Converting PDF Pattern Pages to SVGs or FCMs for Electronic Cutting Machines

I have a Brother ScanNCut – and I love it!

My primary purpose for the machine is cutting out small fabric things, like doll clothes. As I’m getting older, my eyesight isn’t the best, nor is my accuracy when cutting out tiny pattern pieces. So I looked for a way to cut out pattern pieces for doll clothes.

I found the ScanNCut cutting machine, which will not only cut out the fabric for my pattern pieces, but also draw the pattern markings on them! That’s perfect! It takes me longer to cut and mark pattern pieces, in many cases, than it does to make something. It’s also the most tedious part of the process for me. So, after doing some research on what cutters would do what I want, I selected the ScanNCut. This is not the only cutter that will do what I want, but I selected it because:

  1. I don’t have to have a computer attached to the cutter to make it work.
  2. The software it uses is online and doesn’t require purchasing something new.
  3. Its cutting area is as large as 12×24, using the longest mat you can get from Brother.
  4. It has a scanner feature, which meant that I could just scan the pattern and have the cutter cut the pattern out without any computer interaction, if I wanted to do it that way.

The software used by the cutter is Canvas. It’s an online program located at:

It’s really powerful for what it does, and can automatically figure out the outline of something scanned, IF the outlines are clearly marked. I played around with it for quite a while, but couldn’t find a way to make the “draw” lines that I wanted to make.

So I opted to try both “Make The Cut” (MTC) and “Sure Cuts A Lot” (SCAL). I settled on SCAL because it can export directly to FCM format, which is required for the ScanNCut cutter. Using SCAL, I can draw all the lines I want to for drawing, as well as the cut lines.

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve settled on two methods for converting PDF patterns to FCM and/or SVG files for cutting. Before converting any pattern, though, be sure to read and study the pattern directions. This is necessary in order to understand what happens to the pattern pieces. Some of them may have to be cut on the bias, or in different fabric, or may have to have multiples cut. I can sometimes see, when reading the instructions, that I can add pattern markings that the designer hadn’t thought of, in order to make the garment easier to construct. Modify any pattern pieces as necessary.


The easiest way to convert a PDF pattern into a “cut and draw” pattern is to import the PDF pattern pages into SCAL. This method generally works only when the pattern pieces were created using Adobe Illustrator or equivalent software. This is the fastest and easiest method.

  1. Launch SCAL and create a new file.
  2. On the File menu, select “Import.”
  3. You’ll see a small window showing the outlines of different elements on the PDF file. Scroll to the end of the file where you should see outlines of the patterns on the last few pages.
  4. One at a time, import the pattern pages into individual pages in your SCAL file.
  5. Delete the elements that you don’t want cut or drawn on your pattern pieces.
  6. Arrange the pieces into a cutting layout.Save the file, and export the FCM or SVG files for the cutter.
  7. Save the file, and export the FCM or SVG files for the cutter.

TRACE Method

Sometimes a pattern cannot be imported directly into SCAL. This happens, generally, when the pattern pieces weren’t created using Adobe Illustrator or an equivalent software package, or if the pattern pieces started out as bitmaps. When the “Import” method doesn’t work, then follow the “Trace” Method.

  1. Convert the PDF pattern pages to JPGs. This is required in order to get the pattern pieces into SCAL. For this, I:
    1. Open the PDF file in Adobe Elements.
    2. Elements will display the list of pages that I want to convert and/or open. I select just the pages with pattern pieces.
    3. Save each pattern page first as a native Photoshop file. The only reason I’ve been doing this is for later experimentation, in case I need to do something different later on.
    4. Save the file again, but this time as a JPG file.
    5. Repeat for every pattern page in the PDF file.
    6. Close/quit Adobe Elements.
  2. “Trace” an image of each pattern page into a new SCAL file, into an individual SCAL page. It’s just easier for me to do this while I’m working on the pattern so that I can keep track of what I’ve done and what I need to do. The “Trace” command is under the file menu. There is also an icon at the top of the page for “tracing.”
  3. I’ll post the details of what I do in SCAL in future posts. For now, suffice it to say that I extract the outline of the pattern piece from the traced image, and then draw or convert the pattern markings.
  4. Arrange the pattern pieces onto pages for the cutter. Be sure that the pattern pieces are all arranged properly on the grain of the fabric. At this stage, I may add or delete pages, as I’m moving pattern pieces around. I try to use my 12″x24″ mat so that I get as much out of a piece of 12″x24″ fabric as possible.
  5. Make sure all the lines to be drawn are indicated as “draw” lines, and those to be cut are “cut” lines.
  6. Save the file, and export the FCM or SVG files for the cutter.

That’s the whole process! I’ll post step-by-step instructions in additional pages.

2 thoughts on “Converting PDF Pattern Pages to SVGs or FCMs for Electronic Cutting Machines

    1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having the right software. But I’ve found that converting graphics for SVG and FCM files can be a problem because the scale isn’t consistent between software packages. I need to update my instructions. When I wrote them, I had to do a number of things to make sure the scale was right. That may or may not be necessary with updates to the software I was using.

      If you have any questions or find issues with my instructions, please let me know. Many thanks!


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