So, you’re either thinking about getting a Silhouette Cameo or you’ve already taken the jump and purchased one.  Yay!  Silhouette machines are awesome!  They are fun to use and you can make so many amazing things with them.  Once you get started, you may never want to stop.

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What is a Silhouette?

A Silhouette is similar to a home printer, but instead of using ink, it uses a small blade to cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, and more.  I like to think of it as a pair of digital scissors that will cut whatever I tell it to cut.  Not only does it cut, but you can also draw with pens & markers, emboss, engrave, and score. Really, the possibilities are endless.  The Silhouette Cameo as well as the Silhouette Portrait both use the same software, Silhouette Studio.  In the software, you can design nearly anything you want to be cut out of a variety of materials.  You can cut letters, words, phrases, shapes, cards, patterns and so much more.  Seriously, there is no limit to what you can create and cut.

The Silhouette can cut so many different types of materials!  It is amazing.  It will cut everything from vinyl, cardstock, paper, and chipboard to fabric, craft foam, and tissue paper.  I typically use my machine to cut vinyl, but there are so many other things I would love to try.

Today, I’m sharing a little bit about my Silhouette Cameo 3.  I’ll tell you all the great things about it and help you get started using it.

What’s in the Box?

  • Silhouette Cameo 3
  • Blade
  • Standard Grip Cutting Mat
  • Power Cord
  • USB Cable
  • Crosscutter for Trimming Vinyl
  • 100 Free Digital Designs

Setting up your Machine

Setting up your Silhouette Cameo 3 is super easy.  You just plug the power cord into the machine and into the wall, then connect the USB cord to the machine and to your computer.  That’s it!  It doesn’t get much easier than that!  Want to ditch the USB cord?  You can!  The Silhouette Cameo 3 can communicate with your computer wirelessly through Bluetooth!  I love it!  My computer is on one side of the room and my Silhouette is on a table on the other side.  You can also use the Silhouette with an iPad, but I haven’t tried that yet.

When you open the machine, you’ll notice a touch screen on the left.  There are lots of functions on the touch screen, including Bluetooth setup and loading/unloading the mat.

Before your first cut, you’ll need to put the auto blade into the blade holder with the RED dot.  To do this, pull the lever open, line up the blade with groves on the machine, push the blade in, and then push the lever closed.

Awesome Features of the Silhouette Cameo 3

The Silhouette Cameo 3 has some great features.  It has a dual head, so you can have a blade on one side and a pen on the other side.  This means you can cut and draw without ever switching out your tools.  It’s also super fun to watch it switch between the two tools.

The Cameo 3 has an auto blade, which is a big improvement over the older Silhouette machines.  By using the auto blade, the blade settings will automatically adjust to the material you are working with.

There’s storage compartment built into the machine which is great for storing your most used tools.  Speaking of most used tools, this tool set is the perfect addition to your new machine.  The weeding tool, application tool, and scissors are a must for nearly all adhesive vinyl projects and the other tools will make your paper crafting projects so much easier.

There’s a cross-cutter tool that fits in a track on the back of the machine.  This tool allows you to quickly and evenly cut vinyl that’s on a roll (rather than a mat).  Speaking of vinyl on a roll, the Silhouette Cameo allows you to cut long lengths of vinyl without a mat.  This is a super bonus feature if you are making big signs or vinyl decals.

Silhouette Studio Software

You’ll need to install the Silhouette Studio Software onto your computer before you can start using your machine.  The basic version of Silhouette Studio is free to everyone and you can download the current version here.   Under the column “Link,” select your computer type and the download should begin.  Some computers will start the installation process automatically after the download has completed.  It depends on your computer.  If it doesn’t start automatically, you may need to go to your downloads folder and click on the downloaded file to begin the installation.  You can upgrade to the Designer edition of Silhouette Studio and I highly recommend you do.  With the Designer edition, you can use SVG files, which are awesome.  The basic version won’t let you open SVG files and you’ll need to use DXF files, instead.  SVG files are so much easier to work with.  You can purchase the upgrade here.

Getting Started with your a Silhouette Cameo 3

The best way to learn how to use your machine is to just start!  Since I’m a vinyl girl, I’m gonna show you how to create a super easy project using vinyl.



Start by importing your design into Silhouette Studio.

