Did-It-Myself SVG Monogram Tutorial | Part Two: Tracing in Inkscape

August 11, 2013

**UPDATE 4.11.14 You can now purchase the complete circle monogram alphabet SVG file in my Etsy shop!

Check out how I used Picasa to get my letter templates in Part One of this tutorial.

If I haven't scared you away with all of the cropping and chopping I did in Picasa in Part One, let me see if I can run you off with Inkscape in Part Two... just kidding! Hopefully I have broken down my process enough so you can follow right along with me. But first, let me tell you about my newest best friend, Inkscape.

Inkscape is a vector graphics editor with capabilities similar to Adobe Illustrator; however, it is open source so it is available to download for FREE on both Windows and Mac. (Here's the link) DISCLAIMER: I have never used Photoshop or Illustrator, so I can not speak to the differences between the Adobe products and programs like Picasa and Inkscape. I simply use the latter because they are FREE (I love that word!) and available for Mac OS. I also have no formal training in any of the above mentioned products; I taught myself how to use both Picasa and Inkscape from tutorials online, YouTube videos, and a lot of trial and error. So trust me, I know all those little buttons and tools can be a bit intimidating for a first time user, but I'm hoping that this post might help you get over some of those "first date jitters."

So let's get right on down to the good part...

I started with a blank document in Inkscape. To get my letter templates that I created in Picasa, I simply clicked the Import button on the toolbar and selected the file that contained my first letter.
I did this for all three of the letters I needed for my monogram. Now I needed a circle to place behind my letters and act as a guide. To draw a circle, I simply selected the circle tool on the left hand toolbar, then held the "control" key on my keyboard while I clicked and dragged. Holding the control key locks the aspect ratio so I end up with a circle instead of an oval.
To change the size of my circle, I selected the arrow on the left hand toolbar (this is the selector tool which allows you to select any object on the page). After I selected the circle, some new options appeared on the top toolbar, including a field marked with a "W" for width, one with an "H" for height and a lock in the middle of the two fields for locking the aspect ratio. Since I used the control button when I drew my circle, the two values in the W and H fields are the same. After I lock the aspect ratio, I can change the value in the W field and the value in the H field will adjust automatically and vice versa.
I adjusted the size of my circle to accommodate my letters--the size that ended up working for me was 151.522 pixels. So now that I had my circle template, I needed to get my letters into a format that I could manipulate/scale/change the colors, etc. To do this I used a function called "trace bitmap" (it only sounds fancy, it really is fairly straight forward).

I used the selector tool to select the image I wanted to trace. Then under the "Path" menu, I selected "Trace Bitmap" to open the trace options screen.
I used the "Brightness cutoff" setting and adjusted the threshold to 0.540. I clicked update which gave me a preview of the trace. If it didn't look right, I could change the settings before hitting OK (which executes the trace) and closing out of the window.
After the trace is executed and the trace window is closed, my page looks exactly the same as before the trace. But alas--after simply clicking on the letter with the selector tool and dragging the object a little to the side, a traced copy of the letter is revealed!
TA-DA! Pretty cool, huh? At this point I changed the traced letter to a different color to make it easier to distinguish from my template, and I changed the color of the circle I drew earlier. I chose a light turquoise/aqua-ish blue for the circle and fuchsia for the letters. I liked these colors because there was a good amount of contrast between the two and I was still able to see the outside edge of the circle.

NOTE: The "W" looks a little funny because of the watermark in the original image. That's OK, I show you how I got it all fixed up in Part Three.
After I traced all three of my letters, I removed some of the clutter on my page by deleting the letter templates (since I traced them, I didn't need them anymore). Next, I arranged my letters on top of my circle, in order of course. I tried to get the letters aligned as close to the edge of my circle as possible while maintaining even spacing between the letters. The letters did not align with the edge of the circle perfectly and there's also that "W" to deal with, but it was starting to look like a monogram!
Now that I showed you how easy it is to trace in Inkscape, do you want to know how I got my edges to align neatly with the circle? Or how I fixed the funkiness with the "W"? Check out Part Three of my SVG Monogram Tutorial: Editing Nodes and Paths in Inkscape! And in case you missed it, here's the link for Part One.

