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Cricut Print-Then-Cut Hack, revised

Updated 01/15/2024

Print on a full page with this Cricut print-then-cut hack

Cricut Design Space prevents you from using the full area of an 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper when using their print-then-cut. Unless you know some tricks.

what you'will find here

why i came up with this cricut print-then-cut hack

One of the four areas I focus on in my small business consulting is evaluating systems and helping find the right tools for you to do you work with more ease, less time, and less money. That's what this post is about.

Some of you may know I am starting a second eCommerce business. Deer Heart Solutions is a new creative outlet for me - I make health and beauty care products with aromatherapy that compliments the treatments. I've been busy, building this from the ground up, entirely by myself. I have gotten to work with my hands and help calm my own anxiety and trauma. I've provided valuable tools to people. I've learned a ridiculous amount of biochemistry and how to manage a cosmetics lab space at home. I created some complex databases on Airtable, where I compile my research on ingredients, create formulas, track inventory, check safe dilution levels, reference a catalog of chemical constituents, and manage my budgets. And, I've made huge strides in my graphic design and website design skills.

Here's my logo and a couple of product graphics.

I spent a lot of time developing the brand and designing the packaging because it is such an important part of marketing a business like this. Also, health and beauty products, packaging is one of the most expensive items in the Cost of Goods. Because I have many different products that each require different labels, it was cost prohibitive and demanded too much space for storage for me to use a traditional printer for labels. Because my business goals are not for this to be a huge enterprise, it made sense for me to look for alternatives.

It turns out that I could purchase a good (not great) ink jet printer and a craft cutting machine for less than it would cost to order rolls of mediocre labels for a few products.

I initially bought a Canon Pixma G6020 Mega Tank Ink Jet printer but the print quality was inconsistent and it died after a year of use. I'm now using a Canon Pixma ix6820 inkjet printer, which produces higher quality prints. (The ink is crazy expensive and have found cartridges from E-Z Ink have the best color match.) I've been using a Cricut Maker - which vacillates from amazingly awesome to frustrating and disappointing.

Cricut Design Space has a print-then-cut feature. You can design your labels then use Design Space to print them on 8.5 X 11 sheets of printable vinyl then cut them. Cricut limits the print area to 9.25" x 6.75", forcing you to lose 3 square inches printable vinyl. That may not seem like much, but it adds up.

The other issue is my labels are designed with a full bleed. Cricut has a function to add a bleed, but it looks terrible.

I did extensive research and developed a way to get around the first restriction. But, because Cricut cutting matts have a bad design that makes it difficult to get a page to line up correctly, I ended up wasting a lot of time and vinyl because of poorly aligned cuts. Time and practice led me to develop this new hack. There are more steps, but the labels are always cut correctly with a full bleed.

DH Solutions branded section header

designing your labels

For my example, I am creating 5 inch by 2 inch stickers for my shipping boxes.

Example label to make with Cricut print-then-cut hack

I developed this new Cricut print-then-cut hack by following the design requirements of a professional print house. When designing your label, there are 3 borders to work with: a Safety line, a Trim line, and Bleed.

  • The Trim Line is the actual cut of the final design.

  • The Bleed is the area outside of theTrim Line and must be 1/8 inch away from the Trim Line.

  • The Safety Line is 1/8 inch less than the Trim Line.

The distance between Bleed and Trim Line and between Trim Line and Safety Line will always be 1/8 inch, regardless of the size of your label. This means that for small labels, there is a much smaller "safe" area to work within.

Example of printing bleed, trim, and safety lines

size of canvas

The first step when designing your label is to create workspace/canvas that is 0.25 inches wider and 0.25 inches taller than the size of your label. For my design, the canvas is 5.25 inches wide and 2.25 tall.

Showing the canvas size

add cut line

Add a rectangle to the canvas that is the size of the label. If your program allows, name this layer Trim Line. Position this at X 0.125, Y 0.125. This places it in the center of the workspace, 1/8 inch away from all edges of the canvas. I remove the fill color, give it a brightly colored border. and lock the position. As I am designing, I sometimes need to move this layer to the top so it's not covered by graphic elements I add.

Showing the trim line size

add safety line

Create a Safety Line by adding a second rectangle to the canvas. Make this rectangle 0.25 inches narrower and 0.25 inches shorter than your label size. My example has a Safety Line that is 4.75 inches wide and 1.75 inches tall. Follow the same process as done for the Trim Line so the Safety Line is centered.

Showing the trim line size

design considerations

While designing your label, keep all important text inside the Safety Line. And remember that anything in the bleed area outside of the Trim Line will be cut and removed.

DH Solutions branded section header 2

preparing print file

When your finished designing your label, you can delete or hide the Safety Line.

Because my design has multiple elements that extend off the canvas, I group everything (except the Trim Line) then mask that in a rectangle that is the same size as the canvas. This gives me a single element with clean edges to work with.

create canvas for label sheet

Create a new workspace/canvas that is 8.5 inches wide and 11 inches tall. (I've made this gray for visibility.) Name this canvas "Print Labels."

Sizing the design canvas for printed labels

Copy your label design and the Trim Line and paste them on the new canvas. It should be positioned at X 0, Y 0. Group the label design and the Trim Line.

Example of design used in Cricut print then cut

Because most printers have a margin, you want to position the label/Trim Line grouping at X 0.25 inches and Y 0.25 inches.

