We recently got a vinyl cutter at The Foundery.  After a quick test run, cutting out some Foundery Logo stickers, I figured I’d move onto a real value-added application….a vinyl sticker featuring my face!

130-corey_before-after2

The software I used for this was all free or commonly available.

  • Microsoft Power Point
  • Gimp (free)
  • Inkscape (free)

I think you could accomplish this entirely with Inkscape but since I’m not that tech savvy and love to make tasks harder than they need to be, this was how I did it.

The first step was taking a nice picture of myself.  Since I’m so photogenic this step was really easy.  I could have had my wife taken the photo for me, but she was REALLY against the idea of me making a vinyl sticker of my self.  Her response when I asked her to take my picture was something on the order of “Damn it corey! you just really love yourself don’t you!”.  At first I didn’t know if that was a “yes” or a “no”…it was a “no”.

The next step after deciding on which super awesome selfie to use, was to copy-paste the image in Power Point so I could remove the background

Format > Remove Background

130-ppoint2

 

Once the background was removed I right clicked on the image and saved-as a JPEG file.

Once I had the image as a JPEG without the background, I imported the image into GIMP to convert to black and white and customize the contrast.  Gimp is a photo editing tool similar to photoshop, but entirely free!  We use Gimp regularly at The Foundery for modifying photo’s for laser or plasma cutting.

First step in Gimp was to remove any part of the remaining image that I didn’t want in the vinyl sticker.  For this photo, I had to remove any part below my chin area using the lasso feature in the tool box (see arrow in below image)

130-gimp1-2

Once I had the image cropped down to what I wanted in the photo, I used the threshold feature in Gimp (Colors > threshold).  Using the slide bar in the threshold tool you can adjust the contrast to highlight the features you want the sticker to be comprised of.  The trick is to remove enough features while still leaving the important components.

130-gimp2

Once the image represents what the vinyl sticker should look like, you’ll need to save that image as a new JPEG file.  Right now we still have an image file which we’ll then need to convert into a file type that the vinyl cutter can read as a cut path.  The technical term is “vector graphic”.  Right now the image we have created is the type of image you would send to a common printer.  The common printer goes line by line dropping ink to create the image.  When cutting an image on a vinyl cutter, the cutter needs just the profile of the image to cut out, which will create our image.  That’s what is called a “vector graphic”.  The go-to file type for a vector image is a .dxf file.  ANY computer controlled cutting system can read a .dxf file.  CNC laser cutters, vinyl cutters, plasma, waterjet, routers, they ALL will read a .dxf file.

To create my vector file I used Inkscape.  It’s free and a must-have for all hobbyists.  Anytime I buy a new PC, the first software I’ll install is Inkscape and Gimp.  With Inkscape, open the image file created in Gimp.  Don’t worry about sizing the image throughout these steps.  You can size the image when you go to cut it out on the vinyl cutter.

Using Inkscape, go to Path > Trace Bitmap.  When the Trace Bitmap toolbox opens, check the box for “Edge Detection”.  This will trace the image and create a new image of just the outline of our picture. You can adjust the threshold of the Edge Detection to change how much roughness the Edge Detection will smooth out.  The smoother the better but you don’t wan’t to lose any important detail.

130-inkscape-1

When Inscape creates the new edge-detected image it’s placed overtop the existing image so you might not see it.  You’ll have to click on the image an drag it over to the side.  You can delete the original image and just leave the newly created outlined image.

130-inkscape-2

And that’s pretty much it!  Just go to Save-As in Inkscape and select .dxf as the file type and BOOM!  You’ll have the vector file that you can open in any vinyl cutting software to cut out.  Looking at the profile picture doesn’t really look like the image, but once it’s cut out on vinyl it will look exactly like the image created in Gimp.

Start thinking of custom vinyl sticker ideas you’ll want to cut-out, in a couple months you’ll be able to swing by The Foundery to use our vinyl cutter to cut out anything you can think of.  Corn-hole Board decals?

— Corey