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Pen and Paper or Computer Software

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  • Pen and Paper or Computer Software

    This question goes to all of you out there that design your own fretwork patterns.

    I would like to find out which way is the most common way people design their fretwork patterns, “pen and paper” or “computer software”.

    If pen and paper, what tools do you recommend? And if it is computer software what do you recommend?

    Are there any books on the market that will help someone (like me) to learn the design process?


  • #2
    Once again a long winded reply.


    I am just starting out in design. I am trying to focus on simple puzzle designs. I an trying to learn on the Corel Draw Suite version 12 software package.

    What I am going to go on about is the differences between software packages for designing fretwork. There are three major groups: Bitmap paint programs, vector graphic applications, and CAD programs. The cost breakdown is as you expect Bitmap painting lowest, CAD the highest.

    Many people have learned to use Paint Shop Pro (previously by Jasic, now Corel Corp.) as a good bitmap paint program. The world is now divided between Adobe Illustrator suite and Corel Draw suite for vector graphic programs. CAD programs are another thread all by themselves.

    We are talking about fretwork, and intarsia, not shadow scrollsawing or complex 100's of pieces of wood for furniture making.

    You also get to decide on the input device of your choice. For many the "mouse" on your computer is just not functional enough to work with many of the programs. Depending on your personal style, and Eye & Hand co-ordination, you can upgrade to a Track-ball, or add a Pen Tablet. At a minimum you will need an optical mouse (one that uses IR instead of a small rubber ball on the bottom of the mouse.)

    Gee, my post is way too long, and I haven't said anything useful to you yet. Let me try again:

    I like the vector graphic programs because they (as a class) offers greater flexibility to modify and create complex lines than a bitmap paint program. But it does not require the precision and constraints like CAD program does. Those who have background in drafting and commercial CAD will, naturally, like CAD programs for woodworking. Thoes with out a drafting background will be lost with a CAD program.

    What I guess I am saying is that after you deicide to go with computer program, you then must decide which class of design application to purchase, then will an additional input device be helpful, and then you have to decide on the learning curve of your application.

    The learning curve can be very steep. And as you progress, if you don't keep at the practice drills, you can slip down the leaning curve. Trust me, learning the concept of a Bezier curve is not easy.

    This post is long enough as it is and I really haven't said much of use to you.
    Let me know if you want more informantion, and I will try to be more focused.



    • #3

      I use Adobe PhotoElements, a program that came with my printer years ago. I usually design patterns from a photo, so the first step is to scan the photo and save it. Then I open it in PhotoElements. There are two great feature called trace and find edges that, imagine this, traces high contrast areas. You can adjust the level of contrast to trace to produce the desired outline. Trace works best used with very high contrast images. The find edges function works better on photos, but is a little more complicated to work with. If your making a fretwork pattern, all you have to do is decide where to make the endlines and use the eraser tool to edit the drawing.

      This is the only tool I use but there are many more available. Good luck with your search.

      Dan H

      I would rather be friendly to a stranger than be a stranger to my friends.


      • #4
        I use Paintshop Pro v9.

        There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is readily adopted.
        (Schopenhauer, Die Kunst Recht zu Behalten)


        • #5
          I split between pencil and paper and software, usually using both in the same project.

          If I'm working from a photo to do a portrait or a semi-realistic scene, I start with Adobe Photoshop Elements to create a higher-contrast rendering on paper. I've had some success with the "Stamp" tool in Elements, that gives a picture the effect of being printed using a rubber stamp, but there is lots of fiddling to get a really good rendering. After printing the result on paper, I'm halfway there. I use a good tracing paper and a soft pencil to freely "interpret" the design from the processed photo, tracing selectively to provide a floater-free pattern. I'll also have to add back some lines or areas that the computer washed out.

          When making designs up out of the air, or from objects in the real world, I always start with the pencil. Sketching a lot of different takes often reveals a good design that I had no notion of when I started. If the design requires symmetry, just to avoid tedium I might scan the sketch into the computer, take the better half, duplicate and flip it and stitch it back together! Eventually I'll have a near-final design that I will then again "interpret" with tracing paper and pencil.

          A complex object I might photograph and then put through the computer-first route.

          Ultimately it comes to that final tracing for me. That shows the pattern clean and without "noise". However, I always then scan that tracing back into the computer and cut from a printout. That way I have a record and an image I might manipulate later for other purposes.

          If I ever use a pencil drawing directly for cutting, I'll spray fixative on it before spray-gluing it down. That way the lines with still be there when I make the last cut, rather than having to try to follow a progressively smudgier smear as the cutting goes on!


