Saturday, August 18, 2012

Silhouette Cameo: Paper Cutting Machine

I can't believe I had never heard of this machine before. Ever since I started papercrafting, I had been looking for a printer-like machine that could cut out intricate shapes. I was only ever able to find machines that could cut out pre-designed stencils....until now! A friend of mine told me about the Silhouette Cameo, so I looked it up and it sounded exactly like what I'd been looking for. It's currently cheaper on Amazon ($269 vs $299) if you happen to be interested:

"It can create intricate projects of all sizes from small (1/4" wide) to large (12" wide) and has an unlimited cutting length. It can cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, and other materials. It operates with or without a cutting mat. When the blade is replaced by a pen, the CAMEO will sketch instead of cut. It can be controlled from a computer or an SD card. With the print and cut feature, the CAMEO also has the ability to cut out designs that have been printed on your home printer."

It comes with very clear instructions for those of you afraid of new technology. The software is user-friendly and quick to learn. Basically, you can create your design in the software, (or import artwork from elsewhere and draw over it), choose what type of material you are cutting and the program will tell you what blade setting to use and how to register your paper on the cutting mat. The mat is adhesive, since you don't want your paper sliding around while it's being cut.

For my first test, I only used the tools in the Silhouette software. I drew some basic shapes and used the text tool (which is able to use any font already on your computer). It's a noisy little machine, but it's really fun to watch and you can tell right away if it's working. You then peel off your cut-outs and voila!

The second and more important test was being able to print a design I already had. I imported a jpg file of one of my papercraft designs. You have the ability to print from the Silhouette program, which is extremely important because it sets registration marks for itself, so that after you're done printing, you can feed your image back in and tell it to look for the registration marks so it can precisely cut over your artwork. Of course, you still have to draw the lines over your artwork as to where to make the cuts. But I was really impressed because it worked perfectly on the first try.

The "Must Eat Brain" design up top was my third design meant specifically for the Silhouette. I sketched it out in Photoshop then imported the jpg. Drawing the vector paths for the brain took a while. Adjusting the paths in the Silhouette software isn't quite as easy as in Photoshop. I had trouble joining paths and adjusting the tangents. I need to see if there's an option for importing vector artwork.

Tip: Don't make holes that are too tiny, or the blade will most likely rip the paper. I had a few tiny tears around the letters.

The machine cut it out without a hitch and only took around 3 min. I think it cuts the paths in the order you create them, so don't be worried if it doesn't start with the outermost path. Peeling it off the adhesive mat is the tricky part. I can't imaging using anything thinner than construction paper if you're doing something intricate because  there'd be a high risk of tearing it. The Silhouette store sells spatulas for helping lift off your designs, but I think I'll stick with my hands for now.

For those of you who prefer pre-made designs, the Sihouette store has tons of templates you can download for 0.99.