Did-It-Myself SVG Monogram Tutorial
Part One: Picasa

June 10, 2013

DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
I love monograms, maybe because I just love my name; I love that it's unique, and I love the history behind it! My parents named both my sister and me after relatives -- My grandmother's name is Sarah and my mom's name is Jean. They thought there were too many just plain Sarah's (and there are quite a few) so they decided to call me by both my first and middle name, Sarah Jean.  A lot of my close friends and family just call me SJ for short, and I jump at any chance I get to put my initials/monogram on something. So here's how I made my own monogram in SVG format...

Wait, what is SVG? SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. According toWikipedia, "SVG is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics that has support for interactivity and animation." There's a bunch more technical jargon that goes into it, but basically the biggest difference between SVG and a typical graphic file, such as a .JPEG or .GIF, is that a vector graphic can be scaled (i.e. enlarged) while preserving its shape--there are no pixels! This means with a single SVG file you can make a HUGE canvas or a tiny business card. You can create SVG files with programs like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

Now on to the monogram making... The first step in making my own SVG monogram was to find a monogram alphabet. I love the geometric, clean lines of a circle monogram, and I ended up choosing this alphabet to use as a template. I recommend choosing a file that is fairly large to avoid the letters being too pixelated; the file I used wasn't an SVG file, so if I had to enlarge any of the letters I was going to lose some of the definition. For reference, the file I chose was 1062x1408 pixels. Next I needed to do some cropping and chopping. I opened my file in Picasa to edit my image. Here's how I made my edits: 
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ
DIY SVG Circle Monogram Tutorial by Hey, It's SJ

After I had three separate files for each of the three letters in my monogram, I was ready to use Inkscape to create my SVG Monogram.

You can read part two of my tutorial here: Part Two: Tracing in Inkscape

And here's Part Three: Editing Nodes and Paths in Inkscape

**UPDATE 4.11.14 You can now purchase the complete circle monogram alphabet SVG file in my Etsy shop!

Monogram Madness!

May 26, 2013

This past week I have been diligently working on an entire circle monogram alphabet using Inkscape and I have finally finished all 26 sets of letters!

Now I can make a monogram with any letter combination imaginable and I can completely customize the size and color depending on the project.

I've put together a tutorial to show ya'll how I used Picasa and Inkscape to create this monogram alphabet.
  • In Part One I used Picasa to edit and crop an image to use as a template.
  • Part Two shows you how I used the trace bitmap function in Inkscape to convert the template into SVG format.
  • And Part Three explains how I edited nodes and paths in Inkscape to get nice clean, crisp letters.

**UPDATE 4.11.14 You can now purchase the SVG file that contains all 26 sets of letters in left, middle, and right positions in my Etsy shop!

Did-It-Myself Made-from-Scratch, Custom Corn Hole Bags

March 12, 2013

DIY Custom Cornhole Bags by Hey It's SJ

When I decided to make a set of custom corn hole boards for a close friend of mine, I knew a set of store-bought cornhole bags just wouldn't do. A quick trip to the American Cornhole Association's website provided me these specifications for tournament sanctioned bags:
The corn bags shall be made from two fabric squares with a quarterinch double stitched seam on all four sides. The corn bags should be made from 12 oz / sq yd duck canvas and may be any color that is easy to see during Cornhole play. Each bag shall be filled with approximately 2 cups of corn feed and finished bags should be a minimum of 6" X 6" square and weigh between 14 and 16 ounces.
This gave me the perfect starting point for designing and making my very own bags; however, I did fudge a couple of things in order to make my life a little easier:
  • I used the 10 oz duck canvas that they carry at Joann's. This saved me from having to order 12 oz canvas from somewhere online, which would mean not being able to see the color in person, paying for shipping, and waiting for it to arrive. The bags I made almost a year ago from the 10 oz canvas have held up extremely well, even with constant use.
  • I cut my fabric squares 7 inches square, which gave me a 1/2 seam allowance. This gave me some room to breathe when doing the double stitching, and by trimming the seam allowance before turning I think it probably ended up being pretty close to 1/4 inch in the end.
Anywaysss, let's get on to the fun part!

