The Silhouette Cameo is an electronic cutting machine perfect for the avid craftsman. It is a sleek looking white & silver unit, approximately 53cm long, less than 3kg heavy & shaped like a triangular prism. It can cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, heat transfer material, fabric & more up to 12×12 inches for most media, but for lined media the maximum length is 10 feet. It is also capable of drawing on your papers & cardstocks.
The machine’s RRP is $299.99 & for this you get everything you need including Silhouette Studio software, 51 designs, a cutting mat, power cable, USB cable, cutting tool/blade & $10 gift card to be used in the Silhouette online store.
Setting up the machine is easy. There are clear instructions about removing packaging materials on & in the machine, & once this is done it is ready to use, just plug it in & push the power button. You can use either a regular cutting blade, a fabric cutting blade or a pen (either your own if you buy the pen holder tool or one of the Silhouette pens which can be purchased in packs). Whatever tool you use, they are all inserted into the same small black cylinder on the left hand side of the machine, under the external flap which is easily lifted up to open. For cutting tools you need to set them to a specific depth first before locking them in place (more on that later) but for pens you just need to pop them in & turn the little blue handle on the cylinder to the right to secure.
To prepare your computer (the software works on both Mac & Windows), simply insert the disc included & follow the prompts. Once the program is installed you are ready to go! Plug your computer into your Cameo using the USB cord included then pick a design from your library (the icon that looks like an open book on the left hand side of the program). Double click & it will appear on the page. Then you can size it & position as you wish. If you’re not using 12×12 inch paper, you can change the dimensions on the right hand side of the screen (other options include A4 & A5).
NOTE: Lots of designs require two or more colours – like the basketball, the banner & the boombox for instance – so you will need to split the design into its components. To do this, select the design then click on ‘ungroup selected shapes’ which is at the bottom of the page, second from the left. Then delete the section you are not ready to cut yet, then select all (ctrl+a) & group once more (at the bottom of the page first on the left).
Once you are ready, click ‘send to silhouette’ which is at the top of the screen, 6th icon from the left. Click ‘change settings’ under step 4 on the right hand side & select the type of media you are using for example ‘cardstock heavy’ then follow the instructions, which for heavy cardstock is to set the blade to 3. If you are using a pen, select that option now & you don’t have to make any adjustments. To adjust the blade, simply pop the white end into the perfectly shaped grey protrusion on the left hand side of the Cameo under the front flap then twist until the little red arrow reaches the number you’re after. Then just pop the blade back into its housing & secure by turning the blue handle to the right. Once you have advised the program as to what media you are using, whether you are using a blade or a pen, & followed the instructions, peel the blue protective sheet off the cutting mat & lay your media on it. Be careful not to touch the sticky surface of the mat unnecessarily because it will gradually lose its stickiness. For your first few attempts I recommend using high quality thick cardstock as the mat it is quite sticky when new & may tear weaker papers. Line the cutting mat up with the white rollers inside the machine (always have the front flap up when using the machine so you can see what you’re doing) & select ‘load cutting mat‘ on the machine’s LED screen (NOT ‘load media’ which is only for media with its own lining). Let the machine suck the cutting mat in then click ‘cut page’ under step 6 on the right hand side of the Silhouette Studio software. Your design will then be cut or drawn depending on what you’re doing. When it is done, the machine will give you the option to ‘unload’. Press the enter button on the machine & it will release the cutting mat enabling you to peel your design & the excess paper off. This may be quite difficult the first few times, but just go slowly so you don’t wreck your design or the mat. & voila! You’re done!
The store sells regular cut, print & cut, printable patterns, sketch, rhinestone, 3D crafts & font designs in the following categories: flourishes & shapes, borders & backgrounds, cards & gifts, fonts & phrases, family & friends, plants & animals, work & school, holidays, celebrations, travel & seasons, fun & games, kid stuff, & around the house. Designs usually sell for $0.99 each, but there is a free design every week, & regular sales, plus a few of the more complicated designs are slightly more expensive. You can also buy ‘subscriptions’ for example for $9.99 a month you can download $25.00 worth of designs. Like magazine subscriptions, you have to sign up for a year, & can pay either up front in full (& get a 5% discount) or pay by the month. For those looking to have a craft business, many of the designs can also be purchased at a commercial rate.
While the machine comes with free software, there is also a designer edition available which is definitely worth a look depending on your needs. To learn more about both, including how to use all the different features, check out the videos on this YouTube channel.
Silhouette America also have another cutting machine called the Silhouette Portrait which is cheaper but can only take media up to 8 inches wide.
Produces high quality cuts easier than the Cricut
Cheaper than Cricut
Don’t have to buy cartridges
Can download individual designs cheaply
Machine both cuts & draws
The free software is quite good
Designs are endlessly adjustable unlike with machines such as the Sizzix Big Shot & Cuttlebug
You can make your own designs
Reasonably large – 53 cm long plus you need at least a 12 inch exclusion zone either side which may be an issue for people with little space
Cost – the machine is quite expensive, especially if you live in Australia, but cutouts are also quite expensive so if you buy them a lot, it can be well worth the money.
Features I Would Like To See
Progress bar – the machine doesn’t work from top to bottom, it seems to randomly complete designs so you have no idea how far into a project it is, this is where a progress bar would come in handy
Better instructional DVD – I’ve had a few issues figuring out how to use it by myself & had to find videos on YouTube myself
Ability to emboss
I would give this product 4.5 stars out of 5 & I’d recommend it to any serious crafter who uses a lot of cutouts like alphabets & butterflies.