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Your Processes Are As Valuable As Your Projects

I have a robot army. When it comes to making projects for myself or for clients, I have various machines that I command and let them bend to my will to produce the cool things I give other people or sell in my store. Among those machines is one that I've used in a few different projects, my Cricut Explore Air 2. This was one of those "I've always wanted it and now I can afford it" machines so I bought one, and did so just to cut vinyl and make decals. One of the functions it has that also attracted me was the ability to cut out stickers. Basically you put an image into the software and it cuts it out to an outline so that you have a nice clean shape that isn't just a square. This is important for me because I wanted to make my own logo labels for my packaging until I'm doing enough where I can justify buying professionally made ones.

I was working on a birthday gift for a friend of mine, and I finally got it all together Saturday night. At 10pm I decided that once and for all I'd use the "print then cut" functionality to make a great label for the box. That's when all hell broke loose in the Ferrari house.

After the first two attempts, the Cricut insisted on cutting out the individual letters, not the shape. I tried numerous logical steps over and over and kept getting the same results. "Okay," I thought, "There are tons of YouTube videos on this. Someone has an explanation." Or at least that's what I thought. I was partially right. A lot of videos got instantly disqualified because they weren't using the current version of Design Space, the Cricut online software. That software was updated in January and the changes were major enough that many (not all) of the tutorials that were posted before hand are now invalid. Some people did tours of the new functionality, which included Print Then Cut, which sounds great, except that they only showed the process but didn't explain why they were doing what they were doing. That's important. I screamed. I cursed. My wife laughed at me. It was all a big angry joke. I would put my logo on screen, print the page, send it to the Cricut, and boom. All the letters kept getting cut out. Then it hit me, and I don't know why it did, but I had a rough I idea. I knew exactly what was wrong. One of the Cricut "experts" I watch on YouTube is Kayla Macintosh. The woman knows the machine better than any I've watched and she's great at showing how to do projects. She does only document her projects and doesn't really explain the "why" but it's usually a project where you can understand the whole thing relatively easily. I remembered a step she did that I hadn't done, and I tried it, and of course, it worked. Not because Kayla explained it, but because I had seen it done so many times on her channel that once it clicked, I was able to get the logo to print, then get the Cricut to cut the circle out perfectly.

The box looked great, and the birthday girl loved her custom Starfleet earrings. I have to tweak the alignment just a bit to get the circle more centered, but I really am happy with how it turned out.

Now that I have the process sorted, here's what I learned and the mistake I was making: Import your image in a bitmap format like PNG. This is the critical step I had wrong. SVG files will always want to cut on the outlines. PNG files will cut around the outside of the image matching the contour of the item. At the point when you upload a bitmap file, you're given the option to save it as a cut file or a Print Then Cut image.

Remarkable, right? One simple step that no one explained. Kayla does this reflexively, which is probably why she's never explained it. That's the step I was missing, and mainly because no one, Cricut included, thought to mention that you can't take a file you've already uploaded and Print Then Cut it if you've saved it as a cut file. Learning experience is fine, and even though I ended up very frustrated I'm very happy with the final result. Now I know I can do these as needed and they'll work and that makes me happy and will definitely give my packaging a more professional look.

So now we get to my takeaway for this post. If you're a person making YouTube videos or blog posts that document projects, that's fine, but please understand that sometimes your process is important and, for some people, even more important. Every once in awhile address the details that you assume everyone understands already or make a short explainer video you can direct your viewers to. While that may be a lot of work, your loyal viewers and readers will very much be interested and it will increase the stickiness of your channel / blog because people will know that you are a one stop shop for all the information they need. In the end, stickiness is what you're going for and getting it is as simple as giving people a reason and the material they need to hang around.

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