I'll be the first to admit, I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm feeling like one today. I made this...yes, I did! Now, this might not sound like a huge deal, but I'm going to tell you why it's such a huge deal to me. Bear with me, because this gets a little long-winded - but for once, I actually remembered to photo-document the process, step by step.
If you are either a) an experienced Silhouette user, or b) way smarter than me...just play along with my delusion of brilliance. We all have our delusions.
You see, it all started last summer, when I went to visit my family in New Mexico, when my mom was having knee surgery. My sister lives in a super, duper, duper old land grant, about an hour outside of Albuquerque. In her home, she has this really old Borax shipping crate lid, that she found inside the tumble-down house that is attached to the backside of their house. I absolutely loved it and took it outside to photograph it on their adobe wall.
I wanted to try to create one to look like it, so I made this photocopy to take home. I really dislike tracing letters and the steady-handed, long process of hand painting them for signs, so I just held on to the copy, hoping someday I'd be able to get a Silhouette to create my sign.
Well, that day finally came this month, when I purchased a new Silhouette Cameo. What you need to know about me, is when I get a new "toy", I'm a little like a guy with a sports car - I want to get in, start it up, and see how quickly I can hit 90. I do not want to read the owner's manual first. Knowing that, imagine my frustration when I'm all ready to create my amazing "antique" sign, and the machine can't read my mind and figure out all by itself that I only want the letters cut out - not every single shade of the wood grain! Most people create something simple when they first get a Silhouette, but no...not me. I couldn't just use the letters in the program, or buy a cute little shape from their store and make a card or something...I had to make something difficult for my first project.
I stayed up until 3am. I Googled, and I Googled, and I Googled...hoping someone out there would have a tutorial for creating a sign like this, using their own really rough image, preferrably someone who'd found an easy way to do it. Not the case. I got up this morning and sent off an email to Silhouette, hoping there was an easy answer to my problem. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be, so while I waited, I moved the image over to Photoshop, where I started the tedious process of removing all the wood grain background. When I say tedious, I don't mean a little bit tedious, I mean massively tedious - practically pixel by pixel.
Silhouette did respond promptly to my email and basically said that I was going to have to do exactly what I was already doing, so I was glad I was on the right track. HOURS later, I had the background fairly cleaned up and the text darkened up. My middle son even "spotted" me for awhile, and worked on it too.
Here's the completed image. You can still see a little of the wood grain in the letters, but that wouldn't matter, because I needed it to be a stencil, not a copy.
Feeling like a stinkin' genius at this point, I opened up the image with the Silhouette software, only to discover it was going to cut this image to bits and there wouldn't be much of a stencil left - there was still too much detail. I'd already wasted half the night and day on it, so I wasn't about to throw in the towel yet. I opted to just have the Silhouette trace the outsides of the of the letters and forgo the cutouts inside the letters. I felt it would still look good.
I watched the machine work its magic and could feel my pulse rising, as I was about ready to see if my months-long vision was going to pan out. I'm hoping I can lift and remove all the leftover letters from the cutting sheet, so I can attempt a reverse painting on another piece. I'll let you know how that works out later.
I had the perfect piece of wood that I'd been saving for this project.
It was an antique shipping lid, complete with an old paper lining on the underside, that I've been holding onto for several years. I added the old metal hinges, to help stabilize the broken piece at the top.
I cut out the image on adhesive shelf paper. Getting all those detailed cut lines separated from the backing paper without the whole thing getting stuck together was a challenge though. I held one corner with one hand, and the other corner with my teeth, while I pulled with my other hand, but I finally got it off and positioned it on a trial piece of wood, since I didn't want to risk my really old piece before I knew if it would work. This is a deeply grained piece of pressed wood siding. I did a quick spray paint over the stencil, holding my breath. Since this is very grooved wood, there were some gaps between the vinyl and the wood, making a little of the spray paint go underneath, but I was thrilled with the results.
I cut another piece of vinyl to make my sign and made sure to really press all the edges down well, and held the can straight on, not at an angle, so I wouldn't get that underspray again. Crisp and clean edges and looking good!
A little distressing and I'm in love (although I think I may distress it a bit more)!! I do wish I could have gotten rid of all the circles inside the letters, so it would look just like the original shipping crate lid, but I still love it. When I feel motivated enough, I may tweak the design some more to try to add them back in, but my brain needs a rest for now.
A rocket scientist, I tell you. I should have been a rocket scientist!