Few things are more frustrating than when your Cameo or Portrait doesn’t cut properly – or worse yet, isn’t cutting at all. Virtually every Silhouette user has experienced this at one time or another. Sometimes the machine cuts…but not as well as you’d like. Other times the media looks virtually untouched, with no visible cuts whatsoever. There can be several reasons why your Silhouette machine isn’t cutting as expected. Here are some of the most common:
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Note: This post was originally published before the Cameo 4 was introduced. While many of the items listed here are applicable to ALL Silhouette machines, if you are having cutting issues with a Cameo 4, my first recommendation is to try a different blade – either a ratchet blade or a premium blade. This will help you determine if the issue is with the machine or the blade and what further troubleshooting is needed.
#1 Blade is not properly inserted and/or locked down
I’ve diagnosed this issue so often that I keep a photo of a properly installed blade on hand to share whenever someone is having cutting issues. To cut properly, the blade must be pushed all the way down, with no visible gap between the tool holder and the blade. This is especially true for the Autoblade on the newer Cameo and Portrait models. When your machine is new, you may need to press quite firmly for the blade to pop into place, but over time it will become much easier.
When using the ratchet blade, insert it with the fin on the casing pointed forward. Looking at the blade from the top, the fin will be at the 6 o’clock position when properly inserted.
In addition to being properly inserted, the blade must be locked down into the tool holder. On the Cameo 3 and Portrait 2, push in the lock lever until you see the little circle change to Silhouette blue. If your blade raises slightly when locking into place, open the lock lever and push the blade all the way down again. Hold it into place with one finger while locking the lever with your other hand. To lock the blade on a Cameo 1, Cameo 2, or the original Portrait, turn the black lock lever clockwise until it clicks into place.
#2 The blade is dull, damaged, or broken
This one is pretty self-explanatory. How long a blade will last depends a lot on what media you are cutting. Any kind of paper, especially thick cardstock or chipboard, will dull your blade more quickly than vinyl. Occasionally, you may also find that your blade is damaged or broken from cutting denser materials. If you suspect this may be the case, try using a new blade and see if the problem persists.
#3 Cut settings are not correct
The best way to avoid this problem is to make a practice of performing a Test Cut every time you cut a new material. It’s also wise to perform a Test Cut if you’ve been using the same blade for quite a while (even if your media type hasn’t changed) to see if your settings need to be adjusted.
To perform a Test Cut in Silhouette Studio Version 4, open the Send Panel and select from the list of available materials or add your own custom settings. Then click on the “Test” button in the lower right of the screen. Once the Test Cut is complete, check the cut and tweak the settings as needed. You can also create your own test cut using an image or text of your choosing.
#4 Cut lines are not turned on
If this has happened to you, don’t be embarrassed, because we’ve all been there at least once. To verify that your design has cut lines, view it in the Send Panel. The areas to be cut will be indicated by bold lines. These lines can sometimes be hard to see when the line color is very light (yellow, for instance) and/or matches the fill color. If you don’t see any bold lines, select the design and choose either “Cut” or “Cut Edge” from the menu on the right in the Send Panel and the bold lines should appear.
#5 Autoblade is not adjusting properly (Cameo 3 and Portrait 2 only)
To check the setting of the Autoblade, look at the red indicator line that is visible in the blade window. If it does not match the settings you have selected in the Send Panel, then it is not automatically adjusting as it should. There are several possible reasons for this. The first is if the adjustment slot is blocked in any way. This happened to me recently on my Portrait 2. I had positioned my mat too far to the left and the edge of the mat was covering the adjustment slot, which prevented the Autoblade from tapping down into the slot. Even though I heard the blade going through the motions, it was not actually adjusting.
Other reasons the Autoblade may not be adjusting include:
- A blade type other than the Autoblade is selected in the Send Panel.
- The Autoblade is inserted into the incorrect tool holder. (Must be placed in the tool holder on the left.)
- The Autoblade is not inserted properly into the tool holder.
#6 Blade is dirty and/or the cap is loose
Certain types of media can leave a residue on your blade. I’ve found this to be especially true with the Silhouette Scratch-off Sticker Sheets. It’s also common for small bits of vinyl or paper to collect inside the blade assembly over time. Kelly over at findingtimetocreate.com has a great post on how to adjust and clean all of the Silhouette blades. When you are finished cleaning the blade, be sure to fully tighten the blade cap. The ratchet blades, in particular, will not cut properly if the white cap is loose.
#7 Firmware needs to be updated
If your firmware is not up-to-date, you may experience cutting issues. You can read my post that discusses firmware updates in more detail by clicking here.
#8 Cutting strip is damaged
The cutting strip is a long narrow piece that is found just under the blade holder and runs across the width of the machine bed. Its purpose is to prevent damage to the blade as well as the machine when cutting materials without a mat.
Over time, the strip may show some indentations and signs of wear that are perfectly normal. However, any nicks, gouges, or frayed areas are not normal and could cause cutting issues. If this is the case, the cutting strip needs to be replaced. You can purchase a replacement cutting strip here. Complete instructions on how to replace it are printed on the package.
#9 The design contains too many nodes
When I was very new to the Silhouette, I purchased a design in the Design Store that was almost 9.5 inches wide and I resized it down to a little over 4 inches wide. When I tried to cut it, I couldn’t get a clean cut no matter what I tried. When I finally gave up and called Silhouette Customer Service, I learned about “nodes” and what happens when a design has too many of them.
If you view a design in Point Editing mode, you will see a series of tiny grey squares. Each of these squares indicates a node. A node is a stopping point that the blade makes along the cutting path. Tracing a design without simplifying it will often result in excess nodes. Scaling a large design down too far may also cause there to be too many nodes, which is exactly what happened with the design I mentioned earlier.
Excess nodes will cause cutting issues, especially if there are several within a very small area. You may hear a stuttering sound as the Silhouette tries to cut and the resulting cut will not be clean or smooth. To remove excess nodes, first try simplifying the design. If that doesn’t work, the nodes can be deleted manually.
#10 Mat needs to be cleaned or replaced
After completing a project, there may be fibers or leftover bits of paper, vinyl, etc stuck to the mat that interfere with the cutting surface. Clean the mat with a lint roller, baby wipes, or a Magic Eraser.
If your mat is older, it has probably lost some of its sticking power and may be showing signs of wear and tear. Either of these conditions can also lead to cutting issues. If the media is not sticking well to the mat, try using painter’s tape to help hold it down. Replace the mat when it becomes worn or damaged.
While cutting issues can be frustrating, they are often easy to fix. Learning to troubleshoot problems with your machine will provide you a great sense of accomplishment and save you a lot of headaches down the road. If you’ve tried these suggestions but your Cameo or Portrait still isn’t cutting properly, feel free to reach out to me by either leaving a comment below or joining my Facebook group. I’d love to help!
Until next time,
This post was updated November 2020.
Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.