          • #6
            I use paper and pencil. Graph paper helps a lot. I will use a computer for simple shapes - but I don't have a program specifically for designing. I would love one, but would like to try out the programs first, or at least see what they can do. I have dial-up, so downloading a sample program won't work for me.

            Greybeard - what is "Shadow scrollsawing"??





            • #7

              Steve.....I use just about the same method you do but I tape the photo and tracing paper to my dining room sliding door....I don't have a light box. I'm in the process of drawing several segmentation patterns for a book. I want to shade each segment on the pattern to indicate what color stain should be used on the finished project. "Bucket fill" works pretty well for dropping in the shading as all my segments are closed, but I'm encountering a problem. Regardless of whether I use a thin lead pencil or a fine tip pen, the color doesn't fill all the way to the pattern lines inside the segments. It's barely noticeable on the pattern until it's enlarged to working size. The pattern lines are also enlarged and are no longer thin and crisp so the shading becomes fuzzy and incomplete near the lines. Any ideas? I have until November to come up with a solution. I don't want to take the patterns to a professional print shop unless I absolutely have to. Guess I'm stubborn but I'd like it to be all my own work. If you or anyone else out there has some ideas I'd appreciate hearing them. Thanx.
              If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!


              • #8
                what is "Shadow scrollsawing"??
                I think the current preferred term is Portrait, but I was trying to use a more generic term. Not all portrait renderings are technically portraits.

                The B & W (monochrome) scene or portrait is made by removing (or keeping) the "shadow" of an enhanced contrast photo rendition. The term silhouette doesn't quite produce a more generic term either. So I used the term shadow.



                • #9
                  Originally posted by Neal Moore
                  Regardless of whether I use a thin lead pencil or a fine tip pen, the color doesn't fill all the way to the pattern lines inside the segments. It's barely noticeable on the pattern until it's enlarged to working size. The pattern lines are also enlarged and are no longer thin and crisp so the shading becomes fuzzy and incomplete near the lines. .
                  You are probably scanning the sketches in color. This results in a kind of transitional region around each color area (i.e., on either side of the line) where the pixels are of a shade between the black of the line and the white of the page. The bucket fill doesn't fill these grey pixels, leaving a bit of a halo around the line. Likewise, lines in areas that aren't bucket-filled look like they have a halo around them.

                  Possible solutions: adjust your scanner settings to black and white. Some scanner software has a setting for "line", and this is ideal. For pictures already scanned in color, convert them to black and white and then back to RGB before starting to work with them. With only two colors in the picture, the bucket fill will go right up to the line.


                  • #10
                    Thanx A lot Steve. I'll give that a try. I've been scanning directly from the tracing paper which isn't pure white and generally has a few discolorations where I've erased and made adjustments. As an aside....I'd like to include a few of the tips that would apply to segmented portraiture, I've learned here on the board in the book. I don't suppose anyone would mind as long as I mentioned this forum as the source?? Thanx again for your help.
                    If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!


                    • #11

                      Another thing that might help would be to photocopy the patterns onto regular paper before scanning. If you adjust the lightness of the copier, you should be able to eliminate the smudges, etc., and be left with a clean copy to scan!



                      • #12

                        One could always cut freehand
                        Last edited by CanadianScroller; 04-29-2005, 01:15 PM.
                        CAЯL HIRD-RUTTEЯ
                        "proud member of the best scroll sawing forum on the net."
                        Ryobi SC180VS scroll saw EX21


                        • #13
                          If you want a very good Image Editor Software for free (no strings)

                          If you are looking for some good software if you do not have a preference give The GIMP a try. It does a lot of and has a lot of features that you see in PhotoShop and PaintShop.
                          I have attached a screenshot and the result of the screen copy. I'm sure that The GIMP will do all that the previous post have mentioned. There are lots of settings to play with I just showed the Photocopy filter because that seems like a look that people want to achive.

                          This is cut from a previous post.

                          I think you would like The GIMP. It is a Linux program that has recently been ported to windows.
                          FYI: This is free under the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE and has no sypware (no strings).

                          Check it out at

                          Downloads are at

                          Read the FAQs.... This is an important one
                          You will need to download both GTK+ Runtime Environment and then install The Gimp installer. [Basically its not all bundeled you need to install a seperate program before you install The GIMP.]

                          There is documentation and get the help files they always help when they are needed.

                          Attached Files
                          Last edited by Boberan; 04-30-2005, 10:59 PM.


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