Silhouette Basics: Loading the Mat

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Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see someone post in one of the Silhouette Facebook groups asking “Why is my design not cutting correctly?” or “Why is my mat sliding all over the place?” You can practically hear the panic in their voice! Quickly they assume that there is something dreadfully wrong with their machine and they are ready to box it up and send it back. Oftentimes however there is a really simple fix such as learning to correctly load the mat.

Because there is no printed user manual included with the Silhouette, it’s easy to miss small (but crucial!) details when loading the mat. The most common problems are:

  1. Not aligning the mat in the proper position.
  2. Choosing the wrong load option (“Load Mat” vs. “Load Media”).
  3. Failure to lock the roller bar.

Aligning the Mat

When loading the mat into your Cameo, the left edge of the mat should be aligned with the alignment marking on the far left of the machine. On the original Cameo, the marking is the same color as the base of the machine (grey), but it is blue on the Cameo 2 and Cameo 3.


If you are using a Portrait, center the mat under the rollers. The machine has a set of three alignment marks on the left. When the mat is loaded properly, the left edge of the mat should be flush with the alignment mark on the left of this set.


Choosing the Correct Load Option

There are two loading options available for the original Cameo, Cameo 2, and Portrait – “Load Mat” and “Load Media”. Just as the name implies, choose “Load Mat” when cutting anything that you have placed onto a cutting mat. Materials that have a backing you don’t intend to cut through (such as vinyl or sticker paper) can be cut without a mat, using the “Load Media” option.

Tip: Please note the words “a backing you don’t intend to cut through.” We’ve all had it happen that our blade is set incorrectly and the cut goes too deep and right through the backing. For this reason, I prefer to cut using the mat unless the design is larger than 12″x24″. (In order to prevent damage to your cutting strip, a mat should always be used when cutting materials without a backing.) I would rather take the time to load my mat than have to replace the cutting strip on my machine.

Load options for the original Cameo, Cameo 2, and Portrait are selected using the buttons on the machine itself.



The Cameo 3 load options are determined by which mat is specified in the Design Page settings of the Silhouette Studio software. If you are cutting media without using a cutting mat, select “None” in the Cutting Mat options. There is no “Load Media” button on the machine, only  “Load”  and “Unload” buttons.


Locking the Roller Bar

The rollers on the Silhouette Cameo can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes of media. In order to move the rollers, the release lever on the right-hand side of the machine must be turned clockwise (or DOWN). Once the rollers have been adjusted, be sure to lock the roller bar back into place by turning it counter-clockwise (or UP).


Pay attention to these details and you will save yourself a lot of wasted time and frustration. Soon, loading your mat properly will become second nature and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying lots of creative time with your Silhouette!

(The Cameo 3 User’s Manual can be accessed through the Help menu in Silhouette Studio. It is also available in PDF form here.








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  1. Hi Lycia! i love your work! i hope you can help me with this. When i tried cut with Portrait 3, this missaligned 5mm bellow. When cuts with a mat every runs fine, but when cuts without it, the cuts starts 5mm below the top margin while left and right margins are perfectly aligned. Every cuts is 5mm down compared to software preview. The Software i tried is 4.4.281 and 4.4.270. And the portrait 3 has Firmware Version 1.01, with AutoBlade and none mat checked. You can check if is a normal problem or my machine is fault?

    1. Hi Jonatan! Thank you for the kind words! I have not heard of this being an issue with the Portrait 3. Keep in mind that when cutting without a mat, you will not be able to cut along the extreme upper edge of the media because the machine needs some of that space for the rollers to grip. When you look at the preview image in the Send tab, is the entire area to be cut shown as bold red lines?

  2. Hi!

    I just got a Cameo 4 and there is no screen to load mat vs load media. On the software, the SEND page just has load media and no apparent way to change it. Earlier in the program page set up, you can choose a mat, but my machine keeps making test cuts in the top left corner outside of the grid and looking for registration marks there 🙁

    1. Hi Janet! Yes, the machine, cutting mat, and media size are all determined in the Page Setup Panel. The message to “load media” in the Send panel is for both mat and no mat settings. Which version of software are you using (Ex: 4.3.370)? Does your design page show registration marks?

  3. My silhouette 3 is still cutting in the wrong place, up on the mat at the top left even though it is set for the 12×12 cutting mat in the silhouette studio. It cut in the right place one time and then reverted back to cutting in the wrong place. Any ideas? thanks. Pam

    1. Hi Pam! Is the Test Cut in the wrong place or is it every single cut you make? I’ll need more information in order to help you troubleshoot, so if you could email me that would be great!

    2. I am having the same problem and it is also doing the test cut above the cutting area. The roller lever is in the upright position. It just starts cutting way near the top.

      1. I’m so sorry to hear that Linda. I know it’s frustrating! Can you tell me which machine you have, what software version you’re using (example 4.2.279), and what firmware version is installed on your machine?

  4. I’d like to know if there is a way to load the material without using the screen in silhouette 3 (instead through the computer) my screen is damaged.

    1. No Jehrome, that’s the only way I know of to load/unload the media. My suggestion is to contact Silhouette America and inquire about a repair. I’ve also read some online tutorials about repairing the touchscreen on your own but I’ve never tried that myself.

  5. My cameo 2 will not load my mat at all it wants to is growl as if it’s been loaded help I have a lot of projects I need to get done thanks

      1. Hi Mary! It sounds like there may be something stuck under the carriage (or perhaps behind the machine) that is obstructing the mat when it tries to load. Try hitting “Load” without actually inserting a mat. If you still hear the growling sound, that means the problem is with the loading mechanism. If you don’t hear the sound, look to see if there is some kind of damage to the mat that is interfering with the loading process. Hope that helps.

  6. I am new and I tried making a cut on my machine and it is going through the motions but nothing is on the vinyl. What am I doing wrong? Also I thought a font from font bros and saved it to my desktop. How do I get it in silhouette?

    1. Hi Mary! My first guess is that the blade is not properly installed. It needs to be pushed down all the way (no gaps) and locked into place. If that’s not the issue, you can find other suggestions here: https://caughtbydesign.com/2018/03/16/10-reasons-why-your-silhouette-cameo-or-portrait-isnt-cutting/

      As for the font, once it’s downloaded you will need to make sure it’s unzipped and then install it on your computer. Close Silhouette Studio and then re-open it and the new font should appear in the font list.

      Happy cutting!

  7. Followed Your instructions for the cameo three however the right side is still not keeping the vinyl in place. Any other advice?

    1. Hi Kim! Is your vinyl on a mat or are you cutting on the roll? If you’re using the mat, make sure it’s completely under the white roller on the right. If you’re cutting on the roll, make sure the right edge of the vinyl is completely under the right roller. In either case, your roller bar needs to be locked in place, which means the handle will be UP. If that still doesn’t work, I would need to see your machine in action to troubleshoot, so feel free to send me a video. Hope this helps!

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