Monday, November 14, 2016

Getting Started with a Silhouette Cameo

Let's start this post off with a bit of a disclaimer. I am a total Silhouette newbie. I've wanted a digital cutting machine for a while. But I'm cheap, so I never caved and bought one until about a month ago when the Silhouette Cameo popped up as an Amazon daily deal. That coupled with enough money in credit card rewards to get it means I totally caved. If you've never seen one of these things, there are several brands, but the big two are Silhouette and Cricut. They allow you to buy or create digital designs and then cut them out on a variety of media (paper, cardstock, thin cardboard, vinyl, thin plastic, etc...). So in this post, I'm going to write about my experience setting up and cutting my first design.

So I got my machine in just a couple of days (thanks, Amazon prime), but I wasn't able to even open it up for about a week. The fall is a very busy time in our house. So when I did finally get it open, I followed the instructions to remove the tape and foam and install the software from the included disc and then forgot about it for another couple of weeks. 

I messed around with the Silhouette Design Studio that comes with the machine and figured out the basics pretty quickly. If you've ever done any photo editing or document design, you'll probably be able to figure it out. If you aren't used to those kinds of programs, you may want to watch some youtube tutorials. I then went to the Silhouette store and downloaded this month's free design. All of that seemed pretty easy, but I did have to go to the Silhouette website and update my software from the version I installed from the disc (after the program crashed a couple of times). After that download, it was working great.

For my first try at cutting, I used the maple leaf that comes free with the program and typed my name and my husband's in the center to make some little prototype place cards for Thanksgiving, and then I used a frame that came with the program around the free "Thankful" design that was up for this month. I found a piece of thick scrapbook paper and peeled off the protective sheet on the cutting mat and stuck the sheet to it. After figuring out the steps for cutting the design (like putting the blade in and figuring out how to set it) the actual cutting was a snap. My machine did sound a bit like an angry cat while it was cutting though. I also learned that you need a fair bit of space next to your computer to use it.

After the mat came out the back side of the machine with the design cut, I started peeling the paper off the cutting mat. I learned that a new mat is very sticky. So sticky that this was probably the hardest part of the whole 1st project. My paper ripped several times, but thankfully it was the paper around the design and I went very slowly and carefully when I was peeling up the actual designs.

Because the mat was so sticky, the paper curled up a bit from being pulled off the mat, but otherwise, my designs came out perfectly. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my "thankful" cut out and frame, but if I make something with it before Thanksgiving, I'll be sure to share it with all of you.

So, what have I learned? There's a bit of a learning curve to the software, but it's fairly simple to use, and I had no problems making a basic design. Figuring out how to do more with it make take some time. The cutting mat is VERY sticky when you first use it. This will be fine if you cut just basic shapes your first times through, but If you do something even a bit more ambitious with lettering, it's gonna be a pain to get it off the mat. Desticking it a bit might be useful. The machine makes some weird noises as it's cutting. Do not panic. And when all else fails--find some tutorials online to help. I can't wait to make some awesome projects with my new machine. If you have any tips for a newbie--be sure to post them in the comments!

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