I found these Disney paper dolls from a photo on Silhouette's flickr site, the CREATIVE place, and they have been keeping me busy and working my Silhouette skills! This tutorial will mostly address the Trace feature and Print and Cut in Silhouette Studio, with some prep work in Photoshop Elements.
I use Photoshop Elements a lot because I love it almost as much as the Silhouette. Hard to believe, I know, but it does make this project simpler. ( I don't actually know how to convert a PDF file to a JPG or PNG to import into Silhouette for the print and cut other than in Photoshop, so if you know of a way, please let me know in the comments!)
First, download the princesses from Disney's site HERE. You might need to use their search engine to find all the right ones. They are Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Jasmine, Tiana, Mulan, and Rapunzel (9 in all). The files are PDFs with instructions. If you don't do the Silhouette, they can always be cut by hand...but who wants to do that? Update: They've added Pocahontas to the link above, and you can get Merida from Brave here. (Note: If you don't have a Silhouette machine, just cut out the PDFs from Disney with scissors and skip the rest of the tutorial.)
Second, (here is where I go to Photoshop Elements) open the first page of the princess PDF in Elements. (Snow White and Rapunzel are spread across two PDF pages.) I found Elements to be especially helpful to prepare these princesses for cutting with the Silhouette because it let me separate the pieces (arms, torso, skirt, etc.) and rearrange them to fit on a single page where they would be away from the registration marks. The file even puts them on a transparent background (Photoshoppers know what I'm talking about) so this is really easy to do. Also, it makes prepping the design for Studio's trace feature much simpler.
As I said, open the princess PDF in Photoshop. Use the lasso tool to select a body part. When you have completed the outline and have the "marching ants" then right click and select "layer via cut." Select your bottom layer again, then repeat selecting with the lasso tool and cutting the layers apart until each piece is on its own layer. You can clean things up now with the eraser tool so they're not getting traced later, if you wish. Rearrange the parts to fit closely, then crop the extra background away (keep in mind you'll need three corners available for registration marks later).
Save your edited file as a PSE document. Then save it again as a JPG document.
Edit: Try saving this and the black-filled JPGs at a resolution of 9 to avoid them opening huge in Silhouette Studio.
Next, in your PSE document, fill each layer with black (Edit>Fill Layer. Options: black, preserve transparency). Use your paintbucket tool to fill voids on the tabs with black, as well.
Now save this one again as a JPG "black filled" name and don't save your changes to the PSE version. You'll now have four files for each princess: the original PDF, the edited/separated PSE, the JPG colored version, and the JPG black-filled version. Sounds like a lot, but this makes it easy as we continue.
Now open Silhouette Studio. Open your colored JPG and your black-filled JPG for the princess (you will need to choose the option for "all files" each time because the default is Studio files). This opened really big for me, but we'll resize them later. I like to use the double-arrow zoom tool here to quickly zoom out and see the entire princess document. Click on the double arrow and position your mouse at the bottom of the document. Click and drag upwards to the top and it will zoom out quickly.
On your black-filled document, open the "trace" window (the button has a blue blob in the middle).
A- Click on "Select Trace Area," then position your crosshairs in the upper left corner and click and drag across the entire page so all the black pieces will be selected. The yellow that shows up here is what will get traced.
B- Deselect both High Pass Filter and Low Pass Filter and bump your Threshold up (usually 80-90%) so all the black pieces are now filled with yellow. When you do this with a colored document it's messier to clean up, so this is why I had you make a black-filled version. You will still need to do some point editing to clean it up, so if you can't get it all to fill with yellow don't worry about it here.
C- Click on "Trace Outer Edge."
Next, select your black/white background (I click on a black area then click and drag it away from the red outlines a little so I know I've got it selected) and delete it so only the red cut lines you just created remain.
Use your eraser tool to eliminate extra words, etc. that you don't want to have cut. The closer you zoom in while using the eraser tool, the more precise it will be. The eraser tool does not stay selected so you'll need to reselect it for each pass you make.
