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Making the First Cut with your Silhouette CAMEO: What you Absolutely NEED to know

If you are new to your Silhouette CAMEO you might be overwhelmed and a little nervous to make your first cut, I know I was!  I will walk you step by step through the tips, tricks, and pitfalls to avoid when cutting for the first time with your machine.

Your First Cut with the Silhouette CAMEO - Step by Step instructions on how to make your first cut. You will be a pro in no time!

The Silhouette CAMEO is one powerful machine.  Which is awesome, but can be totally overwhelming when you are new!  I mean the thing is pretty expensive and can do so much so if you are like me, you might be nervous to get started without breaking anything or wasting a bunch of expensive materials.

Well the good news is, it seems WAY more intimidating than it really is!  After a few cuts, you will be like an old pro, and I promise that nervous feeling will go right away.  We are going to start at the beginning and walk right through. But first, let me make sure you know about my Silhouette 101 series!  I have been putting together all of my most asked questions, and favorite tips and tricks I have learned along the way in this series!  You can see all of the posts here on the Silhouette 101 page.  Now before we start, make sure to do two important things:

    1. Sign up for my Crafty Newsletter!  This will deliver all crafting posts including each new Silhouette 101 tutorial right to your inbox as they are released, so you don’t miss a thing! SIGN UP HERE!
    2. Pin the Silhouette 101 page to your Silhouette or craft board on Pinterest (and make sure to follow me while you are there!) Now, if you are crafting and have questions, you have an easy place to find this post and a place to reference for all of your questions!  You can repin the Silhouette 101 pin here!

Now back to our first cut!

How to set up your Silhouette CAMEO for the first cut

  1. Set up your machine. If you haven’t taken your machine out of the box yet, make sure to set it up.  I have a full post on How to Set up your Silhouette CAMEO to help!
  2. Decide on your media.  For purposes of this tutorial I am going to lead you through the process to cut a simple word, Dance.  I recommend that you use a piece of cardstock to do this exercise on.  Paper is inexpensive and so if you do mess up, you can just get another piece without worrying too much about the cost.  Paper is also a less complicated and more forgiving form of media to do your first run on your machine with than some others.
  3. Install Silhouette Studio. If you don’t have Silhouette Studio installed on your computer, either use the CD your machine came with or download Silhouette Studio here.  Once it is downloaded make sure the program is installed.
  4. Grab your tools!  You will need:
    1. Silhouette CAMEO
    2. A regular Silhouette blade (Your machine will come with one)
    3. A few pieces of basic, non textured 12×12 cardstock, and a cutting mat.
    4. If you would like to use the same font I am using in the example, you can download Gelato Script here. It is a bit pricey regular price, but I got it for much less as part of a bundle, you can get more details on the Best Free or Cheap Fonts to use with your Silhouette here.

How to Create Your Design in Silhouette Studio

Now we will dive into the Silhouette Studio Software to create a design to cut.  Please don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of steps below.  This is very simple and you will find it to be common sense, I have just broken it all down into several very basic steps in hopes not to lose anyone along the way!

Open Silhouette Studio and Choose DESIGN to create your own design to cut with Silhouette CAMEO

  • Open Silhouette Studio– If it is installed on to your computer you should be able to just double click the icon to open it up.
  • Design – You will see a welcome screen, where you will choose design.
  • Set up your page – Next we will set up the page you will cut on in the design studio.  You can either:
    1. choose the Design Page Settings icon in the top toolbar which looks like a piece of paper with two perpendicular arrows on it OR
    2. Pull down the VIEW menu from the top menus, and pick Show Design Page Settings, OR
    3. Hit control F1 on a PC or Command F1 on a Mac.How to Set up a Page to Cut with your Silhouette CAMEO

You should see Design Page Settings on the right quarter of your screen.  Use the height and width boxes to input the dimensions of your media.  You can also use the pull down menu underneath these boxes for common sizes. For now we will not worry about rotate view, but in the next box below select that you will be using a 12″x12″ cutting mat with your CAMEO. Lastly, I like to have show cut border checked to make sure I am within my limits.How to Create and Weld Text to make your own designs to cut with your Silhouette CAMEO

