The Basics of Print & Cut using your Silhouette

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I’ve said it before but I don’t mind saying it again. I LOVE Print & Cut designs! Every time I cut something out and see that precise border around an image, it just makes me so happy! But that doesn’t mean that I never have problems with my Print & Cut designs. I’ve had my share of mishaps too – but I’ve learned something from each one of them. Today I’m sharing with you the basics of Print & Cut using your Silhouette machine along with some troubleshooting tips to help when things go wrong.

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Are you new to the Silhouette world and need help getting started? Check out my online course Getting Started with Your Silhouette: First Steps to Silhouette Success! It will boost your crafting confidence and get you well on your way to creating beautiful things with your Silhouette!

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Before We Get Started

It’s important to understand that your Silhouette is a digital cutting machine, not a printer. The term “Print & Cut” refers to images that are printed on a home printer then cut on a Silhouette machine. To create a Print & Cut, you will need:

All screenshots in this tutorial are from Version 4.3.370

Print & Cut Basics

Step 1: Choose a Design

The easiest way to get started with Print & Cut is to choose a Print & Cut design from the Silhouette Design Store. Once you have a little more practice with Print & Cut, you can create your own designs using the drawing tools, text, clipart, or by modifying designs with multiple layers.

An easy way to tell if a Silhouette Design Store file has been created for use as a Print & Cut is to look for this icon:  

Silhouette Design Store Print & Cut Designs

For this tutorial, we’ll use the Birds design by Simple Stories, Silhouette Design Store ID 216190.

Step 2: Set up the Page in Silhouette Studio

In the Page Setup Panel, choose the following settings:

Machine: select the machine you are using
Cutting Mat: select the size of mat you are using (or set to “None”)
Media Size: Printer*
Transparency: 50% or more (in order to see the design better)
Orientation: either Portrait or Landscape, depending on your design layout
Show Print Border: ON
Show Cut Border: ON

Silhouette Studio Page Setup

*Check to be sure the width and height settings also match your media size. If they don’t, go to File>Print Page Setup and double-check the media size in your printer settings. While you are getting started, it’s best to stick with standard-size (letter or A4) media.

Silhouette Studio Print Page Setup

Step 3: Turn On Registration Marks

In the Page Setup Panel, click on the 3rd tab. Make sure there is a checkmark in the circle next to On. Under Advanced Options, click on Restore Defaults just to be sure that the registration marks are set to their default size and positions. Check that the Orientation is also set to Default.

Tip: Pressing M on your keyboard will toggle registration marks on/off.

Silhouette Studio Registration Marks

Step 4: Open the design

Locate the design in your Silhouette Library. Double-click on the thumbnail to open the file in the workspace.

Since this file is designed as a Print & Cut, the cut lines are already included. Sometimes the cut lines will be right along the edge of the printed image and other times they will be offset like these. As long as the cut lines are set to a weight of 0.0 pt, they will not print.

Silhouette Studio Print & Cut Design

Step 5: Resize and position the design

Resize the design as desired by either dragging the corner handles or adjusting the dimensions in the Quick Access Toolbar.

Position the design so that no part is within the cross-hatched areas. Do not go beyond the Print Border or Cut Border and avoid the indented area at the top if possible.

Silhouette Studio Print & Cut

Step 6: Print

Once the design is sized and positioned to your liking, go to File>Print to print the design on your printer. Only the registration marks and the parts of the design filled with color will print. The cut lines, print border, cut border, and cross-hatched areas will not print.

Tip: Use your printer’s preview function to check the design before printing.

Once you have printed the page, do not move or adjust anything in the workspace!

Step 7: Load the Media and Send to Cut

Position the printed media on the mat just as it appears on the screen, with the square registration mark in the upper-left corner. Be sure to cover the gridlines on the mat so that they don’t interfere with the optical scanner.

Silhouette Print & Cut

Click on the Send tab and preview the cut lines. Make sure that only the areas you want to cut appear as bold red lines.

Silhouette Studio Cut Preview

A note about test cuts on Print & Cut designs:
A standard test cut will interfere with the square registration mark. Because of this, it’s best to make the test cut on a scrap piece of media or to create your own test cut in an area of the page that won’t interfere with the registration marks or design. My preferred test cut is an uppercase letter B because it provides corners, inside curves, and outside curves.

Load the mat into the machine and send the job to cut. The optical scanner will read the registration marks and then cut the design.

Silhouette Print & Cut
Silhouette Print & Cut

Troubleshooting Tips

If the machine fails to recognize the registration marks or the cut images are misaligned, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

Software/Firmware

  1. Make sure that your software and firmware are up to date.
  2. Verify that the page size in the software matches the printer setting for your media and that the correct mat (or “no mat”) setting and size has been selected.
  3. Make sure the correct type of registration marks has been selected for your machine.
  4. Check to be sure that no part of the printed design (even “white” areas that won’t be printed but are still detected as part of the design) falls within the cross-hatched areas or in the small indented area between the top registration marks. Delete any images located within the grey holding area on the screen. (For tips on removing the background from an image, read this post.)
  5. If you have adjusted the registration marks, reset them to their defaults, adjust the design placement (if needed), and print the page again.
  6. Perform a manual registration. When the “Registration Failed” message pops up, click on Manual. Use the arrow keys in the software or on the machine to position the tool holder (Tool Holder 1 on machines with dual tool holders) over the square registration mark. Click on Register.
Silhouette Studio Manual Registration

Mat & Machine

  1. Check to see if there is anything blocking the eye of the optical scanner, such as a small scrap of vinyl.
  2. Verify that the printed page is placed on the mat in the same orientation as it appears on the screen. For Type 1 registration marks, the square will be in the upper-left corner with brackets on the upper-right and lower-left corners.
  3. Find the sweet spot when it comes to lighting. You want there to be enough light for the scanner to see some contrast between the registration marks and the printed page but too much light can cause a reflection when using glossy media such as printable foil or shimmery cardstock.
  4. Dark papers, especially green or blue, do not provide enough contrast for the optical scanner to detect the registration marks. When printing on dark colors such as these, place a square of white sticker paper in the registration mark areas before printing.
  5. Check to be sure that the registration marks are printed clearly and fully. Ink smudges will interfere with scanning as will incompletely printed registration marks. Use a high-quality printer setting to print the marks as dark as possible.

When all else fails…

Perform a reset:

  1. Save the design.
  2. Restart the machine and the software.
  3. Open the design and try again.

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Following these steps will get you well on your way to successful Print & Cut projects. If you encounter any problems that the troubleshooting tips I’ve included don’t solve, feel free to leave me a comment below or post your question in the Silhouette Crafters by Design Facebook group and I’ll be happy to help!

Until next time,

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