Day 7

Signature Photo Frame by Josh Ajima @DesignMakeTeach

Make a photo frame with vinyl cut signature as a meaningful gift for kids to give to family and friends. The signature adds a personal touch that highlights the contribution of the child. The project is also a great introduction to vinyl cutting and provides a path for other digital fabrication techniques.

It might seem faster to have the kid sign directly on the photo frame with marker, but in practice it can be difficult for a young maker to write legibly on the frame without smearing or slipping off the edge. Being able to scale and adjust the placement of the signature leads to a polished results and more accurately reflects the child's handwriting.

Make bold thick lines

Crop image

Trace in software

Measure Twice


  • Write signature on white paper with a thick black marker.
  • Take well-lit photo of signature. (Avoid shadows.)
  • Import photo into vinyl cutting software.
  • Trace signature using trace function.
  • Measure area where design will be applied.
  • Scale design to fit in area where design will be placed.
  • Cut design in vinyl.
  • Weed vinyl. (Remove vinyl that doesn't belong to your design.)
  • Apply transfer tape to top of vinyl.
  • Burnish transfer tape. (Use a smooth object to press transfer tape down around design.)
  • Peel off vinyl backing material leaving design on transfer tape.
  • Place vinyl design on photo frame.
  • Burnish vinyl design onto photo frame.
  • Peel off transfer tape leaving vinyl design on frame.


  • White Paper
  • Black Marker
  • Frame
  • Vinyl
  • Transfer Tape


  • Camera
  • Vinyl Cutter
  • Computer w/ Vinyl Cutting Software
  • Ruler

Weed Carefully

Burnish Transfer Tape

Peel at a 45

Mission Accomplished

Other Options for Vectorizing Photos for Digital Fabrication

In this project, I used Silhouette Studio to trace the image for vinyl cutting. Silhouette Studio is proprietary software for a specific brand of vinyl cutter. The image trace process is sometimes called vectorization. Vectorization is the process of taking a bitmap image made of pixels and turning it into a vector drawing made of path/outlines needed for some digital fabrication operations. A commonly used format for consumer digital fabrication tools is SVG. An easy way to make SVG images is to upload the photo to Experiment with different filters to get the cleanest results. More powerful options include using the trace feature in vector graphics software such as Inkscape (free) or Adobe Illustrator.

Use Your Vector Images for Other Digital Fabrication Projects

I used a vinyl cutter in this project as it is a great starting tool and relatively inexpensive. The same design file can just as easily be used with a variety of digital fabrication tools including a 3D printer, laser engraver/cutter or CNC machine. Below are some examples of how vector images of signatures were used in a variety of 3D printing projects.

Further Digital Fabrication Explorations of Signatures

Josh Ajima is the Instructional Facilitator for Technology and Makerspace at the Academies of Loudoun in Virginia. He is a Stanford FabLearn Fellow and VSTE Innovative Educator of the Year. Find more ideas for making and digital fabrication in the classroom on his blog Continue the conversation on Twitter @DesignMakeTeach. Even more content on YouTube, Instagram and Thingiverse.