Say HELLO to my "large" little friends! | This WONDERfilled Life

I broke my own rule…never post pictures of a project that you intend to write a tutorial for, before said tutorial is actually written and posted…but in my defense I just got so excited…

Chicago Public Schools start school the day after Labor Day, so our summer is slowly coming to an end.  We bought a new projector during Amazon Prime Days and have been slowly getting our backyard ready to watch some “movies in the park”.  It’s been a process…we had to make a mount for the projector, get the screen to be the right size and figure out how to easily put everything up and down without leaving anything permanent on our beautiful “OASIS”.  (I have a post about our screen and mount coming soon!) Well all this random information culminates in us FINALLY hosting our first backyard movie night.  We wanted to be able to invite some of our closest families so P got to invite her friends and their families over to view her choice, Mary Poppins Returns, and it’s all happening next weekend! Now, originally this was just a, “hey -  come over for some popcorn and a backyard movie” and then my brain started turning…and I started things about little things I could do to sort of augment the experience…and the next thing you know I am making giant photo props and movie night accessories! Typical WonderJo…

I’ve made larger (bigger than a standard 8.5”x11”) photo props before, for my baby shower with P, but I used my printer only (we have a decent laser printer) and hand cut the cardboard backing with an exacto knife. 

I did something similar for the much larger friends I made this week, but with the help of my Cameo I could cut out most of the actual colored sections on my machine, which allowed me to get some more depth to the characters, and have some fun playing with paper patterns and colors. 

So I will try and walk you thru how I made these…full disclosure, I use Adobe’s Creative Suite, BUT, since I know not everyone has access to that software, I will show you how you can make these with just Silhouette Studio and Adobe's FREE Acrobat Reader.

First, settle in, because there will be some trial and error.  You need to decide what you want to make and the size. ***NOTE - in both cases of the characters I made, Shamus and Mr. Penguin,  I purposely choose to use the black outline in my final cut out.  I feel it gives it a real cartoon like feel.  I bought a 4’ wide by 12’ long roll of black paper at Michaels for $10.  By doing this I can use the negative space from the inside elements to “create” the draw line.  I feel like it is really effective.  So everything you see on my finished Penguin that is black is actually the solid (not sliced up) black backing piece. 

For this tutorial I will use the penguin from the original Mary Poppins as my example.

First, find your image, you could scan in an image, or in my case I grabbed one off of the internet. You should be aware of how Copyright Laws work, and when possible contact the owner of any original artwork to discuss use and permission.

Once you have your image saved you can drag it into Silhouette Studio.  Now, your first inclination might be to blow it up right away, but as you can see below it will most likely pixelate pretty badly, and the tracing will reflect that, so I recommend tracing your images first, then blowing them up.

I love the trace by color option for anything cartooned.  Play around with the different options, ie, tolerance, single area verses all areas, fills and outlines.  You want the “smoothest” trace.  When you think you have it click “Trace and Detach”.  I trace and grab everything INSIDE the black outline first and pull it to the side.  I also recommend coloring white or gray images in bright colors so you do not lose them when working on different parts of the image. 

Remember to grab every little detail! Here I had to remember to trace the black outline of the eye and delete it from my head cut (we're using the black backing as a negative space outline) and then trace the small white eye lid so we can glue that back on inside the head piece at the end!

Once I have all the “inside” elements I trace the outline (in this case the black image) I trace this time, and pull the tracing away from the image then select for it to only have the black outline.  Bare with me, there is a good reason for this!

The next part is sizing, and this can be tricky.  You want to keep everything the same proportions, so I try and group everything together with in the same height of the image I am going to size so I can grab and size them all together at the same time. Keeping them all the same size.  You can see in the screen shot that all the colored parts are squished together in the space between the penguins head and feet on my full outline.  You could also overlap them, what ever, but you need to be able to pull the outlined image bigger and see the size on the bounding box.  If you extra pieces are outside the size of the main image you won’t get an accurate measurement. 

Next, using the bounding box handles pull your image and extra pieces to the size you want.

You could also just use the “200%” tool if you don’t have a specific size you want…again you decide, you play around and when in doubt “CTRL-Z” (edit undo) will be your best friend!

With your character sized to your preference open a new Studio window/project.  Copy your main, outlined image, and paste it into the new project file.  Now we will make a few changes to the paper set up setting so we can save the outline and print it for our guide to cut the cardboard and your backing paper (if you do not want seams in the main backing).

You can see once you’ve pasted your outline into your new project it is far bigger than the 12”x 12” mat size in Studio.  Open the “Page Set Up” menu and under “Page Size” scroll down to “CUSTOM”.  Make your page size big enough to fit your image on.  In this example it was 18” wide by 36” tall. If you do not resize your “page” to fit your image when you save as a PDF you will only get parts of the image fit on the first 8.5”x 11” piece of paper.

Once you’ve changed that setting go to FILE> SAVE AS> SAVE TO HARDDRIVE and then save your file as a “Portable Document File” otherwise known as a PDF. 

Now open up Acrobat/PDF reader.  If you don’t have it you can download reader here.  

Open your newly saved file.  You should see your image in all its LARGE glory.  

