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How to Use Flatten in Cricut Design Space

Ready to learn how to use Flatten in Cricut Design Space? This comprehensive blog post will teach you everything you need to know about the Flatten tool in Design Space.  

You’ll learn what the Flatten tool actually does, when you should use the Flatten tool in your designs, and more. Plus, I’ll cover a few common mistakes to watch out for, and answer your commonly asked questions about using Flatten in Cricut Design Space. 

pin image with a screenshot of Cricut Design Space with the words How to Flatten in Design Space

When you’re a Cricut beginner, you’ll come across many new terms. And a lot of these terms – like Weld, Attach, Slice, and Flatten – refer to the design tools inside Cricut’s Design Space software

Design Space is a powerful design program, but it can feel overwhelming when you’re first starting out.

To help you learn more about how to use Design Space, I’ve put together a series of articles about the most common functions and editing tools.

Brand new to Cricut? You may want to read this beginner’s guide to Cricut first.

Flatten in Cricut Design Space

In today’s article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Flatten tool in Cricut Design Space. After reading this article, you’ll know:

  • What the Flatten tool does, and where to find it.
  • When and why you should use Flatten
  • The difference between Flatten and Weld
  • How to use Flatten to create Print Then Cut projects
  • How to “Unflatten,” in case you change your mind.
  • Why the Flatten tool might not be working, and how to fix it.

Once you understand how to use the Flatten tool, Design Space will be much more fun to use. And, you’ll be able to use Flatten to create printable designs quickly and easily.

Flatten Tool Basics

The Flatten tool is one of the 5 essential design tools for working with layers in Cricut Design Space. (The other layer tools are Slice, Weld, Attach, and Contour.) Luckily for us, the Flatten tool is one of the easier tools to understand.

Flatten combines multiple layers into a single-layer printable image that you can use to make Print Then Cut projects. 

What does Flatten do?

Using Flatten does three things:

  1. It “flattens down” all of the selected layers into one single layer.
  2. It also removes all internal cut lines from the selected layers. It does keep one cut line around the exterior outline of the new merged image.
  3. Then, it changes the new merged image to a Print Then Cut layer, rather than a cut layer.
screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screenshowing the same image before and after using Flatten

Where to Find the Flatten Tool

You’ll find the Flatten tool inside the Cricut Design Space desktop program or mobile app.

On Desktop: You’ll find the Flatten button in the Layers Panel in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, right next to the Attach Tool. You can also find the Flatten function in the right-click menu.

On Mobile: You’ll find the Flatten tool in the Actions sub-menu in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, between Weld and Flatten.

When to Use Flatten

You can use Flatten anytime you want to combine multiple Cut layers into one Print layer. You’ll often use Flatten to prepare your design for Print Then Cut projects. 

You can use the Flatten tool whenever you want to join two or more separate shapes into one shape that you want to print, and then cut out all as one piece.

  • For example, you can use Flatten to combine text and shape layers to make organization labels with printable vinyl.
  • Or, combine several image layers to make colorful, printable stickers that you can cut out using Cricut’s Print Then Cut feature.

What types of objects can you Flatten?

You can use the Attach tool on any object: basic shapes from the Shapes panel, text from the Text box, and images from the Cricut Access Libary.

Why do you need to use Flatten for Print layers?

Before you can print your image, you’ll need to change it from a Cut layer to a Print layer.

As you may know, most images and text within Cricut Design Space are Cut layers. This means that Cricut will cut around each of the individual shapes.

When you use Flatten, Design Space combines the selected layers into a single printable image. Using Flatten tells Design Space that you want to print the whole image, and make just one cut around the exterior outline of the combined image.

How to Use the Flatten Tool

Let’s open Cricut Design Space and work with some examples. All you’ll need is the free Design Space software and a Cricut machine.

Here are the basic steps to using the Flatten tool:

  1. Open Design Space and start a new project. Arrange 2 or more layers on the Design Space Canvas screen.
  2. Select the layers that you want to flatten. You’ll see a gray bounding box appear around the images, and the selected layers will be highlighted in the Layers panel. The Flatten button will turn black and become active.
  3. Click the Flatten button. You’ll find the Flatten button at the bottom of the Layers panel if you’re on a computer, or in the Actions menu at the bottom of the screen if you’re using the iOS and Android app.
  4. Check out your results. After clicking Flatten, the images will merge into a single, new layer. The new layer will be named “Flatten” and have the Operation label of “Print Then Cut” You can now move, resize, or edit this layer, just as you would with any other image layer.