If you have the basic version of Silhouette Studio, you’ll need to use the DXF file.  Here’s a step-by-step tutorial that shows you how.

If you have the Designer Edition of Silhouette Studio, you can use the SVG file.  Here’s a step-by-step tutorial that shows you how.

Next, you’re going to size the design so it will fit on your surface.  First, measure your surface to determine the size you want your decal to be.  Then, in Silhouette Studio, click anywhere inside of the design.  You’ll see small squares appear in the corners and around the edges of the design.  Move your mouse over one of the squares and your cursor will change to an arrow.  Hold down the left mouse button and drag the arrow in or out to decrease or increase the size.  If you want to keep the design proportional, drag in or out from one of the squares in the corners.  If you want to change only the width, drag in or out from one of the fsquares on the right or left.  If you want to change only the height, drag up or down from either the top or bottom square.

I’m going to make the design about 6″ wide and I want it to stay proportional, so I’m going to click on the bottom right square and drag the mouse until I get to my desired size.

Now the design is sized and ready to cut!  Click on the send button in the upper right corner.

Once you’re in the cutting screen, you’ll need to select the cut option under Tool 1.  If you skip this step, your machine won’t cut anything.  Once you click on cut, red lines will appear around the letters.  The red lines are where the machine will make the cuts.

*Update – If you have the newest version of Silhouette Studio, the cut lines will be turned on automatically.  Yay!

You’ll also want to check the tools settings to be sure they match up with what you are cutting.

Now it’s time to get your cutting mat ready. Your new Silhouette machine came with a brand new 12″ cutting mat and that is what you will put the vinyl on before you make any cuts.  You can cut without a mat, but that’s a tutorial for another day.  Today, we’ll just cut using a mat.  Brand new mats come with a light blue liner to protect the mat.  Remove the liner and save it for when you’re finished cutting.

Place your sheet of vinyl on the mat, with the colored side facing up.

Turn on your machine and lift the lid.  Alight the left edge of the mat along the alignment mark on the left side of the machine.

Press the mat into the rollers and then press load on the control panel.  The machine will pull the mat forward a couple of inches and you’re ready to cut!

Performing a Test Cut

When you are working with a new material for the first time, it’s a good idea to do a test cut before you cut the actual design. In Silhouette Studio, down in the bottom right-hand corner, there is an option to do a test cut.  When you click on the test button, the blade will move to the left and will start moving up and down while making a clicking noise.  This is totally normal.  The machine is adjusting the blade to correctly cut the vinyl.  Once the blade height is correct, the machine will cut a small triangle inside of a square.  The blade should cut all the way through the vinyl and just barely touch the vinyl backing.  You don’t want it to cut the backing at all.  This is called a kiss-cut.  Once you’re happy with the test cut, it’s time to cut the vinyl decal.

Cutting your Vinyl Decal

Load your vinyl and mat into the machine and click on the send button to start the cutting process.

The blade will shift to the left of the machine and then it will start moving up and down while making a clicking noise while it’s adjusting the blade.  Once it’s adjusted, the blade will move over the vinyl and start cutting.

Once the machine stops cutting, select unload on the machine’s control panel.  The machine will unload the mat.

Carefully remove the whole sheet of vinyl (including the backing) from off the cutting mat, then replace the blueliner on the cutting mat.  Get in the habit of replacing the liner as soon as you are finished using the mat.  It will protect your mat from dust and debris and will keep it sticky longer.

Trim around the design and save your big scraps for later.  You’ll be able to use them in other projects.

Weed the Excess Vinyl

The next step is called weeding. Weeding is the term we use for removing the excess vinyl around the design, including the insides of letters like a, e, o, etc.

Weed the excess vinyl from around your design, I love using a weeding tool to do this.  This tool is especially useful for removing the insides of letters.

Next, cut a piece of the transfer tape a little larger than your design.  Use an application tool to burnish (rub) the transfer tape onto the decal and trim to size.

Flip the design over and remove the vinyl backing

Flip the design over again and position it over your blank object.  Burnish the vinyl again with the application tool.

Then, remove the transfer tape.

That’s it!  Wasn’t it easy?  And isn’t it the truth, crafting truly is happiness!

Feeling adventurous?  How about tryout out some more advanced techniques with your machine?

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