Example of design used in Cricut print then cut

Copy and paste the label design/Trim Line grouping to fill the page with labels. The second image shows that Cricut's print-then-cut size restrictions would allow for fewer labels than this hack.

Create a third canvas that is also 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Name it "Label Trim Lines."

On the "Print Labels" canvas, ungroup the Trim Lines from the label designs. Cut the Trim Lines and paste them in the "Label Trim Lines" canvas.

Trim lines for Cricut Print then cut

The "Print Labels" canvas will now only have the label designs. Export it as a .PDF or .PNG file that is 300 dpi. Print the labels on your printable vinyl and set aside.

Branded graphic for section 3 header

preparing the cut file

Now, we are going to adjust the size and placement of the Trim Lines on the "Labels Trim Lines" canvas to ensure a good cut. Here is where the steps in this hack will sound crazy - but trust me. It works.

After much trial and error, I found that the best alignment happens when I create a .png file for the cut lines that is 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches. The grid on a Cricut cut mat is 12 inches by 12 inches, but, much like a printer, Cricut has a 1/4 inch margin. This means the maximum size of a cut file is 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches.

change canvas size

Without moving any of the Trim Lines, change the size of the "Label Trim Lines" canvas so it is 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches.

Resized trim lines for Cricut Print then cut

When I put the printed labels on the Cricut mat, I want to use the grid's border as my guide lines. Because the grid is 12 inches by 12 inches and Cricut won't let you use a file larger than 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches, we need to re-position the trim lines.

Add a rectangle to the canvas that is 12 inches by 12 inches and is positioned at X 0, Y 0. The new rectangle will extend beyond the canvas.

Resized trim lines for Cricut Print then cut

Group the Trim Lines and this new rectangle. Change the position of this element to X -0.25, Y -0.25. The next image shows that the Trim Lines are now closer to the edge of the canvas and the 12x12 rectangle is centered on the canvas.

Resized trim lines for Cricut Print then cut

Ungroup the Trim Lines and rectangle. Delete that rectangle.

The file we upload to Cricut will need a transparent background so Cricut can identify the Trim Lines. But, Cricut will only recognize the parts of the image that are showing and will ignore any transparent part of the image that is outside the area taken up by the Tim Lines. This means when the file is uploaded to Design Space, it will not longer be square. It will just be the Trim Lines. Because Cricut will sometimes resize the file when you add it to Design Space, if it is not square, there are more steps to get the file sized and positioned correctly. And that means more room for error.

To trick Cricut into recognizing the entire 11.5 inch square, we need to add anchors to the top right corner and the bottom left corner of our canvas. When the file is uploaded to Cricut Design Space, Cricut recognizes the entire area of the design.

To create the anchors, add a 0.25 inch square to the canvas. Align it to the right and top. (Or, position the element at X 11.25, Y 0.) Copy and paste to add another rectangle. Align this one to the bottom and left. (Or, position it at X0, Y 11.25.)

Resized trim lines for Cricut Print then cut

Group the Trim Lines and the anchors, then export the "Label Trim Lines" canvas with a transparent background. It can be either a .PNG file or an .SVG file. If you use a .PNG file, Cricut will also cut those anchor shapes. If you use an .SVG file, you can delete those shapes just before sending the file to cut.

Branded graphic for section header

cutting the labels

Open up Cricut and click the New Project button. Upload your "Labels Trim Lines" file and add to the project.

I am using an .SVG file and forgot to group everything before I exported it. You can see here that Cricut randomly decided to rearrange my shapes.

Cricut rearranged the shapes in my SVG file

I grouped everything and uploaded the new file. Cricut still messed with the positions. I had to join the Trim Line shapes in my design program before Cricut would stop rearranging things. But, it was sized wrong so I resized the image to 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches. (Now you might understand why Cricut can be so frustrating.)

Uploading an SVG file to Cricut Design Space

Because I used an .SVG, I delete the red anchors. If Cricut had worked as it should with the original file I uploaded, I would need to use the Attach function so Cricut would not rearrange the shapes when I send it to cut. But, Because I joined the Trim Lines in my design program, I don't need to do that this time.

If you are using a .PNG file, Cricut won't rearrange your Trim Lines, but it will cut the anchor squares. Prep your cutting mat by placing some masking tape in the top right and bottom left corners.

When you hit that Make button, you'll see the group of Trim Lines are 0.25 inches from the top and left side - just like the printed labels.

Uploading an SVG file to Cricut Design Space

Put your printed labels on your Cricut mat. Align the sheet to the top and left edges of the grid. If your printed labels look like the top or left margin is not 0.25 inches (the printer settings may be off), then you may need to adjust the placement to ensure the top and left edge of the first label design is 0.25 inches from the top and left grid border.)

I like to add some masking tape at the corners just in case my mat has lost some of its stickiness. Then set your Base Material to the Printable Vinyl option and cut.

Here is my original sticker design and photos of the printed stickers with the excess vinyl removed. You can see the labels cut fairly spot on to where I wanted them to. I'm happy with the results. And I am ecstatic I only had one minor issue with Cricut.

Oh yeah! I should mention that if you want labels that are waterproof, then use your spray varnish AFTER you cut the labels. Otherwise the varnish can mess up your blade.

I hope you found this helpful. If there is anything I need to clarify, please et me know!


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