Want more examples? Keep reading for a detailed step-by-step tutorial with plenty of screenshots, so you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using Flatten:

  • The Flatten tool works on one or more visible layers. If you only have no visible layers selected, the button will be “grayed out,” and you won’t be able to use it.
  • You can use Flatten on a single layer or multiple layers. Flatten will turn a single Cut layer into a single Print layer. Or, flatten will combine multiple Cut layers into a single Print layer.
  • After using Flatten, the individual layers are no longer editable. This means that you cannot change the color, size, font, etc., of any of the component layers of the Flattened design. 
  • Flatten will work whether the layers are overlapping or not. Overlapping images will be cut out as one piece. Non-overlapping images will be cut out as separate pieces.

Can I Unflatten an image in Cricut Design Space?

Yes, there is an Unflatten button in Design Space. The Unflatten button will become active if you select an already Flattened layer. You can use the Unflatten button at any time to separate previously Flattened layers, even after saving your project.

That said, the Unflatten button isn’t the exact reverse of the Flatten button. The Unflatten button does separate the image into separate layers. So, you’ll be able to edit them individually.

But, the layers will still be Print Then Cut layers. If you want the layers to be standard cut layers again, you’ll need to change the Operation of the layers from “Print Then Cut” back to “Basic Cut.”

What is the difference between Flatten and Weld?

Flatten and Weld can seem similar at first, but they are used for very different purposes.

Weld combines multiple Cut layers into one single Cut layer. When you use Weld, the layers become one single color. And the resulting layer is a Cut layer – not a “Print Then Cut” layer. For more about the Weld feature, click here: How to Weld Text and Images in Cricut Design Space

On the other hand, Flatten combines multiple Cut layers into one single Print layer. When you use Flatten, the layers keep their separate colors. And the resulting layer is a “Print Then Cut” layer, not a standard Cut layer.

3 Ways to Use the Flatten Tool

Now that we’ve covered the Flatten tool basics, let’s open up Design Space and walk through some examples. 

Note: If you don’t already have Cricut Design Space, you can download it for free.

Using Flatten to Create a Print Then Cut Label

In this example, we’ll use the Flatten button to combine text and shape layers into a printable label with Cricut’s Print Then Cut feature.

If you’ve never used Print Then Cut before, let me explain the basics. Print Then Cut is a great feature that tells your Cricut to cut around the outside border of an image that you’ve printed on your home printer. 

You may be familiar will uploading a JPG image as a Print Then Cut image. But you can also use the Flatten tool to turn any design into a Print Then Cut image.  

Let’s walk through an example together.

First, open up Design Space and start a new project. Add a few shapes and text layers to the Canvas. At this point, each shape and text box is on its own layer, and I can still edit them individually.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space with a blue oval label with the word Pasta
4 separate design elements, each on their own layer

If I were to click “Make it,” each piece of the design would be cut out on its own cutting mat. This isn’t what we want for this project.

So, cancel the cut and go back to the Canvas screen. Select all of the layers and click Flatten. Now, all of the layers are “flattened down” into one layer.  

screenshot of Cricut Design Space with a flattened Print Then Cut layer of a blue oval with the word Pasta
After using Flatten, the design is on one single Print Then Cut layer.

When you first look at it, the overall appearance of the design hasn’t changed. But when you look closely at the Layers panel, you will see that a lot has changed.  

  • First, all of the layers have been merged into one new layer, labeled Flatten.
  • Second, all internal cut lines (aka overlapping cut lines) have been removed.
  • Third, the new layer has the “Print then Cut” operation rather than the “Basic Cut” operation.
screenshot of Cricut Design Space mat preview screen with a blue oval label with the word Pasta
Preview of the Print Then Cut image

Now when you click “Make It” to send this design to the mat, you’ll see a completely different cutting mat preview.

There will be a white rectangle on the Cricut mat representing an 8.5″ by 11″ sheet of printer paper. On that paper, you’ll see a black outline of a rectangle. These black lines are the registration marks that your Cricut will use to align the blade for accurate cuts. Inside the rectangle, you’ll see your Flattened image.

If you click Continue, Cricut will prompt you to print the design on your home printer. Then, it will prompt you to load the printed design into your cutting machine so that it can cut around the outside edge.

Using Flatten to Create Printable Stickers

Here’s another example of using the Flatten tool to create a Print Then Cut project. Follow along with this example to learn how to make stickers with Cricut.

