How to Make Free Scroll Saw Patterns

  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Join the Facebook Group Here!

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.

This is How to Make Free Scroll Saw Patterns. In this guide, I’ll show you everything you need to know to make excellent free scroll saw patterns. It’s a lot easier then you might think, and you can use any image that you have. Enjoy.

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

See My Woodworking Books Here

Scroll Saw Patterns

How-to-Make-Free-Scroll-Saw-PatternsScroll saw work is a lot of fun. Especially when you get past the entry-level patterns and get into making your own custom patterns. This is where you can take something as unique as a photo of your child or grandchild, and turn that into a fully recognizable scroll saw pattern.

It’s amazing to see you, and anyone that knows the subject of your photograph will instantly recognize that person, even though they’re cut out of wood. You can also do landscapes, nature photography, and anything else that you can capture with your camera.

There is one little step in between taking a picture, and turning it into a world class scroll saw pattern. It is a lot easier to learn than you might think, and after a little bit of playing around with the method, you’ll be a pro.

Coming up in the post, I’ll show you everything that you need to know to be successful, along with some step-by-step instructions that I’ll demonstrate using Photoshop. There are several other methods that are free too, so don’t run away if you don’t have Photoshop.

The free methods work just the same, and can give you the exact same result. This is a process that only has a couple steps, so there isn’t a steep learning curve either.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

Stick around, because you were going to love all of the different free scroll saw patterns that you can create from pictures that you’ve taken.

See Also: A Beginners Guide to Woodworking

Free Software Options for Scroll Saw Pattern Making

I’ll start with the free method for making scroll saw patterns from your pictures, because I have a feeling that’s going to be the most common method used. Though I use Photoshop myself, there’s a free alternative called Pixlr, which is available online.

This is an open source version of a photo editing program, and it has a lot of powerful utilities that you can use. In this case, you’re only going to use one of them, and that’s the secret to creating your patterns.

The adjustment that you’re looking for is called threshold. This is where it’ll take your picture and knock it down into a two color rendering that you can adjust. What you’ll do is use that feature, and that will create the base for your pattern.

In Pixlr, under adjustments, you’ll find threshold. Once you see what it does, and then adjust the slider, you will see exactly how it makes a scroll saw pattern from any picture.

Once you get it close, you can fill in the shaded areas with black, and you’ll have a simple pattern that looks like your seed photograph.

See Also: A Woodworking Notebook

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

Paid Software Options for Scroll Saw Pattern Making

I’ve had Photoshop for many years, and for that reason it’s the program I use to create my own saw patterns. This is an excellent option if you don’t mind paying a little bit of money, and it has a lot more value than just helping you with your scroll saw.

If you really get into using Photoshop, it can assist your woodworking in a number of different creative ways, and you’ll find several reasons to use it. Most people gain access to Photoshop through their subscription service, which is monthly.

This is nice if you want to use a paid program, but you don’t want to come up with hundreds or thousands of dollars just to use a couple of the features. You might end up making a bunch of patterns for a few months, and then cancel the subscription for a while.

See Also: 10 Best Woodworking Projects that Sell Well

Step by Step Scroll Saw Pattern Making

Here is the basic process for making your own scroll saw patterns from photos on your computer. You will have to experiment a little with the technique, but if you apply yourself, you will get good results.

How-to-Make-Free-Scroll-Saw-Patterns-source-pictureStep 1 is to select your source image. It’s best to be a close up, and you may have to try a few images in order to get the best results.

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

See My Woodworking Books Here

Some pictures are just better than others.

Again, the more you experiment, the better you will be at picking the best pictures to work with.

Pictures of people tend to work better when closer up.

How-to-Make-Free-Scroll-Saw-Patterns-after-threshold-adjustmentStep 2 is to apply the Threshold adjustment. Depending on the program that you use, it can be in a number of different places.

The easiest way to find it is to Google search where to find the button in the program that you are using.

For example, Threshold adjustment in Photoshop would help you find the button in photoshop.

How-to-Make-Free-Scroll-Saw-Patterns-refining-the-adjustmentStep 3 is to work with the slider and adjust the image until it looks close to something you could cut out of wood.

You want to adjust the slider until the majority of the broken up patches become solid. If you can’t do that, stop as close as you can, and you can fill it in later.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

Get it as close as possible, and don’t be afraid to save a few versions. In the next step, you are going to do some coloring, so pick out the best to start with.

