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Silhouette Tips And Ideas

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Silhouette Electronic Cutting Machines Basics

What Do You Need To Know About Silhouette Cutting Machines

There are two basic machines in the Silhouette line of electronic cutting machines. Understanding your options the features of these machines will help you make an informed decision based on your needs and budgets.

The Portrait is a smaller machine that is perfect for those in smaller places. It has basically an 8" x 12" cutting area

The Cameo cuts a much larger project. The cutting area is 12" x 12" and is a larger machine.

What Materials Can The Silhouette Cut?

  • In general, the Silhouette can cut paper, vinyl, heat transfer material (HTV), rhinestone template material, stabilized fabric, and other materials that Silhouette America sells.
  • You can also replace the blade with a sketch pen or your own pen in the pen holder to draw or write instead of cut.
  • There are materials that are not sold by Silhouette that can be cut on these machines. Get the complete information here.
  • No matter what material you use, ALWAYS do test cuts before sending a whole project to cut.
  • You can contact Silhouette Customer Support to inquire about specific materials. In some cases, you may be able to send them a sample of a material for testing before you purchase a machine.

Portrait 2

  • AutoBlade compatibility—Let the Portrait adjust the blade for you.
  • Deep-cut blade compatibility and higher 2 mm clearance—Cut thicker materials.
  • Built-in optical scanner—Make custom cutouts with the Print & Cut feature.
  • PixScan™ technology—Scan and cut unique images.
  • Bluetooth® compatibility—Use your device to send cuts to the Portrait, no wires necessary.
  • Lightweight body and portable size—Make custom creations anywhere.

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Portrait 3

  • 8-inch cutting width
  • Cut up to 60 feet in length (with select materials using a Roll Feeder)
  • Matless cutting capabilities (see Tech Specs for full details)
  • 2 mm clearance
  • Automatic tool detection
  • Wireless cutting with Bluetooth® connectivity
  • Print & Cut registration capability
  • Very portable
  • PixScan™ compatible
  • Driven by Silhouette Studio® giving you limitless design options to customize your projects

Priced @ $199

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Curio


  • Cutting Area: 8.5 in x 6 in (with standard base included); 8.5 in. x 12 in. (with a large base sold separately
  • Maximum Media Thickness: 5mm (196 Mil) for Media feed-through thickness; 2mm (78 Mil) for Cutting thickness
  • Etch, Sketch, Cut on Various Palettes
  • Dual Carriage to Mix & Match Tools
  • Adjustable Base with Removable Platforms
  • Vinyl, heat transfer material, cardstock, photo paper, copy paper, rhinestone template material, fabric, foam, some varieties of metal

Machine is currently being discontinued



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Cameo 4

  • Built-in roll feeder allows you to easily load and cut rolled materials like vinyl and heat transfer
  • Built-in crosscutter lets you trim vinyl or heat transfer right from the roll
  • Full 12-inch cutting width (when using a cutting mat)
  • Cut up to 60 feet in length (with select materials)
  • Matless cutting capabilities (see Tech Specs for full details)
  • 3 mm clearance for thicker materials
  • Automatic tool detection
  • Sleek, compact aesthetic with a sliding lid and feather-light backlit touch panel
  • Wireless cutting with Bluetooth® connectivity
  • Print & Cut registration capability
  • PixScan™ compatible
  • Has additional tools available
  • Driven by Silhouette Studio® giving you limitless design options to customize your projects

Price: $329

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Cameo Pro

  • 24″ wide cutting width.
  • Both the roll feeder and the roller bar are adjustable for widths under 24″
  • Matless cutting options available depending on material type. Materials with liners or backing, such as vinyl, heat transfer, and sticker sheets can be fed directly into the Cameo 4 without a cutting mat. The Cameo 4 also offers a special "Pop-out" cutting feature for paper and cardstock materials where a cutting mat is not required.
  • Maximum Media Thickness: 3 mm (118.11 mils)

The Cameo Pro is similar to the previous Cameo editions except for three changes.

  • It does not have the roll feeder attached permanently to the machine, but it does come with one you attach as needed. Also included is a block you can attach for mat support, which is helpful with the weight of the larger mat.
  • The adapters for the older ratchet and premium style blades are NOT included. My guess is that that’s primarily because what most people will be cutting in the larger widths is adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl. Those are both materials that don’t require a deep cut or something like a rotary cut.
  • The roller bar locks are slightly different.

Price: $499


Tips For Setting Up Your Silhouette

silhouette-tips-and-ideas

Silhouette Studio

There are four basic options when it comes to the Silhouette Studio Programs

Basic Program- Free

This is a free program for all Silhouette machine users. It may come in your machine preloaded or you can do a free download. You can use it on both a PC and a Mac. There are plenty of tools and functions in this program that would be a subscription cost with other machines.

