We’ve been promising our group a tutorial in digital papers for a while; so head on over there for some great links for resources. If you haven’t already downloaded some to play with, you can find some free ones here, here and here. These files are free at the time of posting. You can also purchase designs on CD-ROM and DVD if you still have a system with a disk drive.
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If you are new to digital papers, these fall into three main categories; texture, patterns and images…
Image based digital papers
These papers typically feature a full layout for a background; typically created to be printed at that particular size (such as a 12×12″ layout for scrapbookers). There is nothing to say you can’t use just sections of these files though; or you can print the papers at a smaller scale than intended. As these files are usually image based, we would not recommend printing larger than the original size. These types of papers are typically JPG/PNG/PDF format. If you are really lucky, your file may include layers to enable advanced editing; you could, for example, manipulate the background to your choosing. These layered files are rare as hen’s teeth; you could work with a paper designer to get some unique to you.
Pattern based digital papers
Everyone knows how much I love patterned papers, but I love pattern files even more! Pattern files enable you to print your chosen pattern at any size you wish; or drop in a background colour or texture. For this, you will need a page layout or vector design software such as Affinity Designer; which has some cool features for working with digital papers. You could also use Adobe InDesign or Corel Draw. I have not tested this process in Inkscape currently; I am awaiting an update to this software for it to work.
These files are typically SVG, EPS or AI format when based on vectors and can be used at any scale; or JPG, PNG or PDF and used at the supplied scale or smaller.
Seamless patterns are usually image based (JPG, PNG or PDF); designed to be tiled to fill your desired shape or page size. You will need to do this in Affinity Designer using the tutorial below; or use an image editor such as GIMP, Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo and tile your pattern manually. For some software titles, such as Adobe Illustrator, you will need to convert these files to a pattern fill before adding to a shape.
As with pattern files, you can’t scale above the original scale without losing definition; you should keep this in mind when creating with them. Cleaner patterns can be upscaled slightly, or if you are creating for a valuable project; trace the pattern in Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Inkscape to create your own scale.
Digital papers made from textures are some of the most useful files you can have. You can use them in the same way as both images and patterns; however, they also are great for prototyping designs and projects. We can add glitter, metallic or other effects to our designs for proofing without cutting a single bit of vinyl! Also, this is a good way of creating an effect if you have run out of supplies; or customising a colour to match a paper collection you are working with.
Printing Digital Papers
Printing digital papers is just the first step in how we can use these downloads for crafting. However, it is an essential technique to learn; then you can use your papers with your electronic cutter (ScanNCut, Cricut, Silhouette or otherwise). Even if your file is bigger than A4, there are ways and means around this; you can also print your papers to just the size you need in order to save ink.
Start by downloading your chosen designs to a folder with the name of your source; this makes checking licences for images and resources easier later on. Open a digital paper of your choice, note this will open your original file at this point. Before you do anything else, use Save As to create a new copy. This prevents you overwriting your original file; which could be an expensive mistake to make in the case of some USBs.
Add a background colour if you are working with a PDF or PNG file with a transparent background; if you don’t, it will obviously have a white background.
- Add a new layer and sending it to the back so it sits underneath your pattern layer
- Use the paint bucket (usually [G]) to add a colour of your choice.
- Once applied, you can then tweak this colour using Hue/Saturation/Lightness (HSL) settings.
Always print the paper at a scale of 100% or lower to prevent loss of definition. Remember, check your colour settings and media settings to get the best print for your papers at this point. If your file is larger than the paper you can either print as is (i.e. 100%) or Scale to Fit (Fit to Printable in the above screenshot – this terminology will vary by your printer driver).
For the next part of this tutorial, we will be manipulating the pattern in Affinity Designer. Be sure to check out our next book on Amazon. Due for release April 2020, this title will cover lots of basic software techniques. In the meantime, you can see our 2019 Annual on Amazon.