- Arts and Design
Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter
There are many different options for die-cut machines, used to create cut paper shapes for crafts and scrapbooking. Some are simple, and some are pretty complicated. Most are expensive because they require not only the machine itself, but there are die sets or cartridges for each font or shape set as well. An entire system, including a decent variety of dies can run you many hundreds of dollars.
The Silhouette makes it much simpler, allowing you to cut out any die-cut shapes and letters without the use of any dies or font cartridges. Once you buy the machine, you are able to create anything you like without much added expense. It's far more flexible and useful than any other die-cut machine I have seen yet. It's also small and compact.
This is not a machine for the casual crafter, as it will cost around $400 to buy and can take some practice to use well. But with no dies or cartridges to buy, the price is quite comparable with other systems.
The basic functioning:
- Your paper (regular paper or even heavy cardstock) is placed on the included cutting mat. The mat is sticky, to hold your paper in place and to keep the cut out pieces from falling away.
- The mat and paper is fed into the machine under tight rollers to hold it in place during cutting.
- You will need to set the machine for the size of paper, as well as the thickness. There are adapters to go on the cutting blade to account for extra thick or thin paper. You may have to give it a trial run to make sure the cutting depth is right.
- Once cutting begins, the tiny blade runs over the paper, cutting out the images or letters. The paper is fed back and forth during the process. It's a fairly loud procedure, compared to a standard printer.
- When complete, you roll out the mat and peel back your paper, complete with cut-out images. It can be a bit time consuming to pick small cut-outs off of the sticky cutting mat.
The computer design system that comes with the Silhouette may take some getting used to, but once you understand how it works, it is very simple and quick to create a new file and start making new die-cuts. You are able to choose your images and fonts easily, position them on the paper and even resize them with just a flick of the mouse.
Sizing the images caused me some problems as I was first learning how to use my Silhouette. I was using a text font, and had designated the font as 1-inch in size, but it only printed at 1/2 an inch. The support people were very quick to answer my questions. There is "blank space" surrounding the letters, which is included in the size. It's always best to use the ruler overlay to see the actual size of your images. A very good tip to remember.
Depending on your craft project, you will want to make the most out of each sheet of paper. You can run a partially cut sheet back through the Silhouette, though. Just make sure it is stuck securely to the cutting mat. You can use the design software to squeeze as many images on each sheet as possible. It may take a bit of experimenting to figure out how many will fit on a page. I found that the page borders were not that accurate. My first few attempts left quite a bit more of an unused margin than I expected.
My biggest concern with the Silhouette craft cutter is the moving of images in your design. If your images are too close together (I cram as many on a page as possible), it can be VERY difficult to use the mouse to select each one later. Their boundaries seem to overlap when they are too close, making it almost impossible to select one individually. Though annoying, its only an issue if you have a lot of images on one page, and expect to change them frequently. In my case, I have got my page saved and don't intend to make any adjustments at this point.
I have used my Silhouette for mainly letters and a handful of custom images. I used a font-creation software program to create a font of my own, that included the images I needed. It works extremely well, and allows me to "type" in my graphics. The Silhouette does work with actual image files, but I admit that I have not really used that function. The machine comes with 50 graphics included, and you can download hundreds more for a small fee. These graphic images all work great with the Silhouette. Using your own images is also possible, and that is the feature I have not personally tested other than integrating them into a font.
This is a very versatile and handy craft tool to have if you like to use die-cuts in your crafts. It's particularly handy for scrapbooking hobbies. It may seem expensive, but without any dies or cartridges to buy, the price really does work out over the long run.
You can buy the Silhouette from various craft or scrapbooking supply stores, or directly from the manufacturer. They are made by Quickutz, who also makes other die-cut machines and tools. You can also get replacement cutting blades and extra mats from them as well.