Designer Edition-$49.99

This edition has all the features of the basic program and a lot more. 15 more features are added to this version.

Designer Plus Edition-$74.99

You get everything in the Designer Edition plus an additional 4 functions

Business Edition-$99.99

This is the ultimate edition. You get all of the Designer Plus and an additional 15 more functions.

Click here to see all the functions available for each program

Need to Update Your Software?

Go to Help & click on About Silhouette Studio. It will tell you which version you have. Update your software. Go to Silhouetteamerica.com and click on Update Software. Check which version of the software is out there & compare it to your program. If you need to update, Click on the link for either Mac or Windows.



Silhouette Studio Tips

Here are a few Silhouette Studio tips to get the most from your experience:

  • Get any and every free design at the Silhouette Design Store, checking regularly for new free designs. Though it may not be to your liking, a piece or part of a design may come in handy in the future when creating a custom design.
  • You need to periodically update your software. Go to Help & click on About Silhouette Studio. It will tell you which version you have. Update your software. Go to Silhouetteamerica.com and click on Update Software. Check which version of the software is out there & compare it to your program. If you need to update, click on the link for either Mac or Windows.
  • Reveal Grid Lines” setting. With this, you’ll be able to see grid lines on your Silhouette Studio virtual mat which correspond with the grid lines on your cutting mat. This is so helpful for lining up your design perfectly!
  • If you want to add text to your design, click on the Text Tool (the capital letter A) in your left menu bar. Click anywhere on your virtual cutting mat (the work area in Silhouette Studio) to create a text box. Start typing!
  • To make changes to your text, find the options for changing the font, alignment, size, line spacing, kerning, and so on in the Text Style Window on the right-hand side of your screen. You can also open it up by clicking the capital letter A in your top menu bar.
  • When you’re ready to cut, you will need to choose your settings accordingly for cutting with a mat or without one. This is found in the “Page Setup Menu”. You can choose “Cameo”, “Portrait”, or “None”.
  • No matter whether you are using a cutting mat or not, you must also make sure to set the correct page size for the material you are using. Set the height and width needed in the “Design Page Settings” window.

Silhouette On Line Store

No matter what level of machine or version of Silhouette Studio you have, you can get all kinds of fonts and images at the Silhouette Online store. Rather than buying dies and storing them, these files are available at a very reasonable price.

There are designs, fonts and projects all available in one location.

A FREE Silhouette Design Store account allows you to download the weekly free shape and purchase designs at the listed price (usually $0.99 each).

Then you have the option to take out a subscription starting at $4.99. Each subscription level gives you more percent off stretching your craft dollars even further. You get credits and discounts that roll over every month.


Silhouette Store Tips

  • Get any and every free design at the Silhouette Design Store, checking regularly for new free designs. Though it may not be to your liking, a piece or part of a design may come in handy in the future when creating a custom design.

Best Places To Store Your Silhouette Projects

With some issues on the side of the Silhouette Studio Library and Cloud, more and more Silhouette users are considering which data storage would be best to store all their projects and images.

Hard Drive

The most obvious place to store your Silhouette projects would be on a hard drive. That makes all of your projects easily accessible. You can take advantage of the .studio3 thumbnail previews which are available on files where V4.2 or higher is also installed. While the hard drive makes it accessible, it also makes it possible to lose all the computer or hard drive crash data. Storing designs on your hard drive, especially if you have a large number of designs, also takes up hard drive space and can slow down your computer.

Thumb Drive

A thumb drive is like a mini hard drive, except that you can access the information from any computer just by plugging the thumb drive into the computer. This is a perfect idea for anyone who wants to access information from multiple computers.

Using The Cloud

There are several options when it comes to using the cloud. Probably the two most popular storage apps are Google Drive and DropBox. They are free to begin using. However, if you reach a certain level there will be charges, though they are very reasonable. While SVGs will show a thumbnail preview, you won't be able to preview yours. Studio files which is another con.

Personal Clouds

A personal cloud, such as the WDMyCloud, is basically an extremely large external hard drive that's connected to your home network allowing all computers in the home, on the same network, to access it. Because of the large amount of storage space, you do not have to worry about running out of space.

Finally, if you add a copy of Silhouette Studio V4.2 or higher to your personal cloud, you'll be able to take advantage of the thumbnail previews for all of yours.Studio3 designs saved there as well! SVG designs will also show a thumbnail preview.