I started with 1/4 of a yard each of orange and black duck cloth. For a set of four bags, I cut 8 squares that measured 7 inches by 7 inches from each color, so I had 8 orange squares and 8 black squares. For the design on the bags, I used the same mixture of textile medium and acrylic paint that I used on my American Flag Shorts. I painted four of the orange squares to look like basketballs and four of the black squares with a UNC Asheville "A." After the paint was dry, I heat set the design with an iron, following the directions on the textile medium bottle.

Then it was time to break out the sewing machine! I took two squares, one painted with a design and one plain, and pinned them right sides together. Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, I sewed along the dotted blue line in the diagram below, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end of the stitching for added strength--after all, these bags are going to be tossed around quite a bit! For reinforcement, I sewed into the seam allowance about 1/8 inch from my first stitching line, as indicated by the green dotted line in the diagram.
Diagram of where to sew cornhole bags
Here's what one of my squares looked like once I was done sewing--

Bag after both seams are sewn
After all of my squares were sewn together, I trimmed the corners and the seam allowance. I left the bottom seam allowance at 1/2 inch to make it easier to sew the opening closed after filling the bags.
Bag after seams are trimmed
Then I turned each bag right side out and finger-pressed the seam allowance to the inside of the bag.
Bag turned right side out with opening seams pressedBag turned right side out
For filler I used whole corn feed that I picked up at my local Southern States. You can buy a 50 pound bag (which would make approximately 50 bags) or you can buy it by the pound (which is what I did) and not have 42 extra pounds of whole corn feed laying around. Since ACA regulation corn hole bags weigh between 14-16 ounces a piece, I purchased 8 pounds of feed and even ended up having a little extra left over. Using a kitchen scale to measure, I filled each bag until it weighed approximately one pound.

After the bag was filled, I pinned the opening closed. Then I pushed all of the corn to the side of the bag opposite the opening and added some pins to keep the corn out of the way of my sewing machine. Here's what the bag looked like after I was done pinning--
Bag pinned closed and so corn is out of the way
NOTE: I did not paint a design on the bags I used to take these pictures, but if I had, the design should be on the side showing in the picture above.
Next I sewed straight across the entire length of the side with the opening, getting as close to edge of the bag as possible to make sure I caught the seam allowance. I also back stitched at the beginning and end of the seam for added strength.
Bag sewn closed
HINT: Whenever I top stitch anything, I always use a hand sewing needle to bring the top thread to the back or wrong side of whatever I'm sewing and tie a knot with the bobbin thread. This gives the bag a more finished look, plus I like to think it helps keep the seam from unraveling over time (<- not sure how true that is, but I haven't had any issues like that so far, knock on wood!)
Using needle to bring thread to back of bag
I sewed another line directly on top of my first one, complete with back stitching and knotting the two threads on the back side of the bag, and voila! I had my very own made-from-scratch, custom cornhole bag.
Finished cornhole bag
And after all eight bags were sewn up, I was finished with my complete, custom corn hole set!
Finished bags with painted on designs
Finished bags with UNC Asheville logo
Finished bags with basketball design

Want to know how I made my custom corn hole boards? Check out this post!

