So I have this Cameo that can cut up to 24x12, and an inkjet that can print up to 11x17, and I have found inkjet-printable adhesive-backed plastic sheets in up to 11x17 -- can I make my own overlays?
The Cameo's included Silhouette-Studio program let me get the job done. First off, Silhouette-Studio has lots of oddities, but it also provides some important "drawing" tools (for drawing your cut lines, that is) -- not just the basics like line, polygon, rectangle/square, and ellipse/circle, but the ability to copy-and-paste-in-front (exactly in front, not offset a bit), and then move the object precisely. I use this a lot for arrays of connector holes. But besides just letting you define a cut pattern, they have a feature called "Print-n-Cut." Now this was designed so crafters could print a pretty picture of a unicorn or something, print it from sil-studio to a printer (maybe on a thin cardstock paper), ADDING REGISTRATION MARKS, then define a cut layer (which for many projects is just an outside edge), then load the printed item on the mat, and load it into the Cameo. But you are not limited to just an outside edge. In fact, I found a lot of railroad model makers printing and cutting intricate window frames and stuff.
Here's the important part: the Cameo has an optical sensor near the knife, and it can find the registration marks on the thing you just printed/loaded, and get precisely-oriented for its cut pass. You then tell it to cut, and bada-boom-bada-bing, it makes nice.
The Print-n-Cut adds a step to the process of creating your cut file -- first, you open a jpeg (or other bitmap) file. Then you add cutlines as needed. You add registration marks, print it out, and so on as previously described. So for my bitmap file, I wanted the text for my connector definitions, and thin lines where my cuts were to go. My artwork came from Adobe Illustrator, but I could not export a jpg with decent resolution. I could, however, open the .ai file in Photoshop, and save-as a jpg. I used 600 dpi (lower-res was not as clean, and higher res made sil-studio hang). I had all of my text plus hairlines identifying where to cut. This worked great for an 8.5x11 sheet but I also wanted to do 11x17 -- this also made sil-studio hang on file open (probably a bug, since their workspace is 24x12), but I could fake it out by dividing the image in two in photoshop, opening them both in sil-studio, copy one, paste into the other, align visually, group, and then I had my 11x17 image ready to go. Clumsy, but whatever gets the job done.
I opened my image, added reg marks (you need to avoid printing in keep-out areas), and started adding the cut lines for the hole pattern and the perimeter of the overlay. I put as many overlays on a single sheet as I could fit. After the hole pattern for one is done, select the whole group, copy, paste-in-front, move, repeat -- it was pretty easy. There were a few annoying things along the way but I am happy with the results.
The inkjet material I used I found at texascraft.com -- WVF1117KH white waterproof adhesive-backed vinyl 11x17 sheets, $1.44 ea in 100s (but they also sell 10 packs or single sheets). It is also available in 8.5x11. They also have laser vinyl, but my laser does not do 11x17, nor does it do color, and I want to try color overlays next. This stuff is about 4-mils thick including adhesive, which is a bit flimsy, so after printing a sheet, I stuck it onto a second sheet for added thickness, before cutting. Enough talking:
In Sil-Studio, the black is the jpg text, and the red is the cutlines I added.
Printing it on Big-Brother.
Loading it the Cameo (on the optional 24x12 cutting mat)
to be continued...