  • Select the Text tool– Now choose the text tool from the left menu by clicking on the button that Looks like an A, OR by clicking the A icon on the top menu.  This will give you a type cursor and open the Text Style menu on the right quarter of your screen.
  • Create your text– Choose your font by either scrolling through the fonts on the menu to on the Text Style screen on the right side of your screen.  You can use any font you have on your computer to design with, see how to add fonts to Silhouette Studio here.  Once you select your font, click the A icon on the left menu to get your type cursor.  Click your cursor toward the middle of the grid to start typing your word.  To follow along with this tutorial please type Dance.
  • Size your word- I like my next step to be sizing my word.  The reason for this is although you could weld first, that takes away your ability to edit the text, where sizing does not, so it gives you a few extra minutes to realize errors or make changes. You can do this two ways:
    1.  Use the font size menu in the Text Style window.  If you know exactly what size you want it, you can pull down, or type it here.
    2.  Drag the bounding box.  I usually don’t know a font size but have measured my project and know about how many inches I want my final design to be. If you click the arrow tool at the top of the left menu, then click on some blank space to get the word deselected (the green type box will disappear) then using the cursor, click on the word again which will bring up a thin black bounding box around the word.  Use the boxes on the corners of this box to drag the design out until it is the size you want.  The darkest lined squares on the cutting mat represent 1 sq inch.  You will also see the measurements of your design on the outsides of the box as you pull it in and out. My design is about 2.1 inches tall by 7.5 inches wide.
  • Spacing and welding letters– Once you have your word written, if it is in a script font, you will notice that the tails of each letter overlap into the letter next to it with red outlines. The red outlines indicate places the machine will cut and since we do not want each letter cut individually, but it cut as one continuous word, we will need to fix this.  TIP: If your word is small, zoom in using the magnifying glass with the + on it in the top menu to make this step easier to get perfect.  Double click on your word to get the green box back around the word and the text cursor.  You should also now see the Type Settings box on the righthand side of the screen. Use the character spacing slider to move the letters so the tails just barely overlap, or until it is most visually pleasing to you.  You will want some overlap to remain on each letter to keep the script look.  Now click in the white space to remove the green text box, then right click on your word and select weld from the menu.  This will remove any of the red cutlines that are overlapping in the design and leave you with one smooth continuous script word.


As promised, that looked much longer and more involved than it actually was!  Creating your design is actually really easy and fun!  Now on to the cut settings!

How to Set Up the Cut Settings for Silhouette CAMEO

We are almost ready to send our design to the machine, but first we need to understand one of the most important things we will do to have a successful cut… set up our cut settings!

  1. Open the Cut Settings window by either using:
    1. The icon that looks like an angled silhouette blade in the top menu OR
    2. Using the Silhouette pull down menu in the header and choosing “cut settings…”
  2. Cut Style for Selected Shape– When you open the cut settings window anything that will be cutting should now have a thicker red line outlining it.  If it doesn’t the most common reason is that you have not selected the cut setting in this menu.  If you have followed along with my tutorial so far, you should already have this selected.  I always double check, so if it is not selected, please make sure to select it.
  3. Material Type– Next we will select the type of material or media we will be cutting.  Use the menu to scroll down and choose the item you will be cutting.  If you are using thinner scrapbook paper, I usually use copypaper.  If you are using true cardstock, then you can choose Cardstock or or Coverstock from the menu depending on how heavy it is.  They don’t give us exact measurements here so use your best judgement, and we can adjust as needed before we cut our project.How to Choose Cut Settings to make cuts on your Silhouette CAMEO
  4. Editing: Material – Once you click on a type of material you will see a menu that says Editing: Copy Paper (or whatever material you chose) appear.  Since every material is different, and even different brands of the same material can vary this menu will allow us to customize each cut for the material we are using.  The Editing: Material will show you the default settings, and allow you to make changes to:
    1. The blade setting– use the rachet that came with your blade or on your machine to turn the blade so it is on the number indicated.
    2. The speed – The speed the blade will cut through the material at.  If you have problems with the material snagging, catching, or pulling up, you can use this setting to slow down the speed.  For now we can leave it at default.
    3. The thickness – The thickness the blade will cut the material at.  If you notice that the media isn’t cut all the way through you can increase the blade depth, if you notice there are deep blade marks in your mat (some are normal)you can reduce the blade depth.  For now we will leave it at default.
    4. Double cut- If checked this will tell the machine to make one complete pass with the cut then go back to the start and cut over the same exact design again.  This is especially good for thick or tricky materials, but for our example today, please leave it unchecked.
  5. Test Cut– This is the best and maybe the most overlooked feature in this section of the software!  Doing a test cut allows you to make a very small cut of a square with a triangle inside at the top of your media, to see if the settings are perfect, or if you need to go back and adjust.  This allows you to perfect your settings without wasting an entire sheet of material not knowing if the settings are exactly right.  To make a test cut:
    1. Make sure your settings are as you want them.
    2. Load your mat with media (see more details on this below)
    3. Click Test Cut
    4. Unload your mat and check your media.
    5. Repeat if necessary.  If the cut isn’t perfect, adjust your settings and then you can do another test cut.  Before you cut the next time, make sure and use the cursor keys next to the test cut button to postition the blade in a new place so it doesn’t do the second test cut in the same place as the first.  You can repeat this as many times as you need to.
    6. TIP: The test cut will cut about an inch in at the top left side of your media.  Make sure the test cut does not overlap an area needed for the design on the page.  If there is overlap, use the cursor next to the test cut button to move the blade to a spot on your material that you do not need for your design.