Silhouette Studio Local User And Cloud Library

The biggest pro to using the Silhouette library is the convenience and the ability to preview your files without fully opening them. Silhouette Design Store purchases automatically download into the Silhouette Cloud which is built into the software's library making them most easily accessible.

There have been some reliability issues, however. The other big drawback to the Silhouette library is the inability to bulk export. You have the option to back up the Silhouette library - however, the backup does not provide you with the ability to access individual files. Therefore it's only usable as a way to re-import or move the entire library.

So, there are your basic options. Take the one that is right for you.

More Silhouette Studio Information And Resources

Print And Cut Ideas And Tips

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Silhouette Blade Basics

There are several blades offered for your individual Silhouette cutting machine. Understanding your blades are crucial to getting the best cuts possible.

Auto Blade

The Silhouette Auto Blade is the self-adjusting blade that is available for the Cameo 3 and the Portrait 2. The Silhouette Auto Blade adjusts before making a cut by tapping in the tool carriage. The tapping action adjusts the blade to the recommended blade depth based on the selected material in Silhouette Studio.
The AutoBlade can only be used in the left tool carriage of the CAMEO 3. It comes loaded with this machine.

Ratchet Blade

The standard black Silhouette Ratchet Blade can be used to cut a splice in any of the CAMEO machines, the Portrait, and the Curio. To adjust the regualar Silhouette blade between a depth of 1-10 (10 being the deepest cut for thicker materials), use the gray ratchet that came with the blade or the built-in ratchet on the actual Silhouette machine. Just insert the tip of the blade and twist. When inserted into the machine, the fin on the blade's housing should be pointing to 6 o'clock.

With the exception of the fabric, the ratchet blade is used to cut all materials, ranging from paper to vinyl to stencil material, etc in the CAMEO and Portrait. It is used on the same materials in the CURIO.

Deep Cut Blade

The Silhouette Deep Cut Blade is one of the newer Silhouette blades. Deep Cut Blade has two rows of numbers to adjust the blade depth from 1-20. The blade can be adjusted using your hand - so no ratchet is necessary. If any part of the blue is exposed on the tip of the blade, that indicates the line is matching up with the blue row of numbers. There is no fin on the Deep Cut Blade so it does not matter how the blade is inserted and locked into the machine.

Premium Blade

The Silhouette Premium Blade is one of the newer Silhouette blades and can be used to cut a splice in any of the CAMEO machines, the Portrait, and the Curio. The Premium blade is made of a material that lasts up to 3x longer than a standard Silhouette ratchet blade. To adjust the blade between a depth of 1-10 (10 being the deepest cut for thicker materials), turn the tip of the blade with your hand. There is no fin on the Premium Blade so it does not matter how the blade is inserted and locked into the machine.


Silhouette Blade Basics

Type Of BladeAdjustment measurementCompatible MachinesWhat It Cuts

2mm Kraft Blade Type B

Manual(turn by hand

Portrait 3. Cameo 4, Cameo 4 Plus, Cameo 4 Pro

Chipboard, acetate, craft foam, leather, selected specialty materials

2 MM Kraft Blade

Manual adjustment (turned by hand)

Cameo 4, Cameo 3, Portrait 2,and 3.Curio

Chipboard, acetate, craft foam, leather, select specialty items.

3MM Craft Blade

Manual adjustment (turned by hand)

Cameo 4

Chipboard, acetate, craft foam, leather, select specialty items.

Manual Blade (1mm) Manual Blade (2mm)

Manual adjustment (turn by hand)

Portrait 3,Cameo 4, Cameo 4 Plus. Cameo 4 Pro

Paper, cardstock, sticker sheets, heat transfer materials, vinyl, select specialty materials

Auto Blade Type A

Automated adjustment (controlled by software setting and adjusted by machine)

Cameo 3, Portrait 2

Paper, cardstock, sticker sheets, heat transfer materials, vinyl, special materials

Auto Blade Type BV

Automated adjustment (controlled by software setting and adjusted by machine)

Portrait 3, Cameo 4, Cameo 4 Plus, Cameo 4 Pro

Paper, cardstock, sticker sheets, heat transfer materials, vinyl, selected specialty materials

Blade

Ratchet adjustment (turned manually via a slot located on the Silhouette tool)

Cameo, Portrait, Curio

Paper, cardstock, sticker sheets, heat transfer materials, vinyl, select specialty materials

Premium Blade

Manual adjustment (turned by hand)

Cameo, Portrait, Curio

Paper, cardstock, sticker sheets, vinyl, selected specialty materials

Deep Cut Blade

Manual adjustment (turned by hand)

