Posted on October 02 2023
This tutorial contains everything you need to know about creating your own, printed double layered acrylic charms and keychains.
1. Download our templates
To start submitting your custom printed acrylic charm designs you’ll need to download our design templates. Templates are available in various sizes ranging from 13mm (0.5") right up to 90mm (3.5").
Download our Illustrator templates >> here << and open your chosen size.
Each template comes with a working area where you will import or create your designs. Please make sure that your artwork fits INSIDE of the grey borders.
2. Understanding our layers
Opening the template, you will notice that there are 7 layers in your Layers palette. If you can't see the Layers palette, hit F7 to make it appear.
IMPORTANT - Please don't rename existing layers or create additional layers as this will confuse our systems when processing your designs.
If you have used any effects / layer styles on any of your layers you MUST flatten them before saving. To do this simply right click on the applicable layer and select 'Rasterize Layer Style' from the menu.
'Office Use Only' Layer
This layer contains the grey borders which your design must sit inside, our logo and a brief description of the template size that you are using. This layer is locked and should not be used.
'Artwork A' Layer
Place the artwork that you would like to appear as 'Side A' of your acrylic charm on this layer.
ALL ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER SHOULD BE FLIPPED SO THAT IT IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF ITSELF.
'Artwork B' Layer
Place the artwork that you would like to appear as 'Side B' of your acrylic charm on this layer.
DO NOT FLIP/MIRROR THE ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER.
We add a layer of white ink between the Artwork A and Artwork B layers. Any printed areas without a white base layer will appear transparent.
‘Cut Area’ Layer
Use this layer to show us where you would like your charms to be cut. We'll use this information to create a path which will then be used to create a cut line for our laser cutters.
'Hole Template' Layer
Drag and drop the hole template onto your artwork to show us where you would like your hole to be placed. The dotted red line represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.
'Loop Template' Layer
Drag and drop our loop template onto your artwork to show us where you would like your loop to be placed. The light red, outer circle represents the loop size and the dark red inner circle represents the hole within the loop.
3. Importing your designs
Select the 'Artwork A' or 'Artwork B' layer and draw your designs directly onto these layers or, copy (CTRL+C) and paste (CTRL+V) previously saved artwork.
Create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on Side A of your charm here. Once you are happy with your design FLIP IT so that it is a mirror image of itself.
We will print this onto the 'back' of the clear acrylic before adding a layer of white.
Group all elements of your Artwork A layer together using the CTRL+G command.
This is where you will create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the Side B of your charms. DO NOT FLIP THIS LAYER!
We print your B-Side ('back') design directly on top of the A-Side ('front') design to create an awesome looking double sided charm.
Please note that all of our double layered acrylic charms come with double sided printing as standard. If you leave your 'Artwork B' layer blank, we will use the artwork on your 'Artwork A' layer to populate your 'Artwork B' layer and create a double side charm.
Please bare this in mind if you have any text in your designs, as this will make your text appear flipped.
4. Check your Alignment
When producing double sided charms it's important that your A-Side and B-Side artwork lines up correctly.
A simple way of checking this is to select your 'Artwork B' layer and lower the opacity to 50%
Now view your artwork and check that both A & B are the same size and nicely aligned. Here is an example of how it should look...
5a. Adding a layer of white
To guarantee bright and crisp colours for your artwork, you will need to add a white base layer to your designs. This white layer will sit behind your artwork and will ensure that the colours of your charms are consistent, regardless of what material you choose.
Check out the charms below by jwhitneyart.com. Using a white base layer of ink means their designs look the same on our white and black acrylics.
Please note that we ask that you create this white layer for ALL of your charm designs, even white acrylic charms.
An additional benefit of creating your own white base layer is that you can let us know EXACTLY where you would like us to print your white areas. This allows customers to add additional features to their designs, such as transparencies on our clear acrylics (see 5C), as well as reducing any areas of white creeping around the edges of your artwork.
To create your white base layer simply copy your artwork from the 'Artwork' layer and paste it into the 'White' layer using the 'Paste in Front' command CTRL + F.
Use the 'Image Trace' command (if your design is a bitmap) or the 'Unite' function from the Pathfinder palette (if your design is a vector) to create a silhouette version of your 'Artwork' layer.
Give this silhouette a 100% Cyan fill with no stroke.
5b. Identifying unwanted areas of coloured ink & white ink
IMPORTANT - If you have imported your artwork from Photoshop or any other bitmap / raster based software, it's important to check your white layer for low opacity pixels. The following steps are taken from our Photoshop tutorial and can help eliminate any unwanted areas of white ink and gloss varnish around the edge of your charms...
Using soft brushes in Photoshop can result in unwanted, low opacity pixels causing issues around the edges of your artwork.
These pixels can be invisible to the eye but get picked up by our printers, which print ALL pixels on your white and gloss layers, no matter how low their opacity, as 100% white or 100% gloss. This can cause unwanted areas of white ink and gloss varnish around the edges of your finished charms.
A simple way to check your artwork (in Photoshop) for low opacity pixels is to click on your artwork layers, your white layer or your gloss layer, select the paint bucket tool and fill the background black.
