SVG File Basics – What is an SVG?
If you’re a Cricut user then you’ve probably heard of SVG files. Maybe you’re wondering what they are exactly? I was a bit confused myself at first.There’s a lot of confusing information out there regarding SVG files. I’m hoping to cleat all that up for you in this article!
(If you are interested in learning how to design or edit SVG Files yourself you can sign-up for my free mini-course.)
You can also join my Cricut Facebook Group where I love to hear your suggestions and requests for new free files! As well as answer any questions you may have about your Cricut Machine or SVG file design.
What is an SVG File?
SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic. Just as the name implies, it is a vector and scales well. This is due to it being in XML format. All of the information on the designs color, size, curves is stored in text files. This makes them very easy to edit in a non-destructive way and without losing quality.
This may sound a bit confusing, at first. Don’t worry, I was also very confused when I first started my crafting journey. Once you learn the basics of how different image formats function, it all starts to make a lot more sense and editing SVG Files also becomes A LOT easier!
Vector vs Raster
The simplest way to explain what a vector is, is by comparing it to a raster image (like a PNG or JPG). Raster images are pixel based. This means they are made up of tiny little squares.
If you have ever enlarged a raster image you may have noticed it will become pixelated and blurry.
The image below shows both a raster file in PNG format and vector file in SVG format enlarged. As you can see the PNG appears pixelated, while the SVG remains clear and crisp.
Vector formats, however, are infinitely scalable. They are defined using algorithms and made up of paths. The paths are created using nodes/anchor points (data points). Nodes also have handles that control their curves.
You may be asking, what does this have to do with my Cricut, though? And that is a great question!
The answer is…well, everything really!
Why does Cricut use SVG Files?
Design Space does not allow us to see all the data the SVG file contains. However, softwares like Adobe Illustrator and Inksapce do. Using other softwares, you can open and TRULY edit an SVG file.
Your Cricut machine (and any other vinyl plotter) need paths for it’s blades to follow. The SVG file provides XML script for your Cricut machine to use.
The blade follows along the defined path as each node tells the blade when to turn, and the handles control how much it turns by.
Once you begin to truly understand HOW a SVG file functions, you begin to see what a powerful tool in can be for crafting!
Imagine being able to program a file that tells your machine precisely where you want to cut. The possibilities are endless! You can customize anything down to the smallest detail.
The best part is you can also use SVG Files for print and cut crafts. Unlike JPG or PNG files they will never lose quality when enlarged. Your designs will always remain crisp and clean at any size!
When to use JPG and PNG files with Cricut?
There are still times when a raster (pixel based) design may be better for your Cricut crafting needs. Specifically when you are doing a print and cut style project (like stickers or waterslide decals) and would like a design that is not in flat color. While SVG Files do not necessarily have to be in flat, solid color only. It would be incredibly hard to cut the ridiculous amount of tiny, detailed layers needed to create that effect.
For gradient colors, like watercolor designs, you will want to use a PNG file. The key to a crisp image is ensuring you are not enlarging the design.
Make sure when downloading or purchasing a design, that is comes in a size large enough for your project. Resizing a 3 inch graphic into a 10 inch design will create a blurry, pixelated result.
Where to find SVG Files? (free Vs Paid)
Now that we’ve talked about how awesome SVG Files are, you’re probably wondering where you can get them from.
If you are a member of various Cricut Facebook Groups then you’ll likely seen posts titled “SVG Dumps” before. Unfortunately, these are NOT true SVG Files.
Facebook does not allow images to be directly shared in SVG or Vector format directly. These posts are often just screenshots users have taken from Google images and other various websites. They are intended for users to screenshot or save the images themselves and then “auto-convert” to SVG form (more on this later).
One of the issues with this method is that Facebook automatically reduces image quality to ensure faster upload speeds. Low resolution images do not produce the best auto conversion results.
If you’ve have struggled with “cleaning up” an image before, then you know what I am talking about.
How to Convert Images to SVG Format?
It is possible to convert a JPG or PNG file to an SVG, without losing image quality.
Unfortunately, the best method for this is manually converting the file using a vector software and placing is node yourself. I am a huge fan of Adobe Illustrator. It is known as the “gold standard” of vector design.
There are other options like Inkscape (free), Affinty (one time fee), and Corel (paid). I highly recommend starting with Illustrator if you feel you are truly passionate about learning t o create and edit your own SVG Files. However, Inkscape is a great free alternative!
Both Illustrator and Inkscape offer image trace (auto-coverting) tools. The best part is that you can easily edit any flaws or details afterwards. It is truly customizable down to the smallest of details.
However, you may want something more simple when first starting out. You can use Design Space itself, apps like Adobe Capture, or various websites like https://image.online-convert.com/convert-to-svg
How to Upload SVG Files to Cricut Design Space?
If you have already converted an SVG file yourself or downloaded one online (Free SVG Library). Then you may be wondering how to upload the file to Design Space.
I have an article that covers this in more depth that can be found here – How to Upload Files to Cricut Design Space from your Computer Easily.
Here is a sneak peek of some of the many files you can find within the Free Library. I try to make it as easy as possible to search through and download files.
SVG Free Mini-Course
Hopefully this article helped you have a better understanding of what an SVG file is and how your Cricut used them.
I hope to see you in my Free ABC’s of SVG’s – Mini Course, where I will be able to dive even deeper into this topic.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out in my private Facebook group.