Creating Custom Punch Outs from Images

The Game Crafter recently announced the ability to create your own custom punch outs. That means you can make custom, cardboard shapes. I’m going to imagine that most people want to create shapes that look like some image they already have. The “trick” to make this happen is to create outlines of the shapes.  There’s a bunch of helpful video tutorials for how to hand draw those shapes. These work, but they’re not the nice smooth cutouts people are used to. I thought that I’d show you how to quickly create nice, uniform SVG shapes using Inkscape.

This quick tutorial is not meant to cover the basics of creating the Punch Outs or SVG optimization, but rather show how you can get uniform shapes pretty quickly.  I’m going to make a few assumptions in this tutorial: you’re trying to create a smooth custom shape; there is an icon or other graphic image that closely resembles the shape you want to create; and that you have both Gimp and Inkscape installed.

The general idea

The general idea is that we want to create a cut line for our images that resemble the shape but leave enough room for drift.  This means that the cut line should resemble the image, but a wider / smoother version of it. 

Preparing an image

In this tutorial, we’re going to make a “sword” shaped cut-out.  The sword is a nicely illustrated one from Alisha Volkman and to work in this process needs to be made solid and have fewer edge details. You’ll see why when we get to the part about creating the cut lines.

Sword by AlishaVolkman 

Preparing the Sword in Gimp

Because the sword isn’t a solid color, we need to “blacken” and “enlarge” the shape. To do this, I find gimp to be the easiest.

First, open the image file in Gimp (File -> Open).  Then, on the Layer’s menu click “Alpha to Selection”:

This will select the outside edge of the image.  Now we want to expand the selection by 15 pixels by going to Select -> Grow-> 15px.

This results in the Selection around the box growing. It also causes some of the more subtle notches and other things to get lost (good for our purposes):

Next we’re going to fill this selection in with black. Select the “Fill” tool. Make sure your foreground color is Black. Make sure the “Fill whole selection” radio button is marked. Then click within the selection area.  It will cover up the image.

With the entire thing black, “Export” the image as a PNG: File – > Export (CTRL + E). Save the file as something like “sword-black.png”. Click “Export” and then on the option screen just click “Export” again.

We’re now ready to use them within Inkscape.

Getting the “cut lines” in Inkscape.

Load the Sword Image

First, let’s open the sword image within Inkscape. File -> Open “sword-black.png”.  For our purposes, you can use the default load settings:

Once the file is open, with the “arrow” selected, click the imported image once.  You’ll get draggable arrows on the image like so:

Now from the “Path” menu click “Trace Bitmap”


From the Trace Bitmap popup, place a check mark next to “Live Preview” and make sure “Brightness cutoff” is selected.  Then click “OK”.

Note: the popup doesn’t close, but the path we need is actually created.  Go ahead and close this popup now.

On top of the original image, Inkscape has created a black vectorized version of your image.  You can see this by click and dragging it so that the vector and image aren’t stacked.  Your vector version should be a lot smoother looking compared to the source image’s jagged edges.

To make our cut out shape, we just need the cut lines.  So with the “vector” version selected, click “Object -> Fill/Stroke” in the menu:

First, let’s get rid of the fill.  On the “Fill” tab click the little “x”. The image will stay selected but appear to disappear.


Next, click the “Stroke paint” tab and then “flat color” button:

You’ll now have a stroke path for your cut. You can use the color wheel to turn it red, if you want, but it’s not necessary:


Adding Your Cut Lines to the Template!

So, getting the proper trim lines is only half the battle. You still need to add them to the template in a manner that can be used by The Game Crafter. Download then open the Small Punch Out template in Inkscape. It should look like this:

First thing you should do is open the layers menu: Layer -> Layers… and the click the lock on the “Delete” layer.  This will keep you from accidentally messing up the template.

Now click the “+” sign and add a new layer called “Cuts”.  Keep the “Position” as “Above current.”

The “Cuts” layer will be automatically selected. You’ve now prepared the template and are ready to add your shape.

Add your shape you created in the last part.

The easiest way is to go back to the other Inkscape screen and copy the path you created and paste it on the Cuts layer of the template.  It will look like this:

You should now shrink the cut to fit.  Along the top of the tool bar should be your shape’s dimensions. You can click the lock and then pick a dimension to set.  This will keep the image proportional. Note that the default units here is inches.

I set mine to have a width of 1.5 inches and then move the left and top to align along the blue dotted line.

At this point, we’d have a working cut line that we could upload to The Game Crafter if we “Delete” the “Delete” layer. You can remove the Delete layer by right-clicking on the layer and clicking “Delete Current Layer.”

Now save the resulting SVG by click File -> Save -> sword.svg.

Result on The Game Crafter

Skipping a head a bit, if you upload an appropriate image and the “sword.svg” file to a Small Custom Punchout, you can see the result. Here is result with an appropriately sized image uploaded to The Game Crafter and with the proofing overlay using our sword.svg:


A few notes:

  1. This doesn’t have the required nicks.
  2. The current cuts would use an entire slug for a single sword.
  3. This tutorial did not take you through the creation of the image files (face and back) necessary to actually use the cut files.










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