This is my program of choice for light image editing. I use it to prep images to make them easier to trace. You can get it here.
I do not recommend Gimp as it is a beast to learn, which is not practical for our purposes. Others swear by it, though, and so I think it deserves a mention. You can get it here.
Vector illustrations, unlike raster illustrations, are re-sizable with no loss of quality. What your machine cuts are the vector lines that make up the illustration.
This is a great program, although I think it could benefit from a UI overhaul. It is not as intuitive as Illustrator, but it doesn’t have the price tag of Illustrator, either! I use it to convert SVGs to DXFs, which is probably what you would be using it for too. You can get it here.
- Be sure to pick up the Big Blue Saw’s DXF Export Plugin for Inkscape here. Write down the steps that he gives about proper exporting. It will not work if you do not follow them! Don’t worry; it’s not hard. After you do it a few times, you will be able to do it without looking at your notes. ^_^
Free programs are great, but pay programs are still around because they can provide you with more intuitive and stronger tools, easier to learn environment, and speed up the process of whatever you’re trying to do.
Cutting Machine Software
Silhouette Studio Designer Edition
I’d be remiss not to mention the pay version of the Silhouette Studio. It allows the usage of SVGs, instead of having to convert your SVGs to DXFs! It’s a double time saver from having to convert and then having to color and arrange to make it look how it would as an SVG. It’s worth buying on sale just for that.
Not only can MTC do everything SSDE does, it also works with most other die cutting machines and it can load “thin fonts” for machines to do lettering that looks like handwriting!
If you have bought a Cut It already, it was probably made in Illustrator. Adobe has made a new friendly way to get into using their products-the Creative Cloud. Instead of the hefty, initial price tag, you can get it for $20/month here.
If you’re more into tracing than creating your own, you might want to check out Vector Magic. Its tracing capabilities outdo Illustrator’s built in tracing. If you sign up for their website, you can do a few traces for free to try it out. They have a subscription model like Adobe, except theirs is only $7.95/month for unlimited traces. Go to their website here.