Hi everyone! My name’s Nicky and I’d like to share with you my review of the Silhouette cutting machine. So before you jump to the end of the article to see what the outcome is, I’ll tell you: the answer is a big YES! You should most definitely buy a Silhouette cutting machine. Now let me explain why, and answer a few questions along the way.
First off, let’s talk about what this thing actually is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do.
I’m confused, is it called a Silhouette or a Cameo?
Silhouette is the brand name, and Cameo refers to one of their particular machines. There is also the Silhouette Portrait - basically the same as the Cameo, but can only cut 8 inches x 12 inches (approx. 20cm x 30 cm) whilst the Cameo can cut 12 x 12, a full scrapbooking page - and there is also the new Silhouette Curio, which has a deeper cutting blade and can cut thicker materials.
What does it do?
The Silhouette Cameo is an electronic cutting machine. It uses special software (Silhouette Studio) to create designs which can then be sent to the machine. Because the people at Silhouette are very clever, they’ve included a lot of other cool gadgets and features, but we’ll get to those in a minute. On a basic level, the Silhouette Cameo can cut paper (printer paper up to glitter cardstock), vinyl, washi tape, special brands of chipboard, sticker paper and a lot of other things.
What doesn’t it do?
The Silhouette Cameo (or Portrait or Curio) is NOT a laser cutter. You won’t be able to cut Perspex or wood like you see at some craft fairs. It uses a blade and not a laser, so your cutting is limited to what the blade can cut through.
It is also not a printer – the software is compatible with printers, so you can design something in Silhouette Studio and then print it on your home printer, but the machine itself is not a printer.
What makes it different to other cutting machines?
I’ve never owned a Cricut or any of these other cutting machines, but I did my research before buying my Cameo and one HUGE advantage with the Cameo is that you are not reliant on download kits or packs of designs – the Cameo can use any font that is already on your computer (and you can add free downloaded fonts from places like Font Squirrel and DaFont), comes with 50 free designs, and best of all, allows you to create and add as many designs as you want.
In essence, you can:
Use the pre-loaded free designs that come with the software
Buy designs from the Silhouette Studio online store
Download the “Free Design of the Week” from the Silhouette Studio online store – this is an exciting freebie every week! True, because it is a US product sometimes you end up with Thanksgiving or Fourth of July themed designs, but there are lots of other very versatile freebies that they make available.
Download free fonts or use ones already on your computer.
Design-it-yourself. The software is easy to use and with a bit of practice you can come up with your own unique designs.
And this is the big one: the “trace” feature allows you to copy all sorts of images which then become part of your design library. There are some limitations (more on that in later posts), but if you stick to the guidelines you can add thousands of designs to your library.
So does it just cut paper?
No, the Silhouette machines are very versatile. For example, you can buy sketch pens which fit into the slot where the blade usually sits. This means that any design that you can cut out you can also draw instead! You can use this to add text to scrapbooking pages, do place names, wedding invites or cards – the possibilities are endless.
The Cameo can also cut fabric, heat transfer material and vinyl – so you can make your own vinyl wall art or a cut a stencil to create a personalized T-shirt.
Don’t underestimate the printing side of things – whilst the Silhouette machines are not printers, the software is so good that you’ll want to design things in it just to print them out – I designed all of my wedding stationery this way. There is also a “print and cut” feature which allows you to print something through your printer and then cut it out on the Cameo – say hello to personalized stickers and die-cuts!
Kraft paper stickers
But don’t underestimate its ability to “just cut paper” – think about all the things you could do. Cut out titles for scrapbooking pages or cards. Cut out shapes for use in paper crafting. Cut borders for pages. I even made earrings from cardboard! And then I made the display card for them to go on, using the cut feature and the sketch pens. I’ve made cupcake toppers and my own bunting, posters for my mom’s school and place-cards for my Christmas table – truly, the possibilities are endless.
How durable is it? How often do you have to replace things? How easily available are the materials?
Ah, now you’re asking the smart questions! You don’t want to buy something that only lasts a few months, or only uses specialized imported inputs. So, I’ll break it down into the essentials, nice-to-haves, and how available everything is:
The machine itself – you can buy this at most scrapbooking stores – I got mine through Scrap-a-holics back in 2013! True, it’s not cheap, but I can honestly say it is the most versatile piece of equipment I have ever bought and well worth the cost.
The cutting blade – this comes with the machine, but you can also buy replacement blades for about R250. I’ve had my machine since July 2013 and I only changed the blade in December 2015, so they last a long time. If you’re going to be cutting fabric, a separate fabric blade is suggested (also about R250).
The cutting mat – this also comes standard with the machine and replacements can be bought easily. These can lose their stickiness, but there are also adhesive sprays that you can buy to re-sticky your cutting mat.
Something to cut! The great thing is that you aren’t limited to only one type of paper – most scrapbooking paper and card can be cut on the machine, although it doesn’t seem to like the Tim Holtz range – I think this is because of the cross-weaving in the Tim Holtz paper which makes it brilliant for lots of crafts, but not so nice on the Cameo. You can even use normal cardboard that you’d buy from a stationery store, such as the Butterfly brand of cardboard.
And that’s it! The others are all nice-to-haves, but you can do an awful lot of things with just what’s on this list – and three of these items come standard when you buy the machine.
Dust cover to protect your machine – I got mine in my favourite teal.
Once you get a bit more experienced with your machine, you can add on a few things like sketch pens, fabric blades and other accessories.
There is a wide variety of specialized Silhouette products that can be used on the machines, such as printable tattoo paper, magnetic paper, printable gold foil, sticker paper, washi tape sheets and heat transfer material.
As you can see, the possibilities with the Silhouette Cameo are endless. I used my machine to make personalized bridesmaids bags for my wedding, made gifts for baby showers and birthdays, personalized T-shirts, made greeting cards and added so much to my scrapbooking.
Gifts for my bridesmaids – personalized bags to keep all their stuff in on my wedding day.
I made the place names and the thank you tags using my Cameo’s print and cut feature. The birds were put onto chipboard and a peg glued to the back.
This frame used the Cameo’s cutting feature as well as the sketch pens
Everything on these pages (hearts, bunting, words) was cut with my Cameo.
Polaroid fridge magnets
My Cameo is my number one go-to machine for any project, and after 2 ½ years I’m still learning new things and trying new ideas. This is an amazing machine and I highly recommend it to any crafter.
**Message from Admin**
When Nicky isn't cutting every possible thing on her Silhouette Machine, she also blogs regularly on her own blog.
You can also visit the Silhouette product page by CLICKING HERE