Making the Cut

The rubber is about to meet the road because we are going to make our first cut!  Let’s load up your machine and make the cut!

  1. Place the media on your mat– When you open the mat that came with your machine it will be enclosed in a bag and have a paper covering the sticky side.  You can toss the bag, but make sure you keep the paper/plastic sheet to replace on the sticky side to preserve the tack on the mat.  Here is what you want to do to get ready to cut:
    1. Remove the mat from the bag.  Then gently peel back the paper from the mat.
    2. The mat is VERY sticky.  If you are using thin paper, or a lower quality cardstock many users recommend that you “destick” your mat a bit by blotting it with a cotton towel or t-shirt.  Many people report that the first time they use the paper it can be so sticky that the paper is impossible to get off without ripping.  I use the Silhouette light hold mat with all of my paper projects, so  I have never had this issue.  If you use paper with your Silhouette I highly recommend it!
    3. Place the paper inside the grid guidelines.  If you are using a 12×12 as recommended, you will cover the whole box on the mat with your paper, if you adjusted your page size to another size, place the paper on the mat to line up with what you see in the software.
    4. Use your palm or a Silhouette scraper tool to make sure the paper is stuck down to the mat evenly across the paper.
  2. Place the blade in the Silhouette CAMEO– Your blade should be set to the depth indicated on the cut settings window we used in the last step.  If you skipped this, go back up to step 4.1 on Cut Settings, and set the depth for your blade. Now to load your blade:
    1.  Make sure the lever on the carriage is loose, this is pointed to the left on a CAMEO 2.
    2. Insert the blade, blade side down, into the carriage.  Push gently to make sure it is all the way set down into the slot.
    3. Make sure the fin (part that extends out on the top of the round part) is positioned so that it points directly out toward you and perpendicular to the carriage.
    4. Lock the blade in by turning the lever back, it should now be pointed right on a CAMEO 2.How to Change the Blade Settings on Silhouette CAMEO
  3. Load the mat– We will now load the mat into the machine. With a few just a few touches you will be ready to cut!  Make sure that your machine is set up (see how to set up your Silhouette CAMEO here) and turned on.
    1. Make sure the roller bar is locked down.  To do this the lever on the right side of the bar should be in the up position.
    2. Line the mat up with the line on the bottom left of your machine.  This is the guide for where you should align your mat to load from left to right.
    3. Line the mat up evenly with the rollers.  By default the rollers should be on the outer settings which is what we will use with a 12×12 Silhouette Mat.  If you are using a smaller mat or media, you will need to move the rollers on the right side in to a setting that will catch your media.
    4. Load mat- Loading the mat is pretty easy, but on your first time you might need a couple of tries to get it in straight, don’t be discouraged, you will be able to load it like a pro after a couple of practice runs.
      1. Hit the LOAD MAT button.  Make sure you choose load mat, NOT load media if you are using a mat.  The wrong selection will impact the alignment of your cut.  TIP: I like to gently hold the material/mat at the top near the rollers to make sure it grabs and loads evenly.  
      2. Now check that the mat looks to be evenly loaded by seeing that the mat goes straight across and is not crooked.  If it is not even, hit UNLOAD, then repeat to try again and reload.How to cut text with your SIlhouette CAMEO - Step by Step instructions on how to get the best results!
  4. Make the CUT!  Finally we are here!  Your design is ready.  Your cut settings are set.  Your media is loaded.  LET’S GO!
    1. Make a Test Cut– If you already did this in the last step, not need to do it again. I recommend making a test cut before you cut your entire design. Even as an experienced Silhouette user, I do this 95% of the times that I make a new cut to avoid wasting expensive media.  If you did not make a test cut, go back up to the CUT SETTINGS section and make a test cut.
    2. Send the cut to your machine– Let’s tell the machine we are ready to cut!  You can do this one of FOUR ways:
      1. From the CUT SETTINGS window on the right side of your screen use the Send to Silhouette option at the bottom.
      2. Choose the SEND TO SILHOUETTE button on the top menu.  In the Designer Edition software, this is the last button and looks like a Silhouette Machine with a paper with an A written on it.
      3. from the header drop downs choose Silhouette —> send to Silhouette
      4. Use the keyboard shortcut control L on a PC or command L on a Mac.
    3. Watch the magic!  Your machine should now start cutting.  If you followed the directions, you shouldn’t anticipate any issues.  The silhouette will “sing” to you a bit as it cuts, but if the noises are loud, grinding, or the material you are cutting starts to pull up, snag, or tear, you can hit pause or cancel and unload the mat to trouble shoot.
    4. Remove your cut!  Once the machine is done cutting, you can press UNLOAD on the screen of the machine.  Then you can peel back the cardstock, which will leave your design on the mat.  Then carefully pull up the design.  It is helpful to use a spatula tool here, especially if your mat is on the stickier side.  Once you peel it off it should have left behind the center of the D, a, and e.  You can use the scraper tool to remove those easily and then recover your mat until your next project!

