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What is a Silhouette Machine?

The Silhouette is an electronic cutting machine that hooks up to your computer. It’s about the same size as a small printer and comes with software that enables you to basically create anything and then cut it out on paper, vinyl, fabric, or heat transfer material. The possibilities are endless. You can use it to create gorgeous posters, greeting cards, and custom t-shirts, to name just a few. With additional add-on tools, you can also use the Silhouette to sketch, engrave, and with the newer versions of the machine, emboss, etch, and stipple.

There are three Silhouette machines to choose from:

  1. The original Silhouette Cameo can cut material on a mat that is 12 by 12 inches. You can cut items that are longer if the material is on a continuous roll, but are limited to a width of 12 inches. The cameo can cut material up to 0.08 mm thick. The machine will set you back at least $270 on Amazon, but there’s a variety of different bundles available for sale too.
Silhoutte Cameo

2. It’s smaller follow-up, the Silhouette Portrait, is limited to a standard US letter size cutting mat of  8 1/2 inches by 11 inches. Aside from the size of the machine itself, the only real difference between the Cameo and Portrait is the price, with the latter available on Amazon for as little as $150.

Silhouette Portrait

Of course, there is a little more to it than that. The real secret is in the software. Both the Silhouette Portrait and the Silhouette Cameo come with a Silhouette Studio Software plus an assortment of pre-loaded designs. If you want a little more design diversity, Silhouette has a software upgrade called Silhouette Studio Design Edition which sells for $50.

3. The newest version, the Silhouette Curio, works on a cutting mat that is 8 1/2 by 6 inches wide, and has the added features of stippling and embossing. It features two carriages so you can use two blades or tools on your projects (but not at the same time.) It can cut material up to 2mm thick and costs $199 on Amazon, but also comes in various bundle configurations.

Silhouette Curio

What Can you Make With the Silhouette?

With the Silhouette you can cut a wide variety of products: Paper and card stock, heat transfer material, adhesive vinyl, craft foam, vellum, and more. And the projects that come with that are endless.

In addition to the obvious paper crafts, if you find screenprinting overwhelming you can create custom t-shirts with vinyl, water bottles, mugs, and anything else you can stick vinyl too. If you have your own small business you could use the machine to create tags, boxes, gift card holders, and other little knick knacks that will add a great, personal touch. And if you don’t, the Silhouette is actually a great way to create crafts you can sell online.

One of the coolest features is print and cut. This allows me to set my design in the software, send it to the printer, then send it back to the Silhouette for cutting. This is a sample project showing what you can do with this feature.

One of the most popular uses for a Silhouette is cutting vinyl. Nevertheless, cutting on vinyl can really open up creative possibilities. Vinyl makes great stencils and beautiful lettering.

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