Select FILE>PRINT and go to the “Page Sizing and Handling Section” and choose “POSTER”.  You should see your image now across many standard page sizes.  You can even choose to print with cut marks so you know where to cut and reattach your pages together. 

You can either trim your image before you tape your pieces together or after.  I tend to trim large sections off but trim the entire image to the image outline once all the pieces have been taped together. 

This is now your character template and I use this to draw the outline of my finished image on my cardboard.  I find it easier to use a fat sharpie and draw over the edge of the template, so the tip is half on the template and half on the cardboard.  When you pull the paper template back you’re left with a really nice, distinct line.  I use an exacto knife to cut out the cardboard.  I know you’re thinking what? But it actually doesn’t take that long.  And my experience is that this is quicker and leaves a cleaner edge than using scissors.

I also used the paper template for my black backing.  Now, you CAN use the slice tool (keep reading we’re getting to that!) to slice up your backing image into Cameo mat sized pieces, but I prefer having a solid backing when possible so it is worth it to me to trace the paper template on the cardboard and the black paper backing. I want to add that I also tried just cutting the cardboard and gluing a large square of my backing paper to the carboard cut out, flipped it over and used the exacto knife to trim the black backing paper.  This works, but I think my blade was little dull so on my second go I trace the template and cut the outline a little wider than my tracing.  If you do this it should cover your cardboard cut out almost perfectly and if you want make sure you don’t have issues, when cutting the cardboard cut out you can cut a little under the tracing line.  I hope that all makes sense.

I made a boo boo when gluing my black backing to my cardboard…I knew better…really I did…but I covered my cardboard in Modge Podge and laid down my paper…oh my heck…it was bubbling, and tearing (the roll of black paper is on the thinner side!) when I tried to smooth out the ripples so I had to pull it all off.  Thankfully I put the Modge Podge on the shiny side of the cardboard box so I quickly grabbed a hot wash cloth and washed off the glue.  Once it was dry I grabbed a new piece of backing and use a trusty glue stick (Elmer’s Purple) to attach the backing to the cardboard.  It was perfect.  There are no bubbles or tearing because of saturated paper.  *breathes a sigh of relief*

With my main outline cut out of cardboard and black paper and the two fused together I moved onto the “inside” or “colored” elements of Mr. Penguin.
This is where you will use your Cameo to start cutting things, remember, if you don’t want to trace your black outline you can slice it the same way I am going to show you below and have your machine cut your backing piece but you will have seams!

Open back up your original Studio file with all your traced elements.

Drag your large image and image trace off to the side.  We’re only dealing with the pieces we need to cut and glue onto our black backing piece.  I like to keep track of everything by color.  In this case everything purple will be cut out of white.  I chose purple because you can loose the little white piece too easily on the mat.  The light purple will be cut out of gray card stock since they are “shadows”. 

As you can see, the face and the eye pieces all fit on one mat cut.  Easy! I do recommend that you check a few things before you cut though.  First click send and check out the cut lines on your pieces. 

These ones look fine, but when I was doing Shamus, a few things were traced into different shapes and I had a few pieces cut with slices and what not…I found by just double checking the cut line you can see very quickly if you need to “clean up” or even sometimes just weld your cuts before sending them off. 

I also like to grab the “edit point” tool and select my images and check for any weird points, or curves that muddle up the design.  If you see anything weird you can select that point and delete or grab the handles to adjust the curves.  The more simple the image you are using/tracing the less you’ll nee to worry about this. But if you cut something and it has a slice cut into it or a weird angle check these two options and usually a little point clean up will do the trick.

So everything on our penguin can be cut on a regular mat (even at his large 36” height) except for his stomach! So we will use the “SLICE” tool to cut his stomach up into however many pieces we need to get him cut out. 

The Slice tool is the second from the bottom on your left side tool menu.  I have the Business Edition, so I have a few more options, or so I am told, but all versions have the basic slice tool. Double check at the top of your screen that you have selected “straight” so you will be slicing via a straight line. Decide where you need to slice, hold down the shift key and drag the knife across your image.  Let go and…tah dah! You have sliced your image! Continue to move your image over the mat and slice away.  Holding the shift key while slicing will allow you to cut straight across your image, basically snapping to the grid.  You can cut up your image as many times as you need to get it to fit on what ever size paper you have.  So if you only have 8.5”x 11” paper just make sure you’re slicing the image to fit that size. 

Using this same technique you can cut the backing paper for your cardboard character, or even your tracing template for cutting your cardboard.  Use whatever method in whatever order that works for you!

After you have your pieces cut out I like to flip them over and tape the sliced images back together before I glue them onto my character boards. 

That’s it! I can’t wait to see all the fabulous characters you all make and the joy on your family and friends faces when they can stand face to face with their favorite characters!

Here's a few more shots of gluing my movie night props together!

I’ll post backyard movie photos after the big event next week.  I have an idea for a super easy photo backdrop that I can’t wait to try and share…if it works!


  1. Thank you! I love it! I will use this tutorial for our school book fair decor! You mentioned you use Adobe creative suite, I would love to read about that too. Is it possible to write up a quick summary so those of us familiar with it can see what you did? Thank you again!


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