The paint bucket will fill all areas of the background except where there are any low opacity pixels. These pixels can then be easily identified and removed using the selection and eraser tools.
IMPORTANT - Please remember to undo the black paint bucket fill before submitting your designs.
The 'White' layer can also be used to create areas where you don't want a white base layer of ink. This effect works especially well on our clear acrylics to create transparencies (areas with coloured ink but no white ink and areas with no ink at all).
To create a transparent area, simply delete any unwanted areas on your white layer to achieve your desired effect. You can see this effect on our clear acrylic charms above.
6a. Adding a border / cut line - Important!
Choose to have your designs printed right up to the edge of the acrylic or with a clear acrylic border, by creating a black silhouette on your 'Cut Area' layer.
If your design runs right up to the edge of your cut line read 6b. Adding bleed.
To do this, first select all of the elements on your 'Artwork' layer, copy them (CTRL+C) and then use the 'Paste in Front' command (CTRL+F) to paste them onto your 'Cut Area' layer.
Make sure that all of the elements on the 'Cut Area’ layer are selected and hit the 'Unite' button in the 'Pathfinder' window. This will merge all elements together to create one shape, which will be used to create your cutline.
Give the merged shape a 0.01mm outline with the following colour values R:255 G:0 :B0 and NO fill.
If you would like a clear acrylic border on your charm designs, use the OBJECT > PATH > OFFSET PATH command to offset (increase) this shape by at least 1mm. Delete the original path so that there are no duplicates.
TIP - Hide the 'Artwork' layer and view the document as outlines (CTRL+Y) to view your cut line as an outline. This will allow you to check for any unwanted paths. Once you're happy, hit CTRL+Y to go back to your normal view.
6b. Adding bleed
If your artwork goes right up to the edge of your cut line or if you would like a printed coloured border, you will need to add at least 1mm of bleed (colour that extends past the cut line) to your designs to prevent any unprinted edges from showing on your finished pins.
Here is an example of a design with bleed added. The red line represents the cut line.
Extending the colour of the design past the cut line will help to minimise visible unprinted edges as a result of any minor misalignment's during the printing and cutting process.
Please don't rename existing layers or create additional layers as this will confuse our systems when processing your designs.
If you have used any effects / layer styles on any of your layers you MUST flatten / expand them before saving.
7a. Adding a hole
Drag and drop the hole template into position on your design to show us where you would like a hole placing.
The solid inner circle represents the hole and the dotted outer circle represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.
Please don't merge the hole template with your design as we will need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished charms.
7b. Adding a loop
If you would like a loop instead of a hole drag and drop the loop template into position on your design.
The light red outer circle represents the loop size and the dark red inner circle represents the hole within the loop.
Please don't merge the loop template with your design as we’ll need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished charms.
8. Visual Guide
Here's a quick exploded view of our clear acrylic charms, showing how each layer sits together to make your custom charm designs.
9. Submission checklist
Congratulations, you've finished creating your custom charm designs! All you have to do now is check the following before submission...
- Your artwork fits INSIDE of the grey borders.
- Your white base layer is 100% Cyan and located on the 'White' Layer (Step 5a.)
- You have checked for unwanted elements using the steps at 5b.
- The hole and loop layers have NOT been grouped or merged with the rest of your design.
- All text has been converted to outlines.
- Your charm template contains 1 charm only. Additional charms will be sent separately.
10. Saving and submitting your designs
There are 3 different ways to save and submit your designs...
1. Submit your artwork immediately
If you have already created your designs, you can send them to us using the 'Upload Artwork' button, located on our product pages or by emailing them to ‘email@example.com’.
Please save all Illustrator files in .Ai format. Here’s how…
Name each of your designs appropriately so that we know which designs you are referring to. Your file names should include 1. your name, 2. design number, 3. chosen product and 4. the date that you placed your order through our website. Here’s an example…
Select all of the designs that you would like to submit, right click and choose SEND TO > COMPRESSED (ZIPPED) FOLDER.
This will create a compressed folder containing all of your designs. Rename this folder so that it contains your name and the date that you placed your order on our website. Like this…
Please add all of your designs into one folder. So, if you purchased charms, stickers and pins, for example, just pop them all in the same, compressed folder and upload it using the 'Upload Artwork' button.
2. Submit your artwork later
If you have placed your order via our website but your designs aren’t quite ready yet, that’s ok. You have up to 2 weeks to submit your artwork to us, which allows you to take advantage of any special offers that we’re running.
To submit your designs later, save them with your name, design number, chosen product and your order number. Then email them to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
Please save all Illustrator files in .Ai format. Here’s how…
3. Placing a re-order
If you have placed an order in the past and would like to re-order those designs that’s great! We store your artwork for a maximum of 6 months, which saves you the hassle of having to resubmit your designs via email.
To place a re-order, simply place your order online, email us with your previous order number(s) and let us know that you are placing a re-order.
You may only want to order 1 or 2 designs from your previous order(s). To do this simply quote your old file name(s) and let us know how you would like them to be produced and in what quantities.
Here’s how to do it…
I’ve just placed an order #12345 on your website and would like to re-order the following designs from a previous order #12121. Please can I have…
If you have any questions about this tutorial or any other aspects of our website and manufacturing processes, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.