Are you the proud new owner of a Silhouette and don’t know where to start? Or maybe your Cameo has been “aging” in the box for quite some time now and you’re scared to even take it out and give it a try? If so, this post is for you!
Unlike a fine bottle of wine, your Silhouette will not get better with time. (Sorry to burst that bubble!) In fact, the longer you wait to open it, the more intimidating it becomes. But if the mere thought of getting started is completely overwhelming, please know that you are not alone. I hear from people all the time JUST LIKE YOU! But until you dive in, you’ll never unleash the power of the Silhouette machine. So today I’m going to guide you step-by-step into creating your first cut. Let’s get started!
What You’ll Need
- Silhouette machine and all cords/cables
- Silhouette Studio software
- Silhouette cutting mat
- Silhouette blade
- Cardstock (or plain copy paper)
Note: This tutorial was written for the Cameo 4, but the process is similar for all models of the Cameo or Portrait.
Before We Get Started
If you haven’t already set up your machine, Silhouette America has a great tutorial that can be found here.
During the setup process you will create an account, register your machine, download/install the Silhouette Studio software, claim your free one-month subscription to the Design Store, and download the free designs that are included with the machine purchase.
- GENTLY remove ALL tape and packaging materials from the machine. Ripping the tape off may cause misalignment of the housing and any packaging materials left behind will interfere with the proper operation of your machine.
- The 1-month ($25) free Design Store subscription is activated as soon as you enter the promo code, but not until then. If you’re not ready to purchase designs, wait to enter the promo code until you are. And be sure to use all your credit up before it expires or it will be lost!
Basics of Silhouette Studio
Silhouette Studio is very powerful software and there is so much you can do with it but let’s just concentrate on the basics right now. Open the program on your computer and familiarize yourself with these areas:
All screenshots from Silhouette Studio version 4.3.370
- Design – this is the main section where you will do all your designing.
- Store – provides a direct link to the Silhouette Design Store
- Library – where all of your Silhouette Design Store files are located plus any user-created designs that you save here.
- Send – click on this tab when you are ready to send a design to be cut
Page Setup Panel – where you will enter all information about your machine, mat, and page size. Also includes settings for the grid, guides, registration marks, and other page features.
Select Tool – determines which shape on your design page is active.
Drawing Tools – allows you to create squares, rectangles, rounded rectangles, ovals, and other polygons.
Set Up Your Design Page
Make sure the Design Tab is selected. Click on the icon for the Page Setup Panel.
In the panel that opens, enter the following settings:
Cutting Mat: Cameo 12 x 12 in*
Media Size: Letter (8.5 x 11.0 in)
(I’m using letter-size cardstock. If you are using a 12 x 12 in piece, change the setting appropriately.)
Don’t worry about any other settings right now.
* If your machine is already connected to your computer, you may see Auto (Cameo) as an option for both Machine and Cutting Mat. This is fine too.
Open a Design from the Library
Let’s start with one of the free designs that came with your machine.
- Click on the Library tab.
- Locate the design you want to use.
- Double-click on the thumbnail to open the design in your workspace.
Resize the Design
As you can see, this design is bigger than the 8.5 x 11 inch page size we set earlier, so we’ll need to resize it.
- Click on the design to select it. You should see a grey bounding box around the image.
- Click on the corner handle at the lower-right of the bounding box.
- Using your mouse, drag the handle until the image is sized like you want it.
To move the design around on the page, simply click on it and use your mouse to move it into position.
Add Some Shapes
Just for fun (and to give you a little more practice in Studio), let’s add some shapes to the page.
For each shape you want to draw:
- Click on the Drawing Tool icon on the left-hand side of the page.<
- Select which shape you want to draw (Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, or Polygon).
- Click back in the workspace and drag your mouse to draw the shape.
Tip: I’m going to digress a little here and give you a tip that will help when drawing shapes. If you find that every time you click on the mat you keep drawing shapes, you need to change one of your Preferences settings.
- Click on the Edit menu at the top of your screen and choose Preferences.
- Click on Tools.
- Change the option for After Creating a Shape to Choose Select.
- Click on OK.
You can find out more about Preference settings in these posts:
Cut it Out!
Click on the Send tab to open up the Send Panel. A split-screen will open up with your designs on the left and the cut information on the right. All cut lines will show up as bold red lines.
I’m using regular cardstock with an Autoblade, so here are the settings I entered from the drop-down menus. Adjust your settings accordingly.
Material: Cardstock, Textured – Heavy (80lb)
If you are using any blade other than the Autoblade, be sure to manually adjust your blade to match the settings before you cut! In this example, the blade should be set on 3.
Place your cardstock on the mat in the same position that it appears on the screen. If your mat is brand-new, be sure to de-sticky it first by patting on it with a t-shirt or other lint-free cloth (pressing it on your jeans works too!). You could also use a light hold mat which works very well for paper projects.
Turn on your machine and check to see that it shows as Ready in the Send Panel.
Make sure that your blade is fully inserted and locked into place (with no gap). Align the edge of your mat with the vertical line on the bed of the Silhouette machine.
The white rollers should be even with the edges of the mat with the roller lock in the UP (locked) position.
Press the load button to insert the mat into the machine.
Return to the Send Panel and click on Send at the bottom of the screen.
When the job completes, do not unload your mat! Check to see if the cardstock is cut all the way through. If not, adjust your settings in the Send Panel and send the job again.
To experiment with the cut settings, start by increasing the force. If you’re still not getting satisfactory results, increase your blade setting. If the cardstock still does not cut through at a maxium blade setting of 5 and force of 33, you will need to do some additional troubleshooting. Some common problems include:
- The blade is not fully inserted and locked into place.
- The Autoblade is not adjusting properly.
- The cap is loose on the ratchet/fabric blade.
- The design has not been set to Cut (no bold red lines appear in the Send Panel view).
Once the design is cut, press the unload button to eject the mat. Turn your mat over and peel it away from the cardstock to prevent curling the paper.
Yay, you did it!!!
You’ve just opened the door to a whole new world of creative possibilities and I can’t wait to help you even more as you explore all you can do with your Silhouette! I post lots of tutorials here so be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a single one!
In the meantime, just keep practicing, practicing, practicing and if you run into trouble, leave a comment below or come visit me over in the Silhouette Crafters by Design Facebook group. I’m always happy to help!
Like what you see here? Share the image below to Pinterest!
Until next time,
Other resources you may find helpful:
Silhouette Studio User’s Manual
(In Silhouette Studio, you’ll find it listed under the Help menu.)
(e-book available from the Silhouette Design Store)
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.