Cutting Layouts for Leather

In the near future I will be doing a button tufted sofa using 4 very expensive hides. I don't want to taking a chance on just cutting the piece without much planning. That could lead to some very expensive mistakes. So, I've been thinking about what the steps would be to plan out how to cut the leather pieces using a cutting layout template that I've created.

How do you make a cutting layout for leather? This is  especially useful if you have multiple leather hides for your job and you want to be able to do a computer layout on top of the leather hides.

A. Set Up Your Computer

  1. If you have not previously installed Libre Office (LO) on your computer, do that now. Go here:  Libre Office, download it and install it.
  2. If you don't have gimp or the professional grade of photoshop on your computer, you can get get Gimp here. Download and install it. The reason that we will be using Gimp is that the pictures of the hides will be distorted, so we will use Gimp to  straighten up the images so that be closer to realistice sizes and perspectives. Otherwise we would not be able to use the hide images with our LO Draw layout templates.
  3. If you have not yet previously set up Draw for making layouts, do that now. To do that, go follow these instructions now: Setting Up LibreOffice Draw for Cutting Layouts.
  4. Watch this YouTube Video: Gimp Tutorial, Using The Perspective Tool. Althought it's not quite the same as what we will be doing, it will give you a good idea of how the perspective tool works and will help prepare you a little for what we will be doing.

B. Prepare The Leather

  1. Now, let's get to working with the leather hide.
  2. Find a large flat smooth place to layout the leather hide.
  3. Carefully inspecte it for flaws, marks, holes, etc. Remember, these are all part of the character of leather. We are mainly looking for those that will ... be too much that affect the quality of the leather.

C. Measure The Leather

  1. Find the largest usable rectanger in the midst of the hide..
  2. Using large squares..... carefully lay out long rulers or long straight boards in that large rectangle shape, the outlines the largest usable area. Make sure that the corners are square and that is it a perfect rectangle.
  3. Measure the exact size of the outer edges of the rectangle, write the measurements down and bring them with you.
  4. Get a very tall ladder and set it up as close as you can get to the center of one side of the leather.
  5. Take your camera with a wide angle lense (a phone camera probably wouldn't be very useful here.)
  6. Climb up high enough on the ladder to get the whole hide in the picture. (The higher the better to get as close to a center shot as possible. If you could figure out a way to get dead center over the top of the leather, that would be perfect. However, since I can't do that, I take my pictures to the side, which leaves the picture in a perspective mode.

E. Now To The Computer

  1. Load the picture into the computer into a folder where you know where it is.
  2. Load the photo of the leather hide into Gimp (or Photo Shop). For this to work, it is important that the image software have a perspective mode. Gimp does and I think that Photo Shop also does.
  3. Use a filter that turns the photo into a drawing. that gets rid of all the color so the photo will be easier to work with in the future.

F. Correcting the Shape of the Image

Unless you took the picture exactly over the top of the hide and had your camera exactly square to the hide, the picture of the hide will be distorted. I will have a perspective distortion. This won't be very useful in trying to use the image of the hide in a layout. So, we will need to correct that distorted shape of the image.

  1. Scale the canvas size of the Leather image hide up to about 200 percent or larger, so there will be plenty of space for us to manipulate the image. Center the image on the canvas. Click the resize button.
  2. Open up LibreOffice Draw and create a new document from one of your Cutting Layout templates. Create a rectangle scaled to the same sizes as the rectangle you made on top of the leather hide. Copy the rectangle into the computer memory.
  3. Paste the rectangle into another layer of the same file as the leather hide. Center it on the layer.
  4. Scale the slide with the rectangle up to approximately the same size as the rectangle on the leather image.
  5. Drag the leather hide slide to be the top layer. Make sure that this layer is selected.
  6. Click on the Persective tool. If needed, watch is video again: Gimp Tutorial, Using The Perspective Tool
  7. In the settings below, adjust the image opacity to something about 25 to 50%. You want to be able to see the LO Draw rectangle in the lower layer as well as the rectangle on the leather.
  8. Since the bottom of the hide image will be wider than the top, move one of the bottom corners of the rectangle of that slide to line it up with the same corner of the LO Draw rectangle on the lower slide.
    1. Then move the other bottom corner of the hide rectangle to line of with the other corner of the lower rectanger.
    2. Take one of the top corners of the leather rectangle and line it up with the lower rectangle. The do the same with the last rectangle.
    3. Now, as you may have noticed, each time you move one corner, it also moves the rest of the corners. So, will have to keep going from corner to corner and readjusting each corner until you finally get all the corners lined up.
  9. Once you get all the corners lined up, Flatten the image so that  both layers are combined into one.
  10. Crop the excess blank space around the image.
  11. Save the file.

G. Using the Corrected Image in our Layout

Now that we have corrected the shape of the hide image, let's take it to our cutting layout.

  1. Copy the image into the  computer memory.
  2. Go back to the file you created in LO Draw (or create a new Layout file)
  3. Paste the image into the layout file. It may fill the whole page.
  4. Using the dimensioning tool to check the size, resize the rectange on the hide so that it is the same size as the rectangle that you made in step 18.
  5. Now your hide image should to the correct scale.
  6. Move it to the Master page (in the background)
  7. For each additional hide, start at step B3 and do which steps are necessary.


This explains how to correct the image in GIMP:

(As a note, the actual size of the ruler rectangle on the leather was 63"wide x 77" high.)

Open a picture of a hide (that has the ruler rectangle on it.)

  1. Save the picture by a new name (i.e. add a "b" after the old name) so that you won't change the existing image.
  2. First, we need to enlage the size of the background to allow for correcting the image size.
    1. Go to Image>Canvas Size
    2. Enlarge the Canvas Size by about 150% (more or less). (For example, my image size was 4000 pixels wide by 2664 pixels hide. I resized the background size to 6000 X 3996 pixels.
    3. Center the image within the new background size (click Center)
    4. Click on Resize
  3. Secondly, we need to correct and square up the shape shape of the image so that we can use it in our layout.
    1. Now, back at the image, rotate the image (shift+R) until the bottom horizontal ruler is completely Horizontal.
    2. Now we need to correct the shape of the rectangle on the picture to be a comparable height and width of the original rectangle.
      1. First we need to measure the size of the rectange on our picture:
        1. Use the Measuring Tool to measure the pixel width edge to edge of the bottom of the ruler rectangle.
        2. Measure verticle height of pixels from the top to the bottom of the rectangle. For example, my ruler rectangle measured 2060 pixels wide X 1890 high.
      2. Now we figure our correction percentage.
        1. Divide your horizontal pixel size by the actual size of the rectangle. For example, I divide th2060 pixel width by the actual width of 63". This gives me a ratio of 33.225 to one. Now, multiply the actual height (77") by the ratio (33.225) and we get an needed image height (NIH) of 2558.387 pixels. Next we divide the NIH by the Original Image Heigh (OIH) of 1890, which givies a needed correction of 1.35%. So, we need to resize the image by 135 in height only. We  don't resize the width.
      3. Go to Image>Flatten Image, which gives a white background.
        To resize the image, go to Image>Scale Image.
        Under Image Size
        To the left of the number entry boxes,  click on the ratio button to unlock the ratio.
        Just to the right of that, click on the dropdown menubox labeled px, and choose percent.
        Change width to our NHC, which in this case is 135%. Leave the width at 100%
        Click on Scale.
        Now, back at the image, use the Measuring Tool to check the height and the width in pixels.
        Assuming that your pixel measurements approximately correct.
        Next, use the Perspective tool to widen the top only to same as the bottom, making sure that the corners are square.