the day when I was learning design, I purchased Adobe CS6 (including Illustrator) for a few grand!!
Now it’s a monthly subscription, which means that you don’t need to get updated versions and you don’t need to lay out a lot at once. You pay for it as long as you’re using it and cancel when you’re done. You can even sign up for a free trial to see if you can get the hang of it!
However, all this assumes you have an image to work with. How do you create that image from scratch?
Designing an SVG from scratch
Since my first love is illustration, I like to draw out my design in Sketchbook – a program on my Surface Pro, using a Surface pen. Many artists prefer to use an iPad with the Apple Pencil and Procreate.
If you, like me, are looking to do this more professionally and sell SVG files, possibly in an Etsy shop, illustrating them digitally is the way to go.
- You can get line correction for designs that are clean to begin with.
- Illustrate in layers and export the layers separately.
- Choose from infinite colors.
- You can sketch in “pencil” without having to erase – just delete that layer.
- And you can erase your mistakes when “inking” it in after.
- Finally, features like rulers and guides allow you to have everything you need for professional illustrations at your fingertips.
And yes, if you have a Surface device and the latest version of Illustrator, you can even illustrate directly into that program! Since I work with an older version, I illustrate in Sketchbook and then turn it into an SVG.
You can also go the pen and paper route and scan your design, however you’ll need to spend much more time cleaning it up when you go through the process of vectorizing.
If you’re working with a text-based SVG, you can either letter it in your sketching app (my preferred route) or just type it right into Illustrator and turn it into outlines (as shown in the tutorial below).
How to make an SVG for Cricut – step by step
You can follow this tutorial with any image, but if you’d like to work along with me with the same image, you can download the practice image below. You MAY NOT use this image for anything other than personal use or as a practice image. You may not sell this SVG, give it out, or even sell products made with it. I don’t mind if you use it in projects you make for yourself.
1. Open a new file in illustrator. The exact size doesn’t matter, as you can enlarge it or make it smaller. You may want to work on a 12×12 inch file just because that’s the standard Cricut mat size, or the size of your intended project.
Open your folder with the illustration or graphic, and drag it onto your artboard to “place it”.
2. Shrink it down to fit on your artboard. Hold “shift” while dragging so that it doesn’t distort the proportions. Ctrl + 0 will fit the artboard to your screen so that you can work better.
3. On the right toolbar, click on the image trace option. It looks like a circle with a half path and nodes around it. If you don’t see it, go to your top toolbar -> window -> and choose “image trace”.
In your options, choose “color” under mode and then select the amount of colors you want your final SVG to be – including the transparent background. Mine is five: dark red, light red, dark green, light green, and background. Hit trace.
4. Your “view” should be set to “tracing result” to see the results of the trace. If it looks right to you, hit “expand”. If not, play with the settings until you’re satisfied.
5. You have two options for editing your tracing result. Your result will be grouped by default. I prefer to right click and choose “ungroup”. I re-group it when I’m done. If you want to keep it grouped, you can double click on the image, or right click and choose “isolate selected group”. This gets you into “isolation mode” which means you can work within that group and it’ll remain grouped. If you double click out of it, you’ll exit isolation mode and it’ll be back to being locked together.
6. You can see the paths with the nodes outlining your design. Start by deleting your background so that you’re left with only the image. If you want to adjust the shape a litlte and clean it up.
If you want, use the white arrow tool to select specific nodes and nudge things around and adjust it a little. You can use it as-is, but we’re going to take things a step further.
7. Your dark green and red – the outlines are just outlines, as you can see when we move the inside. To make it easier to line things up without requiring excessive precision, you may prefer to turn it into a solid base instead.
To do this, make a copy of the inside (select it using the black arrow and then ctrl+c and ctrl+v)
8. Select one of the insides and the outline. Find the pathfinder tool (again, if you don’t see it, find it in the window option on your top toolbar). The first option will combine your two shapes into one.
It might choose the inside color – you’ll just need to change the color back to what you want it. The truth is, exact color doesn’t matter at all – it’s just to give you a visual. The color will be whichever color material you cut….
9. Now, place your second inside back where it belongs.
10. Repeat it with your rose. Note: here, I copied it with the outline just to show you how to select colors with the eyedropper tool. You simply select the object whose color you want to change, select the eyedropper, and click it onto the item that’s the correct color.
11. The way the image trace works is that each disconnected item is its own layer. To avoid this, you can select items that are disconnected but one item (such as the inside of the rose), right click, and choose “make compound path”.
12. Want to add text? You can create this right in Illustrator without knowing your way around the program. Just click the T in the left toolbar, and type in your text. Select your fonts, sizes, etc and place it where you want it.
13. Right click and “create outlines” to change it from a font to a vector image.
14. When you’re satisfied, save as an SVG file type. I leave the default options selected and it’s always served me well.
Note: if you’re making multiple images into SVG files, you can work in one Illustrator file and save as separate SVG files. To do this, you’ll start with multiple artboards when first creating your Illustrator file (you’ll see that option when you first create a file). Place each image on a separate artboard and vectorize as needed. Then, when you save, you’ll check that “use artboards” option right below the file type. This saves each one as its own SVG, like I did with the bugs you see here.
Ready to test out if you learned how to make an SVG for Cricut? Open up a new canvas in Design Space. Click upload and follow the prompts to uplaod your SVG.
You can see how the layers upload, how the grouped image stays together but the text that wasn’t grouped went where it wanted to. The text wasn’t turned into a compound path, so each letter is its own layer. However, the rose was turned into a compound path, so it’s all just one layer.
I hope this was helpful in teaching you how to make an SVG for Cricut! Which Cricut or design skill do you want to learn next? Comment below!