Now we're ready to combine the cut lines with the colored document. Select All (ctrl-A), Copy (ctrl-C), switch to your colored document, and Paste in Front (ctrl-F).
Here is where we'll clean up the cut lines with individual point editing. You can do this before or after resizing. Click on your "Edit Points" button (left side of the screen, arrow pointing to blue dot-to-dot line). Click on a red cut line and it will show a lot of grey dots. Each one of these points can be moved, deleted, straightened, curved, etc. When you hover your mouse over a point it will show a tiny little arrow. Click and it will turn that point white. Use your options on the right of the screen to edit these points and get them more appropriately positioned around the princess parts you want to cut. Play around a little and you'll see what you can do. You can even insert extra points. Just make sure you use your "delete point" option on the screen and not your actual delete key on the keyboard!
I'm using the original Silhouette and I'm not sure if it's better with the SD, but don't agonize too much over every single point. My machine still gets off a millimeter or two here and there as it cuts, so absolute perfection is too much to ask here. It may seem like a lot if it cuts a little into the princess' hair and leaves a little extra white on the other side, but once these are assembled and you're handing them over to a child to play with, you'll realize it doesn't matter in this application.
Remember to look at the "Cut Style" Window (scissors button) so you can see in bold red lines where the machine will actually cut. When importing files to print and cut I usually get a rectangle around the outer perimeter that needs to be changed to "no cut." You should also be able to see any little extra unwanted shapes you may have missed and you can delete them or change to "no cut."
Now to shrink it all to actually fit on your page. Select All, Group, grab a corner handle, and resize it to fit on the document, registration marks selected. Go slowly because sometimes the cut lines shift away from the picture a little. If that happens, stretch it back and forth a little until the shapes are centered again.
The registration marks have a cross-hatch area where there should be no image touching it. You can switch between portrait mode, landscape mode, invert the marks, and shrink your shapes more to make it fit. Then you need to take your Eraser tool and run it along each registration mark so they will print and not think they are covered by white from your imported pictures.
Ready to print? Load white cardstock into your printer and click your print button. Take the printout with its registration marks and mount it on your cutting mat so the registration marks are perfectly even at the top. If you're using the cutting mats with a grid this is easy to do by holding it up to a light.
Load your mat into the Silhouette and go to the Cut Settings screen (looks like a yellow-capped blade holder). Use your favorite settings for the weight of cardstock you're using, and if you're using the original Silhouette you'll need to decrease your speed to 2-3 to avoid long pauses in cutting. Any time I edit points or do a print and cut I turn my speed way down on my original machine.
Click on Send to Silhouette. Skip printing since you've already done that. Choose detect registration marks (this is the fun part...when it works). When it's ready and waiting to cut with no error message, click on Cut Page. Now watch it cut while you don't have to get out your scissors (never mind that it may have been faster by this point to cut it out with scissors. That's not the point!)
Don't forget to save this as a Studio document so you can cut it over and over for all the little girls in your life. Open up your original downloaded PDF file for the instructions on folding and gluing. You will need to cut a few tabs on the skirts with scissors unless you create cut lines for them during your point editing. I used Aleene's Original Tacky Glue (gold bottle--you can find it anywhere) and it worked really well. It stayed wet long enough to position pieces where I wanted them, but dried surprisingly fast.
If you want to make every princess, it will take some time, but I thought this project was well worth it in the end. My girls are glad they finally get to play with the dolls! They change their minds every few minutes as to which is their favorite princess.
This tutorial should help you in taking any PNG or JPG image and turning it into a print and cut. Love this feature of the Silhouette! Let me know if you have questions.
UPDATE 6-11-2012: I've had several readers recently say they can't retrieve these downloads from the Disney site, but it still seems to be working for me so I'm not sure what the problem is. I'm using Firefox for my browser, so you may try using a different browser if it doesn't work the first time for you.