WOW!  We did it!  I know it seems like a lot of words on the screen but hopefully you will agree that overall, making the first cut was pretty simple.  And once you have it behind you, don’t you think that the next one will be so much easier!

With each project and cut you do it slowly becomes second nature and before you know it, you will be a pro and teaching your friends!  What do you do now?  PICK A PROJECT and get started!  Check out my Silhouette CAMEO Pinterest board for lots of inspiration and once you have a project, work through it step by step just like we did here and before you know it you will have something beautiful that you created with your machine!

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Your First Cut with the Silhouette CAMEO- Step by Step Instructions

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  1. Richelle says

    Thanks for the tutorial . I have had this in the box since my birthday in January and finally tried it today , with success. This was a easy quick and helpful way to use my Cameo

  2. sabra says

    Hi! I just got this for my birthday and I am having some major trouble with removing the vinyl. The letters are cut, but the letters don’t peel away.

    • says

      Hi Sabra- I would try a few test cuts and increase the blade depth/play with the settings, until you find the perfect setting that allows you to cut through the vinyl completely but not the paper backing. I sometimes make 5 test cuts to get it right if I am working with a new material!

  3. Lisa says

    I’ve had this machine for nearly a year and been petrified to use it! Your tutorial is brilliant and I’m so excited for all the things I can do with it now!

  4. Diane says

    I went through the tutorial fine. When I got to the cutting part is where i had trouble. I used cardstock paper but the cardstock kept sliding out of place. What did I do wrong?

  5. says

    Thank you so much for this thorough tutorial. I bought my Cameo a few months ago, but haven’t had the time to figure out how to use it (although having a 7 month old doesn’t give me a ton of time to do anything…). I now feel prepared to try my first cut project and finally get around to the many ideas I’ve been pinning. Thanks again!

    • says

      You are so welcome! I know first hand how hectic life can get with little ones as I have 3 of my own running around. Good luck with your projects!

  6. Becky G says

    I just received and opened my Silhouette Cameo. Your tutorial made it so easy. I ran into trouble with the blade. It says the software will automatically adjust the blade for the appropriate material and as I was unable to adjust it I let it do its own thing! Unfortunately,, the letters were not totally cut through all the way around on the cards rock. What do I need to do? Should I use the double cut option?

    • says

      Hi Becky- I am not sure I have enough details to help you. If you are using the self adjusting blade on the CAMEO 3 then it is my understanding that it should automatically adjust, however since I don’t have a machine yet, I can’t tell you for sure. I would definitely try the Silhouette Support line.

    • Kirsten Klein says

      Becky I am having the same exact problem. Did you end up resolving your problem? We have gone through most of the first roll that my kit came with already trying to figure this out. We are trying to cut the stencil vinyl.

  7. Dorelle Andersen says


    • Judy says

      I’m having the same problem on a machine I just bought & can’t get through to customer service. Would appreciate any helpful suggestions!! Thanks–

  8. Ginger says

    Did not cut Dance for me. It looks like a bunch of squigly lines. I’ve been going over your directions for 4 hours and no change. What am I missing? Or what was left out?

  9. Katelyn says

    I was following the tutorial and now for some reason it will not let me type. I was at the part where you said to select design studio and then select font and now it wont let me type anything. I tried closing the program and reopening but I can’t type anything. I try to type and it goes to point editing. I’m so frustrated with this thing. yesterday I was at least able to type and design. Now I can’t do anything.

    • says

      Hi Katelyn- Make sure you click on the mat before you start typing. It sounds like it is selecting a keyboard shortcut to the edit points function when you start typing which makes me thing that you have selected the tool but may still need to click on the mat/design area before you start typing.

  10. says

    I have followed your tutorial and my machine does not cut! not the test cut or the word. The cursor blade moves all around, but it acts like there is no blade in it. HELP!!


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