I received a Silhouette Portrait as a gift from my parents at Christmas this year, along with some accessories. Here it is about a month later, and I’m finally getting around to unpacking it and starting to learn to use it! I took the first steps last weekend, and theoretically even made a small amount of progress on my Liono cosplay for Megacon.
In addition to the machine itself, I got a ratchet blade for it, a fabric cutting blade for it, a spare cutting mat, and some sketch pens, which can be used in place of a blade to draw custom designs with the machine.
First thing was to install the software that came with my Silhouette, which is called Silhouette Studio. This was easy enough, as was entering the code for the $10 Silhouette store cad that came in the box with the machine. I found and purchased $10 worth of designs from the store easily, too. Next, I thought I would sit down with the Silhouette Instruction Video DVD that came with it.
Boy, was I wrong on that one. My laptop flat out refused to play it. I spent a while trying to fix this, Googled solutions, tried downloading some other software that would let me view the files on he DVD, but to no avail. I gave up, pretty frustrated, and just started trying to use the software instead.
I decided I would attempt to make the Thundercats logo, potentially for Liono’s belt when I get to that costume in a few weeks. So I started trying to create this using ellipse tools and the freehand line tools. Sure, I could make a red circle. But my line drawing left a bit to be desired. I tried plugging in my WACOM Bamboo and skteching with the pen instead of my mouse, but that actually seemed to make things worse.
Furthermore, I could not find a layering ability in this software. I pulled up the manual and began reading a bit, and even though I did read mention of a layering tool in it, I still have yet to find it in the program. Upon looking again just now, it says it is only available in the “Designer Edition Only”? Anyway, I couldn’t erase any of the messy black lines above without also erasing the red circle. Time to start over.
I read more of the manual. Turns out I did not actually need to draw anything. I could download an image from the internet and import it into my Silhouette file. Once that was done, there was a tracing tool that could break up the image and draw the lines for me. I did that and pulled the circle onto a separate file since they would be different colors of vinyl. Then I went to work modifying the lines that the tracing tool made of the cat.
You can see that the tool actually made a double outline of the cat. Since I didn’t want the Silhouette to cut out an outline of a cat, I had to remove one of the lines. I did this using a combination of the eraser tool and the point editor. Next it was up to the sewing room to cut vinyl with my Silhouette for the first time!
I did the red circle first. I placed it on the sticky cutting mat that came with my Silhouette, and pressed the load mat button on the machine. Then I sent the drawing to the Silhouette from a button inside the software, and off it went.
I was not expecting the noises it made. It sounded like an old school video game with all the different beeps, buzzes, and yerps it made. When it was all done, I unloaded the vinyl, and peeled it off of the cutting mat.
Peeling the vinyl off the mat leaves it a little bit curled up, but when I finally go to stick the vinyl down somewhere, I’m sure it will be fine (Note: I left the backing on the vinyl when I attached it to the mat for cutting). Then I put down the next piece of vinyl and sent it to the Silhouette. Here is what it looked like before I peeled it off the mat.
For whatever reason, the matte vinyl didn’t cut as well as the shinier kind. So I did a second cut after adjusting the blade to one higher number. Here are what both of my pieces looked like after I was done cutting.
I put some pattern weights down on them to try to flatten them out after I took this. But ultimately, I was pretty happy with how this went. There were some frustrating things about it at the beginning, but the tool has a lot of promise. I haven’t tried the fabric blade yet, but I will do so soon, probably with the same design, as I am not certain how well vinyl will stick to fabric. But I bet I can use some heat transfer stuff on some fabric. 🙂
If you have a Silhouette, let me know if you have any tips or tricks that will help me out as I learn to use it!