Did-It-Myself Custom, Made-from-Scratch Corn Hole Boards

February 13, 2013

DIY Custom Cornhole Boards by Hey It's SJ
It's hard to imagine a tailgate, cookout, or any summer gathering without yard games, and cornhole is easily my favorite. When one of my good friends told me he was moving into a new house, I knew a set of alma mater-themed cornhole boards would make the perfect housewarming gift. Here's how I made a completely custom set of boards and bags:

Step One: Decide on a Design

This was the easiest part of the whole process for me. My friend loves basketball, and he loves UNC Asheville. And since I had already painted him a basketball court "party" table, I knew a similar design would look awesome and he would love it.
Sketch of DIY Custom Cornhole Boards
As you can see, I didn't spend a lot of time on sketching.
As for the construction of the boards themselves, I searched the interwebs for a set of plans and there are a lot of good ones out there! I ended up reading through several and just taking bits and pieces from each that worked best with my (limited) skill set and access to tools. It would have been a lot easier to just buy a set of unfinished boards, but that's not as much fun or as fulfilling. This way I can truthfully say these boards were made-from-scratch.

Step Two: Gather Materials

After I assembled a list of materials I needed to make and paint the boards, I got to my second favorite part of the process--shopping!

Ichi accompanied me on a trip to the Home Depot where we picked up the lumber, screws and other hardware, along with some primer and protective sealant.
Ichi the Pug shopping at Home Depot

Step Three: Build the Boards

When we got home, it was time to get to work. My mom's boyfriend taught me how to use the miter saw, and with a lot of help from him, I had two homemade corn hole boards by the end of the day.
Cutting wood using the miter saw
Somehow I still have all my fingers and toes!
After all the measuring, cutting, and drilling was done, I covered all the screw heads with wood filler and then gave the whole board a good sanding, paying careful attention that the top of each board was exceptionally smooth.

Step Four: Prime & Paint

Now I was ready for my favorite (and the most time consuming) part of the process, painting. First, each board got two coats of Kilz 2 Latex Primer, then it was time to create the basketball court design.
Border and wood grain technique on DIY Custom Cornhole Boards
I used regular acrylic craft paint for the top of the boards. For the "wood" part I used a technique that I first used on a table I painted (which I also plan to do a post on eventually). To achieve this look, I painted the entire area with a light sandy color. Then with a large, dry brush, I applied a darker sienna brown color to a small area and then wiped away the excess with a paper towel until I got something that looks similar to wood grain. I repeated this process until the entire area had a wood-like finish.

Next I added all the details that make it a basketball court--three point line, free throw line and free throw lane, center circle, etc. I also added some school and conference logos to personalize it.
Basketball court design on DIY Custom Cornhole Boards
I duplicated the same process for the second board, just switching out the logos. In all, I would say I probably spent at least 50 hours on just the painting. I wanted these to be perfect and there was quite a bit of detail work, but in the end every second was worth it.
Basketball court design on DIY Custom Cornhole Boards

Step Five: Protect & Seal

Almost finished! The base of the boards got painted with black latex paint in a gloss finish, and the top got a minimum of 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. This finish is water-based so it's easy to clean up and it won't yellow over time like polyurethane; however, it's not really meant for outdoor use, so the boards should be stored inside. After I was satisfied with the coverage and smoothness of the protective finish, all that was left to do was wait for them to dry!

Step Six: Make Some Bags

A set of custom corn hole boards this awesome deserves a set of corn hole bags as equally cool. Check out how I made my own custom cornhole bags!

Step Seven: ENJOY!

After all the paint was dry and the bags were made I finally got to see the entire set together, and I must say I am pretty pleased with how they turned out.
Close up of finished DIY boards and bags
Close up of finished DIY boards and bags
Both finished DIY cornhole boards and bags
I apologize for the quality of the pictures. Once I was finally finished with everything, it was dark and pouring down rain. And the next day when I drove to meet the owner of these wonderful boards, it poured down rain the entire way. Needless to say, there was never an opportunity to take better pictures, so the ones on the kitchen floor will have to do. But the boards and bags are being put to good use at their new home!
DIY Cornhole boards and bags in use