Understand the System
You should also be prepared to cut your photos. There are no overlays in this system that cover a portion of your picture. Rather, you trim your photos and/or paper to fit the grid. The type of photo you have, whether it be a professional portrait, a snapshot, or a picture printed off your phone, will help dictate how you cut your photo and what types of dies you might use.
Note: Never cut a Polaroid. These should be scanned and reprinted or matted and placed on the page. Cutting it may release harmful chemicals into the air and will cause the photo to disintegrate over time.
You simply open the package, separate the pieces, and adhere each one in the place designated. Then, you trim your photos to fit and place them on the photo mats. It is that simple and can take as little as 15 minutes to complete.
Note: Be sure to use only quality adhesive designed for scrapbooking. Inexpensive brands may dry out over time causing all of the pieces of your page to fall apart. Learn from our mistakes! We recommend the Herma™ Dotto Dispenser and glue. It is re-positionable while you work on it and it becomes permanent over time. Most importantly, it has been tested for decades and it continues to be the best we can find.
To get everything to fit perfectly on the grid paper, you will want to line up the top, left corner of your element, with the coordinating mark on the grid paper. You want to stay as close to the line as you can, without seeing the line. That way, when you are finished, everything will automatically be straight and evenly spaced.
Tip: Some find it easiest to place the element in the corner of the grid line, even with the top grid line. Place a finger there to hold it then gently line up the left side.
Start Die Cutting
To use the machine, you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to create a “sandwich.” This is a stack of platforms, cutting plates, dies, and paper or photos. As a general rule, you should only use the plates and platforms designed for your machine, as every machine is a little bit different and improper use can break the machine.
Cutting plates are generally items that will have to be replaced over time. Each time you use them, they are being bent around a die and being cut into. Over time, they may become warped, but when they stop cutting cleanly, they need to be replaced. For this reason, select a machine that is still being made and one that it is easy to find accessories or replacement plates.
Note: Because these machines use pressure to cut, you will get small creases around the edges of your photos when using thin-metal dies. Some people are bothered by this. If you are one of those, choose a machine that allows you to change the amount of pressure used. Or, select a Sizzix machine, like a Big Shot, Big Kit, or Vagabond and replace the top cutting plate (the one you do NOT cut into) with the Sizzix Crease Pad.
There are some dies that do not fit the grid. These typically come in sets and are usually colored on the packaging with either dots or pastel shades. These dies are meant to cut layers that go over another die cut that fits the grid.
Look at Set A, for example. The solid blue shapes on the packaging represent the dies that fit the grid. The dotted shapes are layers. So, you would use the solid blue dies to cut a photo mat and then the dotted layer to cut your photo, creating a perfectly matted picture that fits the grid.
Horizon Dies - Level 2
Crisscross Dies - Level 3
Explore the Pattern Gallery
Decorative, border or specialty dies can be substituted for a die of the same size. For example, the Hand Bell Die can be used in place of a 2x2 blue space on the pattern and the 3 Rings Die can be substituted for the orange 1x4 space on the pattern. The inserts show the color you would match with on the page patterns.
Image below shows the Star Flower 1x3 die, which is purple on the insert. For this die, you would look for patterns with 1x3 purple design spots, such as pattern #100 below.
Shapes on the pattern gallery can be filled with anything you wish – a picture, a matted journaling block, a title, a decorative die cut, patterned paper, cardstock, etc. You simply cut it with the die that cuts that size and shape, and you are ready to go.
Note: Should you choose to cut by hand, rather than using the dies, the sizes of each element are listed below the pattern.
Many of the dies are open, meaning you can see through the center of them. Flipping the die over, so the cutting edge is against your photo, allows you to quickly get an idea of how the photo will look if you use that die. This is a handy way to choose the perfect photo for the die before you cut.
Note: Try not to cut any faces into small pieces. The end result is never flattering.
The second way to select the correct photos is to think about the layout you plan to use while taking the photos. So, if you plan to create a faux panoramic, you can take photos along the horizon that can later be pieced together. Or, you might take pictures of a brick wall to fill in the frame around a picture of person. And, you may take extra photos of shrubs to use to fill in the blank spaces on your floral mosaic.
Many of the dies, especially those in the Adventure Category, often require less zooming in or getting close to a subject. These are ideal when you are naturally far away – like at the beach or an amusement park or sporting event. They also work great for travel photos where you want the mountain or monument or skyscraper behind your subject to be included in the photo.
Regardless, with the ability to take unlimited digital photos that can simply be deleted, take extras from different perspectives, at different depths, and of virtually everything. Then, choose a pattern or die set to work with before you have them printed. That way, you can decide which photos work best before you have them printed, and then delete those you do not need.