Silhouette Cameo: Technology for the Serious Paper Crafter

What's the buzz lately? If you spend as much time as I do on scrapbooking and paper crafting forums, then you might know the answer . . . these days, the buzz is about the Cameo electronic die cut machine from Silhouette!

Instead of using cartridges, the Cameo is a computer-based model. The machine connects to your computer using a USB cable, and images are cut using the free Studio software from Silhouette. The machine gets high marks for its ease of use, inexpensive images (that can be purchased ala carte from the comfort of your home), and precise cuts, including the ability to cut designs from your home printer.

This model can be used to cut cardstock, photo paper, copy paper, vinyl, heat transfer (iron-ons) material, rhinestone template material, and fabric (with fabric interfacing). It can also be used to cut thin chipboard, magnetic paper and temporary tattoos.

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Software for the Silhouette Cameo

The free Studio software is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems and gives you the ability to create and cut your own designs, as well as designs purchased from Silhouette's online store. You can also use it to cut fonts that are already available on your computer. In addition to using the company's proprietary file format, .studio, it is compatible with many other popular file types, including .png, .jpeg, .bmp, .gif and .tiff.

For approximately $50 more, you can upgrade from the basic software to the designer edition, which provides more tools to design your own cutouts and which gives you the ability to cut .svg files. The designer edition also allows you to convert shapes into rhinestone and sketch patterns, adding to the functionality of your Cameo. Click here to compare the features of the designer edition with the free basic software: http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/media/docs/silhouette-studio-version-comparison.pdf

In addition to the software programs provided by Silhouette, you can also use third party programs, such as MTC (Make the Cut!) and SCAL (Sure Cuts A Lot).

Exclusive Features

The Silhouette Cameo has a few features that give it an edge over many of the other electronic die cut machines on the market.

Print & Cut Feature

First, it has a unique print and cut feature. The Cameo, as well as Silhouette's other models, have an optic scanner that can read registration marks. The free Studio software has a menu option to add registration marks to printed designs. Print the design with the registration marks, and when you cut, the machine will use its optic scanner to detect the registration marks, cutting the defined lines around the printed image. You can purchase pre-made print and cut images from the Silhouette store or use the software to create your own.

Dimensions of Die Cuts

The Cameo can cut as small as a quarter inch and up to twelve inches wide and ten feet long. Nope, that's not a typo - it can really cut up to ten feet long!

Precision Cutting

Time and again, I have heard owners of this model praise it for its ability to make clean, precise cuts. When you're working with expensive cardstock and supplies, you don't want to have to toss them because your machine tore them up. Of course, make sure you always have a sharp blade on hand to replace yours when it becomes dull. For the best results, be sure to also use the correct blade setting for the type of media you are cutting.

Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages

Although this model receives high marks from most owners, it may not be the best-suited one for your needs. Read through the pros and cons to help determine if it’s the best one for you:

Pros

  • The Cameo can cut digital designs from many different resources, including not only Silhouette’s online store, but also computer fonts, third party designs, digi stamps and clipart, as well as designs that you create.
  • To help grow your library of die cut designs, the Silhouette store currently offers a free shape of the week, as well as affordable subscription plans. The shapes can also be purchased ala carte, and most sell for $0.99 each.
  • The designs can be customized for your project - the free software allows you to move, scale, rotate, align, weld and crop the images to fit your needs.
  • The machine is not limited to use with Silhouette’s software - it can be used with third party software, including SCAL and MTC.
  • Silhouette receives high marks from current customers for the quality of the machine and for their customer service.

Cons

  • This model is best for those who consider themselves “tech savvy”. If you break out in hives thinking about computers, then a manual die cutter would probably be more useful for your needs.
  • If you want to cut SVG files, you will need to invest in additional software.
  • With its larger footprint and weight, as well as the fact that it’s a computer-based machine, the Cameo is not a good option for on-the-go die cutting. However, you do have the option of creating your images and saving them to an SD card, which you can then cut at a later time when you do not have computer access.
  • Unlike the Cricut, there is currently no deep cut blades available for this machine. The maximum thickness it can cut is 0.8 mm. It is not suited for cutting through thick chipboard, felt, metals and balsa wood.

What's Included

The basic Silhouette Cameo bundle retails for approximately $300 and includes the following:

  • Silhouette Cameo electronic die cut machine
  • USB 2.0 high-speed cable
  • AC adapter and power cable
  • 12" cutting mat (dimensions: 12.75" x 13.5")
  • adjustable blade with ratchet cap
  • Silhouette Studio design software
  • instructional DVD
  • 51 exclusive digital cutting designs
  • $10 gift card for the Silhouette online store
  • basic instruction guide

Machine Specs

  • Dimensions: 20.9" x 6.5" x 5" (53.1 x 16.5 x 12.7 cm)
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs (2.95 kg)
  • Can make die cuts as small as 1/4" to as big as 12" wide to 10' long
  • Can cut many types of media to 0.8 mm