Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cutting Vinyl with the Silhouette Cameo

I was so excited, I ordered my very first cutting machine on Black Friday from Silhouette. I got the Cameo at a nice discounted Black Friday price! I was so excited for it to arrive because of all of the fabulous projects I saw out in blogland that I could not wait to try!!

Once it arrived I was sort of at a stand still, what would be my first project?? So many things to make, so little time, and to be honest the machine was a bit intimidating! And I am a crafty (previously worked for a major Crafting company), creative AND computer literate person! (I have a minor in Computer Science - little known, un-shared, nerdy fact about me!!)

I have now used my Silhouette Cameo a few times, so I am by no means an expert, and I still have no clue what would be a GOOD first timer project... Maybe printing some nice Holiday gift tags or something nice and easy with cardstock, because the manual you get with your Cameo does a nice job of explaining how to cut with cardstock. But I decided my first project would be to make a canvas vinyl board, because lets be honest that's why you get the Silhouette Cameo or any cutting machine in the first place!!!

I decided with help from my sister to make a board with the saying "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas". I designed it in Silhouette Studio (the easy part, and again pretty detailed in the start up manual information.

Then came the hard part, cutting the vinyl. I think I now have it all figured out, but it took WAY too much time, that I don't have with a toddler running around the house!

Setting up the Silhouette
First a huge step I missed for the longest time: Adjusting the Rollers for Smaller Media. I figured I was cutting 12" vinyl, I did not have to do any adjusting, but yes you do. The machine comes set up for cutting 13" to adjust for the extra inch on the cutting mat! So refer to page 8 of the Getting started with your silhouette Cameo to see how to do this.

Loading the vinyl takes a bit of adjusting because I always seem to get it bunched up a bit, so I have found starting with a straight cut helps. Line the vinyl up to the rollers and on your control panel of your Cameo use the arrow to select down to Load Media. Then hit the enter key on your Cameo. Make sure the vinyl is straight within the rollers as well.

Then follow the directions on cutting with your machine within the silhouette studio and HOPEFULLY it should cut your vinyl! Make sure to un-select cutting mat so it adjusts for the lack of thickness of the cutting mat. It says to use a blade thickness of 1, but I found 2 works better. I was having trouble with my blade not cutting well so maybe now that the new one is broken in a bit I will switch it back to 1 to see if it still works well.

Even after I thought I had this all figured out it still doesn't work perfectly. I was cutting a longer saying, and half way through it just stopped cutting it. I am not sure why but I finally got my saying cut after a few tries.

In my several communications to Silhouette I suggested they revise their printed materials that are included with the machine. So hopefully they listen to my suggestion, because this was really frustrating to figure out! They were very helpful, but I feel that if I am trying to do something that my product is advertised to do and I need to call the help line to figure out how to do it, there is a problem.

Like I said not an expert, and maybe I should have become an expert on cutting paper before trying vinyl... I cringe to think about how much fun cutting fabric or other different media is going to be!! But hopefully this can help someone else not waste and entire new role of vinyl trying to figure this out!!!

I am still working on the finishing touches of my first Silhouette Cameo project and will post it when it is finished!

Was this helpful, did I miss something important?

A FEW MORE THINGS - Added Feb. 1
So I have had my Cameo for 2 months now, and I am still by no means an expert!! I still have had times where I completely messed up my project using vinyl.

A few things I have learned:
  1. Go and buy some contact paper from the store. I bought a clear roll from Target for something like 5 bucks. I just recently did this, and should have a while ago since so far I have only used vinyl as a stencil and throw it away. The contact paper has worked just as well and is much cheaper!! NOTE: make sure to put the right side up when you cut it, I didn't the first time and had to do another round of cutting! Opps...
  2. Buy Freezer Paper! I still have not done this, but its supposed to work really well as a stencil on fabric! I have used vinyl on fabric before. The first time it worked REALLY well. The second time not so well... Google the Freezer Paper idea and check it out. AGAIN a money saver and you are not wasting your expensive vinyl.
  3. Don't try and cut a "skinny" font! I tried to cut a very fancy, scroll font and it tore the entire thing. Maybe there is a way to cut a thin scroll font with vinyl... but I have yet to figure that out... and again wasted some precious vinyl!
  4. Smaller sections work better than one large section. Pretty self explanatory!
  5. Sometimes the transfer paper just doesn't help!! I am starting to find that if you are using the vinyl as a stencil it almost works better to not use the transfer paper and to just lift the vinyl from the backing and re-position it by hand on your background. Be careful not too stick the pieces together... and again the smaller sections work better.
That's all I have for now.... here's to fabulous projects with the Silhouette Cameo!

See all of the projects I have made using my Silhouette Cameo here


  1. Hi Ange, I just got my Cameo over Christmas and this thing {despite also being pretty crafty savvy} has me so confused! I found this very helpful, however, I am stuck at the adjusting the roller part. Are they locked in really tight? I pulled the lever done and can not get those puppies to slide at all!!! Is this normal??

  2. Hi Jennifer! I found it was really hard to move as well, you have to turn the roller so it pops out of the grooves its held in and then move it over. It was hard to move and hopefully it will be easier with time!! Good luck to you!!

