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Tips for making it easier to work with DXF files in Silhouette Studio Basic Edition
For many Silhouette users, the preferred file format to work with in Silhouette Studio is an SVG file. However, if you have Silhouette Studio Basic Edition (the free version of the software), then you cannot open SVG files.
But, you’re not totally out of luck. If the design file you want to use is available as a DXF file, you CAN open DXF files in Silhouette Studio Basic Edition.
I always include a DXF file for the card patterns in my Resource Library to make my projects as accessible as possible.
The DXF files in Silhouette Studio will look a little different than an SVG file, but you can pretty much cut it (sketch/foil/score etc.) the same way.
The differences though can make DXF files in Silhouette Studio a little trickier to work with. But you can still work with them effectively to create beautiful handmade cards!
This post will give you some tips that will hopefully make it easier for you to work with DXF files in Silhouette Studio Basic Edition.
Quick Links to Information in this Post
- What is a DXF file?
- Tips for working with DXF files in Silhouette Studio
- How do I know what software I have?
- Why do people prefer to work with SVG files?
- Upgrade Silhouette Studio
What is a DXF file?
DXF stands for Drawing Exchange Format, and it is a universal file format for computer-aided design (CAD) programs (which includes Silhouette Studio!).
DXF files can be opened in Basic Edition, and they are already a cut file (woo hoo!). This means you don’t have to trace the design to get cut lines.
Many designers, including myself, will provide their designs in many different file formats, like DXF, for the convenience of the end user.
Tips for working with DXF files in Silhouette Studio Basic Edition
Here are a few things you may come across with DXF files in Silhouette Studio and how to work with them:
No fill colors in DXF files – “It’s so hard to see!”
When you open DXF files in Silhouette Studio, there won’t be any fill colors or patterns in the design. This can make it difficult to see the design as clearly as if it did have a fill color in it. Here’s what you can do:
If the grid lines on your mat are distracting, turn grid lines off by going to “View” (in the top menu), then clicking “Show Grid” to uncheck it.
I also recommend making the lines in the design thicker so they are easier to see. So right after opening the file, immediately click “Edit” in the top menu, then click “Select All.” Next, in the Quick Access Tool Panel (at the top of the design space), increase the line thickness from 0.00 pt to maybe 2.00 or 3.00 pt.
Different line colors will still be distinguishable in DXF files (more about that later).
Design elements are ungrouped – “The whole design is in pieces!”
In a DXF file, the elements of the design are not grouped together and compound paths are released (though sometimes buggy things happen and you may find a stray compound path here or there!).
So, all the shapes are separated in the design, so if you click on the design, instead of selecting the entire thing, you’re only selecting the individual shape you clicked on.
This can make it difficult to move the entire design around on the virtual mat and more likely you could accidently move a piece out of place.
To work around this, you can just create your own groups and compound paths in the design to keep the shapes together. Here’s how to do that:
If you’re unfamiliar, basically compound paths are just another way of combining separate shapes together (there’s a little more to them to that, but this basic definition works for this post).
You may already be familiar with how to group shapes together, and compound paths work very silimarly, but with a big difference when it comes to adding fill colors.
First, to create a compound path, select the parts of the design you want to make into a compound path by clicking and dragging you cursor over them.
You’ll see a bounding box around the items you have selected.
Then, right-click in the selection and click “Make Compound Path” from the drop-down menu.
One advantage of combining separate shapes into compound paths vs. grouping them together is that you can apply fill colors to the shape correctly. This makes the design way easier to see and may help you better visualize the finished project.
To apply a fill color, select the compound path shape you want to fill by clicking on it. Then, in the Quick Access Tool Panel click the down arrow next to the Fill Color Box (it probably just has gray hashlines in it). Then, select a color to fill.
The shape should be filled in with color the way the design was intended to look.
Grouping is a another way of combining designs or parts of a design together to make it easier to move around the mat.
Select what you want to group by clicking and dragging your cursor over them. You’ll see a bounding box around the items you have selected.
Then, with everything still selected, right click in the selection and click “Group” from the drop down menu. Now you should have one group of smaller pieces that you can move around together instead of separately.
Now, if you tried to add a fill color to a grouped design you would not get the same result as filling a compound path. You would likely just get a big rectangle of the color you just picked.
But, grouping is still a very helpful way for making sure that shapes stay together while you move them around the mat. And it’s important to know about grouping when working with different line colors.
Word of caution with compound paths
Some of my design files contain different line colors – like black lines and red lines, for example. This is purposely done to distinguish what parts of a design are intended to be scored, sketched, or foiled by your machine instead of being cut.
These different line colors are important because it allows you to tell your machine to do different actions with different line colors. For example, in the design below the gold lines (in between the black lines) are intended to be sketched.
This means you could tell your machine to sketch just the gold lines instead of cut them, while cutting the rest of the lines (the black ones) in the design. If your machine were to cut the golds lines (the ones intended to be sketched), the finished project wouldn’t look the same.
If you make a compound path in your DXF file with shapes that have different colored lines in it (i.e. gold and black lines), all the lines in that compound path would all change to be the same color (i.e. the gold lines turn black).
Now, if you were to choose the Action by: Line tab in the Send panel you wouldn’t have the ability to tell your machine to cut some lines (the black ones) and sketch the ones that are a different color (gold lines).
What to do with DXF files with different line colors
The easiest thing to do is just to group the shapes together. Grouping the elements together won’t change their line colors. Select the shapes/lines that you want to group together, right-click the selection, and click “Group” from the drop down menu.
The design isn’t opening at the correct size – “It’s too big/small!”
Check your Import Settings to make sure the DXF file is opening at the correct size.
Click Edit (in the top menu), Preferences, Import Settings, and change “Fit to Page” to “Centered” or “As-is.” I like to use the “Centered” option.
how do i know if I have Basic Edition?
So likely you’d already know if you’d upgraded Silhouette Studio because you would have had to purchase a license key to do so. Though, if you’re not sure what Silhouette software you are working with, click “Help” in the top menu, then “About Silhouette Studio.”
This will tell you what kind of software you have (Basic, Designer, Designer Plus, or Business Edition).
This will also tell you what version of the software you are using. Silhouette releases updates for the Silhouette Studio software to fix bugs or to add new features. This is where you’d go to see if you have the most recent update to Silhouette Studio.
Why do people prefer to work with SVG files?
So, I mentioned before that lots of people like SVGs. Some of the biggest reasons may be that unlike DXF, SVG files can open will fill colors and with their elements grouped and/or compounded together. So this just makes them super easy to work with right off the bat.
Upgrade to Designer, Designer Edition Plus, or Business Edition
If working with SVGs sounds better than DXF files, you can upgrade your Silhouette Studio Basic Edition software to a higher version that supports opening SVG files:
- Designer Edition
- Designer Edition Plus
- Business Edition
Since the upgrade is a one time fee (no monthly fee!), it made sense for me to upgrade just for the convenicence of using SVG files.
And working with SVGs is just the beginning of the advantages of upgrading (but it’s probably my favorite so far!). There are lots of other very handy tools and features you can do with the other editions.
Whatever version of Silhouette Studio you do end up using, my hope is that you’ll find working with it as painless as possible (remember crafting should be fun!). So I hope that these tips will help you to better work with DXF files in Silhouete Studio Basic Edition.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and have a great day!