First, add your desired images and text to the Design Space Canvas. In this example, I used two lines of text, and a heart shape.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the Flattened text I heart naps

You’ll notice that the pieces of this design don’t overlap, and there is no background shape behind them. We can flatten them now, and they will merge down into one printable layer.

Here’s the problem: Since the letters and heart shape are not overlapping, Cricut will cut around each of the objects individually. This is not going to work for a sticker.

Here’s the solution: We can add a white background shape behind the words and heart. Then, we can flatten and combine all of the shapes onto the background.

There are a few ways to add a background to this sticker. You can add a basic shape from the Shape panel. Or, my favorite way is to add an Offset around the images and Flatten those all together.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the Flattened text I heart naps with a black offset added

If you end up with a gap in the offset, as I did with the sticker above, you can use the Contour tool to “turn off” that interior shape.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with a flattened I heart naps sticker with a white background

Now that we’ve added the solid background shape, you can’t see the Canvas grid lines through the design. This is a visual cue that you can use to tell that the sticker will cut out all as one piece.

Click here to learn more about How to Make Stickers with Cricut and printable sticker paper.

How to use Unflatten

In this example, I’ll show you how to use the Unflatten tool to undo the Flatten button.

First, select the Flatten layer that you want to Unflatten. Then, click the Unflatten button. Let’s use the sticker image from the previous example

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with a I heart naps sticker after pressing Unflatten

When you look at the image itself, not much is different. But when you look at the Layers panel, you’ll see that the individual shapes have been separated into different layers.  

But, you’ll also see that each of those layers is still a “Print Then Cut” layer. If you click “Make It,” Cricut will try to print and then cut each layer individually.

So, if you want to turn those “Print Then Cut” layers back into “Basic Cut” layers, you’ll need to change their Operation. Go up to the Operation drop-down menu in the top toolbar. Then select Basic cut from the menu. This will convert the layers back into standard cuttable layers.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen showing how to change the layer operation to Basic Cut

And of course, another easy way to undo the Flatten button is the press the Undo button in Design Space or Ctrl/Cmd Z on the keyboard.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Here are some FAQs and common issues you may run into when using the Flatten tool.

Why is the Flatten button “grayed out” or not working?

If the Flatten button isn’t clickable, that means it’s unavailable to use. More than likely, it means don’t have any visible layers selected. To fix it, make sure you have at least one visible layer selected.

Where is the Unflatten button?

There is an Unflatten button in Design Space. To activate it, you’ll first need to select the Flattened layer. Then, you’ll be able to see the Detach tool at the bottom of the Layers Panel. You can also find the Unflatten function in the right-click menu.

Why is Cricut cutting the inside of my Print Then Cut image?

First, double-check that your layer is labeled “Print Then Cut” and not “Basic Cut.” Then, check that your Print Then Cut design has a solid background behind it.

If you want Cricut to cut around the outside of the whole printed image, you need to make sure the image has a solid background before Flattening. If you see gridlines behind your image on the Canvas screen, that means you don’t have a background behind your image. And if the parts of your image are connected, Cricut will cut them out separately. Please refer to the second example for more details.

Learn More About Cricut Design Space

I hope this tutorial helped you understand how to use the Flatten tool in Cricut Design Space. It really is one of the most important tools, especially for designing Print Then Cut projects.  

Now that you’re a master of the Flatten feature, here are a few more Design Space tutorials for you to check out:

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How to Use Flatten in Cricut Design Space

How to Use Flatten in Cricut Design Space

Yield: 1
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Learn how to use the Flatten tool in Design Space.

You'll learn what the Flatten tool does, where to find it, and when you should use it. Read the blog post where I'll cover a few common mistakes to watch out for, and answer your commonly asked questions about using Flatten in Cricut Design Space.

Materials

  • Svg file (optional)

Instructions

  1. Open Design Space and start a new project. Arrange 2 or more layers on the Design Space Canvas screen.
  2. Select the layers that you want to flatten. You'll see a gray bounding box appear around the images, and the selected layers will be highlighted in the Layers panel. The Flatten button will turn black and become active.
  3. Click the Flatten button. You'll find the Flatten button at the bottom of the Layers panel if you're on a computer, or in the Actions menu at the bottom of the screen if you're using the iOS and Android app.
  4. Check out your results. After clicking Flatten, the images will merge into a single, new layer. The new layer will be named "Flatten" and have the Operation label of "Print Then Cut" You can now move, resize, or edit this layer, just as you would with any other image layer.

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pin image with a screenshot of Cricut Design Space with the words How to Flatten in Design Space

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