How-to-Make-Free-Scroll-Saw-Patterns-filling-in-the-backgroundStep 4 is to fill in the patchy areas with solid black, and then fill in the background. Only let it stay as jagged as you are willing to cut. 

Everything else, and any areas that you cannot or do not want to cut, especially places with hundreds of tiny dots, make sure to fill in with black.

Keep on going. The better you fill in the picture on the computer, the easier it will be to get it right when you start sawing.

Also, you will get to see what it looks like when you smooth it out. Sometimes, it can change too much, or you need to do it differently in order to preserve the look. Again, it’s a computer so don’t be afraid to play with the technique nd experiment.

Saving and Cataloging Your Patterns

Once you start making your own patterns on your computer, it’s going to get addicting. It’s such an amazing transformation to see pictures of things that you remember, and your loved ones turned into awesome scroll saw patterns.

That being said, if you spend a lot of time at the computer and make a bunch of patterns, you need to find a way to keep them organized. I recommend creating a file folder on your computer or you can house all of those patterns.

I also recommend that you get a removable USB drive and copy those patterns to that drive as well. This way, you have a back up just in case something happens to your computer, and you won’t lose all of your hard work.

Anytime you make a scroll saw pattern, name the pattern something that makes sense, like “dolphin swimming” scroll saw pattern, and save it in both locations. Again, if something happens your computer, you’ll always have a back up.

It’s not necessarily the file itself that’s valuable. It’s your time. You’re going to be spending some time making these patterns, and that’s the only thing you can’t get back. Save them in two spots, and you’ll thank me later if something happens.

See Also: 15 Best Tips for Making an Economy Woodworking Bench

Sizing and Printing

No matter what photo editing program you use, there are always going to be options for adjusting the size of your pattern. This is awesome, because it means you can change the size based on your project.

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

See My Woodworking Books Here

No matter if you’re making your project large or small, all you have to do is go in to the program, and edit the file size. You can make enlargements, or reductions, and then print out the pattern to use.

I don’t recommend saving those changes to the original, but if it’s something you’re going to use quite a bit, simply save the file under a different name, perhaps maybe with just the words larger or smaller at the end, and then you can have both.

Print out your scroll saw pattern like you would print out any other document. When it comes out of the printer, you can then tack it to your piece of wood and start cutting.

See Also: 6 Genuine Reasons You Need a Jointer Planer in Your Shop

Using Your New Scroll Saw Pattern

There are a lot of different methods for getting your pattern in place to start cutting. Which ever one you’re comfortable with at this point, that’s the way that I recommend doing it. We all have what we like, and that works best for us.

However, if you’re totally new to scroll saw work, then all you really need to do is apply a very thin layer of glue to your piece, and then carefully lay the pattern over it. Allow it to dry, and then you can start cutting.

You don’t need to use nearly as much glue as you might think, and you can even water it down a little bit to make it thinner. You’re just holding the piece of paper down, so don’t glue it together like it needs to be load-bearing.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

See Also: 16 Awesome Reasons to Use Titebond Wood Glue

Scroll Pattern Tips and Tricks

Here are several different tips and tricks that you can use while you’re creating your own patterns for your scroll saw.

  • Adjust your pattern so that the image still makes sense to you. If it doesn’t still look like the original to you, it will not look like the original to anyone else.
  • Some pictures work better than others. Play around with the settings and try different pictures.
  • You would be surprised at how easily it is to recognize someone in a scroll saw pattern when you know them.
  • This does require a little practice, so don’t be afraid to make a bunch of patterns and experiment. 

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know how to make your own free scroll saw patterns, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. This is an awesome method, and don’t let having to use a computer or practice this stuff stop you.

If you are absolutely terrified about using the computer, odds are you have a friend that knows what they’re doing and they can help you. Invite them over, feed them or give them a beer, and ask them for help.

Sometimes it’s the tiniest things in life that stop us from doing what we really want. Asking a friend to help you with your computer is a tiny little thing, so don’t let it stop you from creating some amazing work with your scroll saw.

If you have any questions on how to make free scroll saw patterns, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.

Post Author-

  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Buy My Books on Amazon

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post. Join My Woodworking Facebook Group


You Can Find My Books on Amazon!

woodworking and guitar making books

An Exclusive Member of Mediavine Home

Westfarthing Woodworks LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.