Curio, Cameo 3, Portrait 2

Craft foam, thick cardstock, select specialty items

Rotary Blade

None

Cameo 4

Fabric, Felt, wood, crepe paper, select specialty items

Punch Tool

None

Cameo 4

Vinyl, heat transfer material

Silhouette Blade Tips

  • Unsure whether a poor cut is the result of a dull blade or a less sticky mat? Label the blades and mats so you know when each is placed into service. I use a label maker to place a date inside the top of a Ratchet Blade (and number my mats #5, #6, etc.). If a cut is going poorly, the date on the blade or the number on the mat may give a clue whether it is time for a new one or not.
  • On each machine made in the last 3 years or so there is a round indentation on the machine on the lower left-hand side. This is a tool you can use to change the setting on the blade. Just remove the blade from the carriage, put it blade side down into the indention and turn until the blade is on the setting you want. This is super handy so you don’t have to keep up with the little piece that they send with the blade. I just toss the small piece and use the built-in ratchet on my machine.
  • There is a “right” way to put in the blade and according to Silhouette tech gurus you should always have the fin on the blade pointing directly outward (toward you.) If you have issues cutting and call or email the helpline, this will be one of the first questions they ask you, so it is good to keep in mind and make sure you have it in its optimum position.
  • Be careful with your blades. Even though they are encased in the housing, they are still sharp. Take care when adjusting the blade. Always store the blade when not in use
  • Don’t throw it in a drawer, where it could be damaged. When not in use, store it in the original packaging or the handy CAMEO 3 storage space. This “blade garage” is so convenient! There’s officially room for two, but I fit four in mine! (The two not seated into the storage holes are specifically placed blade side up, to prevent damage)
  • When you have AutoBlade as the tool type, the machine resets it before every cut. It clicks it all the way down to 0, back up to 10, and then down to the selected number. That’s not a big deal when you’re just doing 1 cut. But it’s a pain with repeated cuts on the same material. The software developers are working to correct this, but it is something to be aware of.
  • if my media, snags, tears, or gets stuck in the blade, I didn’t take the time to make sure my media was secured all over to my mat. With newer mats, this isn’t usually an issue, but with older mats, you need to take an extra minute to make sure that it was adhered to the mat evenly everywhere, not just in the middle. Use your palm, or even better, the scraper tool to burnish the media to the mat and check that is stuck evenly throughout.
  • If your Cameo 4 is not cutting, make sure that your blade is loaded correctly. Make sure the CAMEO 4 Autoblade is completely seated flush in Carriage 1. If it's not, the blade will not be able to reach the material. Even if the lock is engaged, the blade may not be completely seated.
  • If the cover around the CAMEO 4 Autoblade is loose, it can prevent cutting. Make sure it's screwed on tightly and then go through the cutting process again. While the AutoBlade is tapping before cutting, watch closely to ensure the red line is first resetting to 0 (all the way to the right) then tapping (and the red line moving with each tap) to climb to the correct blade depth.If the blade depth line is not moving it means the blade depth is not being adjusted. This is usually caused by an issue with the tapping which is how the blade depth is auto-adjusted.
  • Keep your blades clean. If you see paper bits or adhesive stuck to the blade, it’s time for cleaning. To clean the blade, simply unscrew the cap and wipe off the tiny bits of paper inside. You can use a small lint-free cloth or cotton swab to remove any adhesive that may be stuck to the blade.Pro tip: Unscrew the cap with the blade tab. Remember that funny little tab with two circular holes in it? It’s designed for unscrewing the top of your blade! I keep mine in the Silhouette CAMEO® tray.

Cut Settings

Having the right cutting settings is one of the most important considerations to having a perfect design and project.

There are not any perfect settings, just the settings that work for you. Most listings for cut settings are merely suggestions. The reason is that there are variations in manufacturers. So if you say, this is the setting for card stock. But there may be variations between Brazil cardstock and Reflections cardstock. Think of any cutting sections as a starting point.

When you are using materials that you purchased from a specific manufacturer, check the material packaging or the manufacturer's website. They may have guidance for cutting their specific materials.

Third-party mats other than Silhouette may also affect your cut settings. They can vary in thickness and that may affect the settings that you use.

To figure out the blade and thickness settings, I recommend that you use the “test cut” feature which cuts a small square with a triangle on your paper. This will let you know if the settings are correct or if they need adjusting. Always start with the blade setting low and use double cut before going up to a higher number. By not doing so, you run the risk of breaking off the tip of the blade. (I was told this by Silhouette Technical Support). So let’s say you start out with your blade depth set at 3 and it doesn’t cut all the way through, first try it with double cut and if that doesn’t work, then try setting it at 4. If 4 doesn’t work, try double cut again and if that doesn’t work, then try 5, etc.

