Five Tips Silhouette Cameo Beginners Should Know

This post was created in partnership with Silhouette.  All opinions are my own. 

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should!), you’ll remember that I have been planning a review on the Silhouette Cameo 3.  Today I’ll be sharing the first part of my review in the form of five helpful tips for beginners!  Pin this post so that you can easily reference it, and stay tuned for part two, with a freebie! πŸ™‚

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First, before I dive in, I should preface this all by saying I’ve been loving my experience with the Cameo so far!  There’s truly no bounds to what this machine can do, whether you’re a crafter, sewist, teacher, DIY-er, or maker of any kind.  If you find yourself wanting to cut things out and make customized items at all, you’ll want a machine like this.

I’ve only recently heard about die cut machines in general, and before I received my Cameo 3, I had never even laid eyes on one or let alone watched one in use.  I would hear about people making these designs and then putting them on shirts, but it all seemed like a form of dark magic to me.  So let it be known that I was/am a complete newbie!  I consider myself pretty tech savvy and a quick learner, but I was a tiny bit intimidated to get this thing started up and cutting.  So I decided to gear my first review post towards other people like me, who need to know the basics before getting started.  So to those who are asking, “What did you wish you knew before you took this thing out of the box?”, here’s five things every Silhouette Cameo beginner should know.

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1. Adjust the settings to get the cut quality exactly right.

Since you’ll likely be adjusting the different settings for each cut you do at first, make your first (practice) cut with something inexpensive.  Different types of media cut differently depending on thickness, etc.  There are presets in the Silhouette Studio for lots of types of media, but you’ll probably want to adjust the blade depth, speed and force to get the perfect cut.  I was so nervous and excited to actually see this thing work that I wasn’t sure what to actually cut.  I’d recommend cutting something like card stock or paper for your first time around, because it’s less expensive than something like vinyl and you can more easily use another sheet to try again if you need to.

Top Tip: Use the “test cut” function!  If cuts a little square with a triangle in it to see if your settings are good.

2. Not all designs are created equal.

The Silhouette Studio software needs your designs to have “cut lines” in order for the machine to know where to cut.  If you design something in the software itself, these will be drawn along with the design automatically.  But, if you’re importing a design to use from an outside source, you’ll need to make sure those cut lines are there.  Designs are often available in many formats, but only SVG and DFX files will have cut lines in place upon importing to your Studio library.  You can only open SVG files if you have the Designer Edition of the Studio software, which costs a minimal amount to upgrade.  DFX files aren’t always as readily available as SVG files, so you may find it beneficial to upgrade.  If you want to use a PNG or JPG, etc. file, you’ll need to first “trace” the lines you want to cut in Studio.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but something you’ll need to be aware of.  All that said, it is likely easier to select a free design from the Studio library for your first practice cut.  You won’t have to import a design, worry about whether or not there are cut lines, or deal with upgrading.

Top Tip: Make sure to select “Cut” in the tool settings, and look for the red lines around your design.

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3. Make sure your blade is clicked all the way into place!

I thought my blade was broken or otherwise messed up because it wouldn’t cut all the way through my cardstock.  I realized this was because I didn’t push the blade all of the way down into the holder, AND then push the front piece that sticks out in towards the blade.  It should then click into place and hold the blade very securely.  Make sure you avoid this issue by properly installing your blade!  Trust me, it makes a big difference. πŸ™‚

Top Tip: Your two white little rollers on either side of the metal rod should be grabbing the very edges of your mat or material evenly when you load it into the machine.  If not, it could load crooked and potentially mess up your cut.  You should move the one on the right in or out to align with the edge of your material, look for the little lock icon on the roller and twist to unlock.

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4. The Silhouette Studio program is very powerful with a lot of features.

If you aren’t familiar with design software, try reading some tutorials first before jumping in and creating your own designs.  I had experience with Adobe Illustrator previously, due to my fine art degree, so I used that to create a few original designs.  However, I was glad that Studio had some very similar tools right in the software, because I did find myself using some of the features to tweak my designs right before cutting.  It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic tools available because then you won’t be as intimidated by the program when using it.

Top Tips: Always mirror your design before cutting if using heat transfer vinyl!  If you’re making something with text, make sure to β€œweld” the letters together so that they will cut properly.

5. Give yourself time to learn, and don’t be overwhelmed!

Keep in mind that all of the Pinterest ideas, flawless projects, and cute concepts are likely the product of someone who has spent quite a while learning this machine.  You can do it too, just give yourself the chance to learn and don’t let yourself be discouraged by the learning curve.  I found it to be a little steeper than I expected (and I certainly am still a beginner) but it wasn’t too bad overall, and you’ll figure it out!   Just keep at it.

Top Tip: There’s a lot of Facebook groups and Instagrammers who post tips and helpful ideas all the time, so start looking for those.

That’s it for my five tips for beginners!  I’ll conclude with a couple additional thoughts on the Cameo in general.

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The Cameo 3 comes with Bluetooth connectivity, which is exciting because I didn’t have to have my computer connected to run the machine!  It was a little buggy at times “finding” my computer, but I got it to work.  It’s a nice perk to only need to have it plugged into the power source and that’s it.  Otherwise, there is an option to use a USB cord instead.

There’s handy compartments to store your weeding tools and all that fun stuff!  I always like these little nooks and crannies so I thought it was worth pointing out. πŸ™‚

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Silhouette also provided me with these accessories as well, so I’ll be talking a bit more about projects I’ve made with these in the second half of my review!  Super exciting!

That’s all I have for you today – make sure to check back soon for the rest.  I’m having a lot of fun playing around with all of the features and making some pretty cool projects.  As I said earlier, I’ve just scraped the top of the iceberg in what this machine can do, but I’ll do my best to review my experience so far!

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Do you have a Silhouette Cameo?  What has been your favorite use of the machine so far?  I’m all ears for any ideas or suggestions for what to tackle next!

Elisabeth

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