  3. I have been having the same problem with my rollers. I havent been able to get them to move. I just gave up. :(

    1. Have you gotten your rollers to move?

    2. I had that problem too. I found that the rollers finally released if I turned them towards me first as opposed towards the back of the machine. See if that doesn't help. :)

    3. Thank you, 'What Can I Do Today'. Have just spent 10mins moving the roller in the direction shown in the manual, read your comment and voila!! Thanks!

    4. I could not get my rollers to release either and then I read somewhere that wearing rubber gloves while turning the rollers would give an extra grip. It worked well and the rollers turned without any trouble.

  4. I have been looking for help because even though the help desk is very nice, I still can not cut a piece of vinyl. I have tried using the cutting mat(it ripped the backing right off the vinyl) to not using the cutting mat and adjusting the rollers to 9 inches. I tried a test cut....everything...what am i doing wrong? Silhouette sent me a new blade and still I can not cut vinyl!

    1. Hi there! I am sorry you are having so much trouble!! Are you able to cut card stock?? Does that work for you? I ask because when the vinyl was making me so mad, I tried that to see if I was able to cut something...

      What setting do you have the blade on? I have mine on 2 I believe and that seems to work for me. I have used the cutting mat a couple times to cut vinyl also at a setting of 2 - make sure when you load your mat you use the load cutting mat. I am sure these are all things you have tried... but make sure the roller is in the down position, and I sometimes have to load the vinyl a couple times to make sure it's in there and straight. I also try and straighten the vinyl out a bit by bending the vinyl in the opposite way of the roll before loading.

      When I talked to Silhouette they told me to twist the blade a few times from 1 to 10 and then when the blade was at 10 to try and "clean" it. Did they have you try this?

      Does slowing the speed down help at all?

      Not an expert, but that is what I can think of! Let me know if this helps and keep us posted if you get it to work!

  5. Thank you Ange, I have tried everything except rolling the vinyl the other way or cleaning the blade. I'm doing that right now. I can cut card stock beautifully. I am dying to use the vinyl. Silhouette has decided it is still a blade problem so they are sending my 3rd blade. A lot of blades that were made in Taiwan were recalled because the slant was off and it will cut everything but vinyl so I'm trusting them and waiting.....

  6. Hi there
    I was wondering how much you paid for the cameo and where you purchased it from..I hope you dont mind sharing this info....I want to buy the cameo but if you were able to snag a great deal over black friday...then maybe I should wait till then to get it?

    1. Hi Maria
      You may want to see Gloria's comment below! I honestly don't remember what kind of deal I got for black Friday. I think I did pay around $269 like Gloria said but I may have gotten one of the starter kits included with that? I am sorry I have a horrible memory :) I am sorry I could not be a better help!!

  7. Hi, Maria,

    I bought mine on-line at Cut@Home

    I paid $269 last year and the price is still the same, today (October 1, 2012). I have never seen it at a lower price, anywhere. It comes with the cutting mat, software, 55 Silhouette images, instructions (basic) and a $10 gift certificate for Silhouette Studio images.


    1. Thanks for the reply to Maria!! I appreciate it!

  8. I have had my Silhouette since right before Christmas 2012. I have cut vinyl using the cutting mat. To transfer the design I use painters tape and find this works much better then transfer paper. I simply cover the design with painters tape and then pull the tape up and the design sticks to the tape. I then lay the design on whatever I am transferring it to and burnish it with whatever I have handy to get it to stick better to what I'm putting it on. I then carefully lift the painters tape off and tada, it works. I sometimes use a sharp edge to pull off the dots inside letters that don't always come off but that's pretty simple. I have also cut fabric and I also used the cutting mat for that. So far I've only made a few projects with it as I've just been busy with life. I am looking forward to getting back to creating gifts with it though. Good luck.

  9. Im cutting vinyl on the cutting mat , the problem I have is , even on setting 4 on the blade , it doesnt cut , it outlines the picture but doesnt cut , anything above 4 and it tears up the vinyl , I use to get great results when I first had it blade setting was 1 , or maybe the blade setting has to match the actual blade ... hmmm I might of answered my own question...

  10. I just got my cameo for Christmas and I can cut card stock beautifully however I am having the worst time cutting vinyl. I put my vinyl on the cutting mat and set the blade to 1, it cuts the vinyl but when I go to take the vinyl off the mat the backing on the vinyl sticks to the mat and tears. I have tried cutting the vinyl WITHOUT the my and it doesn't work as good as using the mat does. Someone please help, am I supposed to take the paper off the back of the vinyl before putting it on the mat?

    1. Alisha,

      Try cutting with your blade set to 2 and if it still sticks try 3. The paper backing needs to be on the vinyl when cutting. If you chose to cut without the mat make sure your machine and your software is set to "no mat" and you should load your vinyl as media and not cutting mat. I have had mine for over 2 years now and absolutely love it, but there was a major learning curve.

  11. Thanks! This is so helpful, I can't wait to try using vinyl again and hopefully have some success instead of a big mess.