General Blade Settings

1 Thin material like vinyl and heat transfer material

2-3 Medium weight materials such as paper, cardstock, and flocked heat transfer material

4-6 Thicker material like textured cardstock and patterned paper

7-10 Thick materials like canvas


Silhouette Settings For Vinyl

Vinyl TypeSpeedThicknessBlade Setting

Indoor Vinyl

8

9

2

Outdoor Vinyl

8

9

2

Specialty Vinyl

8

9

2

Patterned Vinyl

8

9

2

Heat Transfer Vinyl

8

9

2

Chalkboard Vinyl

8

9

2

Dry Erase Vinyl

8

9

3

Inkjet Printable Vinyl

8

9

3

Inkjet Printable Vinyl With Laminate

5

33

3

Patterned Vinyl With Laminate

8

15

3

Dusted Crystal

2

14

1

Freezer Paper

3

10

1

Cutting Tips

  1. Unsure whether a poor cut is the result of a dull blade or a less sticky mat? Label the blades and mats so you know when each is placed into service. I use a label maker to place a date inside the top of a Ratchet Blade (and number my mats #5, #6, etc.). If a cut is going poorly, the date on the blade or the number on the mat may give a clue whether it is time for a new one or not
  2. When I have cutting issues I always start by checking the Cut Settings, making sure the correct material is selected. If everything looks right in the Settings, I check my blade. Is it installed correctly with no gap? Has it been cleaned out recently? Is the white cap screwed on properly? How old is the blade
  3. Always keep an extra blade and mat on hand. When you’re experiencing problems and your Cameo 4 is not cutting, you can adjust the cut settings. For vinyl and HTV increase the default blade depth from 1 to 2. Do a few test cuts and if you are still not getting good cuts, increase the force slowly and nothing else works, try a new mat and/or blade.
  4. If you can, have a blade for each type of material that you cut. This will actually increase the life of each blade and give you better cuts.

More Cutting Guidelines

Creating Test Cuts

Before you start any project, it is important to remember to do a test cut. The test cut function is one of the most important tools you can use. It will save you lots of time, aggregation, and money.

Silhouette Rollers

Before you start feeding material into your machine, you need to make sure that all the rollers are in their proper places. The left roller remains stationary but the right one can move to adjust the width of the cutting area.

The materials that you are cutting needs to be held taut by both rollers or the cut will be messy.

In order for the machine to hold your media tight and get a nice even cut the rollers need to be aligned correctly. The left roller will stay in place, but the right roller can be repositioned into any of the places on the bar where you see notches. You will want to make sure that the rollers are in the best place for the media you are loading if you are loading a 12×12 mat or piece of vinyl, you will want the rollers all the way out, which is how it comes by default. However, if you are loading a piece of vinyl or heat transfer material that is say 9 inches wide, you will need to move the roller in toward the middle so that the right rollers are going to be on the media as it loads and moves through the machine. To move the rollers, use the lever to raise the bar then turn the roller until it pops out of the notches it is in, and move it into the new notches you want to position it in. Lower the bar back down using the lever.

silhouette-tips-and-ideas

Silhouette Mats

It comes as no surprise that you will need to periodically clean your mats.

In order to get clean cuts, you will need to clean the bits and pieces off the top. Generally, you can do this by wiping the mat with a baby wipe.

More Silhouette Mat Tips

  • Peeling the mat away from the material works better than peeling the material away from the mat and helps keep paper/vinyl flat. The paper/vinyl may curl up if you peel it off the mat, which may in turn ruin your design.
  • You need to tell the Design Space software if you are using a mat or not for your project. You will find this option on the Design Page Settings window in the cutting mat section. You can choose Portrait, Cameo, or none depending on how you are planning to cut.
  • if my media, snags, tears, or gets stuck in the blade it is because I didn’t take the time to make sure my media was secured all over to my mat. With newer mats, this isn’t usually an issue, but with older mats, you need to take an extra minute to make sure that it was adhered to the mat evenly everywhere, not just in the middle. Use your palm, or even better, the scraper tool to press the media to the mat and check that is stuck evenly throughout.
  • Always keep your mats covered when not in use. I store mine in big artist folders or hang them up.

More Silhouette Resources

Final Thoughts On Silhouette Tips And Ideas

Wow, There are so many options, ideas, and tutorials on just this one subject, As you grow with your Silhouette machine, we recommend that you take the time to learn all about your machine, Start with simple cuts and grow from there.

Youtube has a lot of videos that will help you grow in your skills and understanding. Take the time to learn new skills with your Silhouette and you will be rewarded when you undertake new projects and ideas. Happy Crafting!

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