So Santa Brought a Silhouette

So Santa (or that wonderful husband of yours that finally picked up on all those hints you’ve been leaving) brought you a Silhouette for Christmas, huh?!?  But now you’re looking at it thinking, “well what now?!?”  There are a ton of questions that come with receiving your first Cameo or Portrait.  I for one know I had a TON when I got my first machine last year, and through trial and error, I have come leaps and bounds!  I have had several friends reach out to me since Christmas about advice now that they had their own Silhouette machine, and after typing the same list of tips and tricks a number of times, I figured I might as well post about it, and then I could just direct everyone of my lovely friends here!!!  By no means is this a complete list, but it’s a start, and hopefully it will help you on your adventures into electronic cutting!

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1. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to cut!!!  I don’t remember how long it was exactly that I had my Cameo before I worked up the nerve to cut something!!!  And I remember seeing on a number of the Silhouette groups that I participate in, I’m not the only one who suffered this fear of actually putting my machine to work!  I know I took it out of the box, and it sat on my desk for a good week or two before I really started playing with it and making things!  So don’t be afraid.  It’s a pretty amazing tool, and you’ll kick yourself later for even entertaining the fact that you would let it sit out for so long after receiving it before you made your first cut!

2. Tools.  Don’t waste your money on the tools (with the exception of maybe the spatula tool).  When I got my machine, I immediately ordered several of the tools.  I ordered the spatula, the hook, the scraper and my machine came with Pick Me Up stick.  Of all of those tools, I think the only one I use is the spatula.  The spatula is great for peeling intricate paper cuts off the mat without the paper curling once it’s removed (especially with a really sticky mat)!  Otherwise, I quickly replaced the hook tool with some very fine point tweezers that I picked up at Forever21 for $0.99 (they work so much better when weeding intricate vinyl designs)!  And while I did use the scraper, I’ve managed to misplace it, and so I resorted to using an old loyalty card I had laying around and it has been getting the job done just as well!

My favorite and most used tools!!!

My favorite and most used tools!!!

3. Vinyl. I use my machine for cutting a lot of vinyl.  As a matter of fact, the number of projects I’ve cut using anything but vinyl I could probably count up using my fingers and toes!  So needless to say, I have a lot of experience with vinyl!  My first vinyl order was from Silhouette, and while there were a lot of mixed reviews out there for their vinyl, I never had an issue with it.  At the time they were only offering a removable vinyl (not to be confused with reusable) comparable to Oracle 631, and I believe they have just released a longer term permanent vinyl comparable to Oracle 651.  Due to the amount of vinyl I go through, I do use Oracle brand for most projects now since I can get a better price on it in bulk, but if your not doing a lot of vinyl projects, the Silhouette vinyl is great and Silhouette does have some pretty good sales every once in a while!

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4. Choosing the right vinyl for a project!  What kind of vinyl should you use on a project?  Well that depends on what you are doing.  But here is my rule of thumb: If the item the vinyl is applied to can/will get wet and/or will be handled a lot, use Oracle 651.  If it won’t have a lot of wear and tear, won’t get wet, or if if you’re applying it directly to a wall in your house, use 631!

5. Transfer Tape. Continuing the vinyl theme, let’s move on to transfer tape.  INVEST in GOOD transfer tape! More importantly, USE transfer tape!  It is intended to be used with vinyl, it works amazing with vinyl, and push come to shove, it isn’t so expensive that you would really need to find an alternative!  I see in so many Silhouette Facebook groups I am apart of where members talk about using other sticky products for transferring their vinyl designs, everything from painters tape to kitchen contact paper.  And then I also hear horror stories about the residue left behind from those sources ultimately ruining a great finished product! Push come to shove, if you’re going to invest in good product (your vinyl), invest in good tools to use with it!  And as a plus, a good transfer tape can typically be reused!!   For those that are wondering, I use R-Tape Clear High Tac.

Please, for the love of all things vinyl, invest in a good transfer tape!  I personally use and love Clear R-Tape High Tac!

Please, for the love of all things vinyl, invest in a good transfer tape! I personally use and love Clear R-Tape High Tac!

6. Replacement Cutting Mats. Speaking of using the right products, be sure to use Silhouette cutting mats! You will eventually find that you need a new mat, and be sure to use genuine replacements.  Another thing I often see in the Facebook groups are people asking if it is OK to use the Cricut mats that are out there (especially before the Silhouette mats were readily available in all the craft stores).  But the Cricut mats are a bit thicker, can ultimately warp the roller bar, and then you can never use a Silhouette mat again.  Plus,  it can void your warranty.  My favorite place to get replacement mats and blades at a great price is Amazon!  In fact, right before Christmas I ordered a few for about $7 each!  Can’t beat that!  (And try to keep one extra of each, a blade and mat, so that you’re never left without!)

Be sure to stock up on replacement cutting mats and blades when you see a good sale!

Be sure to stock up on replacement cutting mats and blades when you see a good sale!

7. Heat Transfer Vinyl.  Another vinyl product is Heat Transfer Vinyl (or HTV).  This is what you want to use on fabric items.  The only brand of HTV I have personally ever used is Siser Easyweed.  I have been very happy with it.  Many people invest in a heat press when doing a lot of HTV work, but if you’re like me, and only make something every once in a while, a simple house hold iron and some practice works wonders! And remember…always cut dull side up, and MIRROR your image!!! 🙂

8. Glass etching.  One of my favorite projects to date is my etched Pyrex dishes! When I started, I bought the Silhouette Etching starter kit, and I have been very happy with the etching cream that it came with.  There are other options out there though, and I think they’re all pretty comparable.  I really liked the thick stencil material that came in my starter kit, but normal adhesive vinyl works great too.

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9. The Silhouette Design Store.  Once a week (I believe every Tuesday to be exact), Silhouette releases a free design to is customers.  Be sure to grab these!  There have been times they’ve released a design and I didn’t know where and how I would ever use it, but a few weeks later, I realized it (or a portion of it) was the perfect element for something I was working on!  Every now and then Silhouette will give away additional designs too!  Right before Christmas in fact they did a countdown to Christmas, and there were a couple new designs each day!  Also, if you don’t have a Silhouette yet, but are seriously considering one, go ahead and download the free software from Silhouettes website, create your account, and start stocking up on those freebies!

10. Facebook groups.  There are a ton out there!  Find a couple of your favorites and join them!  Some that I really like, Silhouette School and Silhouette SD and Cameo Users.  They are great resources when you’re having trouble with your software or if you’re just having a creative block and are in need of a new project idea! I personally love looking to them for inspiration!

Well there it is, my Top Ten tips for getting started with your Silhouette!  I know I have left tons out, but that should get you started and will hopefully help you answer some of your questions!  Be sure to take a look around my blog as I have featured several different Silhouette based projects with how-tos and tips on how to complete them!  And be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest where I post even more projects that don’t all get featured on the blog!!!

Do you have any more questions that I didn’t answer above?

If so, leave them in the comments, and I will be more than happy to help where I can!

*Please note: All of the opinions expressed in the post about the products mentioned are strictly my own based on my own experiences with them.  I was not compensated in any way by any of the companies to use or write about their products. 

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