Raise your hand if you’ve ever needed a custom die cut design for a paper craft project. Me, too! Usually, I just get Jo to make me what I need on her Cricut, but I figured it was time for me to have a machine of my own. I did some research and decided that a Silhouette SD was the electronic cutter for me. And let me tell you right now that it is awesome!
The Silhouette SD comes with two cutting mats, with two levels of stickiness. One of them is a thick media mat that’s super sticky and intended for heavy materials like card stock. The other is a thin media mat with less adhesive, that’s great for lightweight papers. I love this flexibility, and Jo tells me that’s a great feature, because she is often frustrated with brand new mats for her Cricut, which are sometimes too sticky to use.
Having almost never used an electronic cutter before, I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I learned very quickly that the only difficult thing about a Silhouette is spelling its name. The rest is a piece of cake, and in less than an hour I had it working like a charm, and I was in love. Here are a few of the highlights:
- You can cut many different materials, including paper, vinyl, fabric, and more.
- You can cut fonts that are already on your computer
- You can browse 1000s of designs online and purchase them one at at time — no need for cartridges
- You can draw designs with special markers (even glitter pens!)
I could go on and on, I’m sure, but I haven’t even explored beyond the tip of the iceberg yet with this tool. Eventually I will scour the Silhouette America site and learn plenty of tips and tricks, but I’ve already found something that has won me over enough that I need to tell you about it now, and that’s the Silhouette Studio software that comes with it.
See, here’s the thing — I like to do things myself. You never would’ve guessed that, right? I like to design my own designs, and cut my own cuts, and make my own magic when it comes to crafting. So when I hear that some software will let me do all that and more, I am hesitant but excited.
Well, Silhouette Studio delivers, and big time.
It is so simple to create your own custom die cut designs with this software, and I want to walk you through it so you can see just how easy it is.
The first step is find a piece of clip art or any image that you want to start with. I found a JPG of a jellyfish. The quality of the image is not important at all, just the overall outline and shape. Open that file in Studio.
Then click the image to put focus on it and drag the corners until it’s as big as you want it to be. You can also rotate it to fit on the page the best way possible. I wanted a giant jellyfish, so I turned mine diagonally and used up all of the page. You’ll notice that the image looks terrible blown up big like this, but it doesn’t matter. You just need the general shape for now.
Now choose the freehand drawing tool on the left and start tracing the outline of the shape. Sure, there are lots of other tools that can help you with this, like a “trace edges” and circles and curves, but for me, just drawing it was the easiest. The key to the simplicity is that you don’t have to be very good at it — Studio does the work for you! As you draw, you’ll see that the lines automatically curve and bend pretty much in the right direction without you even trying.
In just a few minutes of sketching, I had the whole thing outlined. You can see that I’m not right on the mark with my lines, but I’m close. Close enough for this step.
Now for the fun and exciting part. Zoom in on the image and click the red cut line you just drew. You’ll see a series of points show up along the line. You can click on these and drag them to and fro, to make your draw lines more closely match the image underneath. Again, they will automatically bend and curve for you, and your drawing just sort of happens. You can add more points to drag by just clicking on the line. It’s as fun as it is easy.
When you’re all done, just click on the background image and hit delete, and it’s gone. You can rotate the page, too, so that it looks more appealing in preview. All that’s left is your outline of your custom cut design!
I can’t say enough how much I love this flexibility. Suddenly it’s so easy to make custom cut designs based on existing images or on my own creations. The best part is that once you have the design created, you can resize it to any size you want for other applications.
I didn’t want to stop there, so I made a dolphin, too. This time I made it really small and then duplicated the image so that I could get tons of 2″ dolphins on a page. The tools in the software made this really easy to do.
And because we love to share, here are the small dolphin Silhouette design and large jellyfish Silhouette design for the Silhouette owners among you to download and use. I’m not sure if .studio files can be imported into other cutters like the Cricut, but if any of you have luck with this, please let us know!
Cutting the designs is really easy with the Silhouette, too. I put a piece of card stock on the cutting mat and fed it into the machine with a simple touch of a button.
Then I just hooked it up to my laptop with the included USB cable and sent the design to be cut. The Silhouette is small, but it is powerful. It cut that huge jellyfish out in less than a minute.
When it was cut, I just had to lift the jellyfish off the page and that was it. Because I used the low-tac cutting mat, it came off easily, without curling or tearing.
You might think jellyfish are an odd choice for my first custom design, but there was method to my madness. Little Jo’s “Under the Sea” birthday party was coming up soon, and Jo thought a banner made up of jellyfish would be a great touch. I cut plenty of jellyfish out and added a letter to each one, then we hung them on the wall so that it looked like they were swimming. This might be my favorite part of the whole party!
And those dolphins I mentioned earlier had a purpose, too. We used double-sided tape to attach two of them together around a toothpick and put them on cupcakes with a big swirl of blue frosting that looked like waves. This was such a simple idea but it had a huge impact.