What is a Silhouette Machine?

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A few weeks back I wrote about my temporary sewing room and someone commented about my Silhouette Machine which is seen in these photos. I was even asked, “What IS a Silhouette Machine?”

Silhouette 2The Silhouette is an electronic cutting machine that hooks up to your computer. It’s about the same size as a small printer and comes with software that enables you to basically create anything and then cut it out on paper, vinyl, fabric, or heat transfer material. The possibilities are endless.

Die Cutting Machines

Silhouette makes two different cutting machines, the Portrait and the Cameo. I’ve pasted a chart below that shows the differences between the two machines; but, the basic difference is in the size.

The Cameo (affiliate) has a 12″ x 12″ cutting mat and cuts out on a larger space. Silhouette also makes a cutting mat that is 12″ x  24″ for really large projects. The upside is the ability to cut out larger projects; however, there can be more waste when cutting smaller projects. Walk down the aisle of any craft store and you will see sheets of paper that are 12″ x 12″. These sheets fit perfectly on the Cameo.

The Portrait (affiliate) has an 8″ x 12″ cutting mat making it ideal for smaller projects. The Portrait has the same cutting ability, only smaller. And, did you notice the difference in prices ~  that tells it all.

Silhouette Cutting Machines

Before I owned a Silhouette Cameo, I had a manual die-cutting machine. It cut fine, but I was limited by my dies and they were costly ~ around $25-$40 EACH. Yikes! There are other brands of electronic cutting machines sold in craft stores. Most of them require expensive dies or die sets. Those costs can really rack up fast, plus, it requires a trip to the store to get a new die.

Enter the Silhouette where you can go to the Silhouette online store and download designs for $.99 or less when on sale. {I think the other die-cut machine brands now offer something similar ~ but I have not researched it}. That means I can go online, choose a design, download it, and cut.

Since I do a lot with applique , especially lettering,  this is ideal. With lettering, I don’t have to purchase a design, I just choose a font and size it to my project. Having a Silhouette Cameo makes projects like this a breeze. {psst ~ I used the Cameo to cut these out}

Silhouette Machine

Of course, there is a little more to it than that. The real secret is in the software. Both the Silhouette Portrait and the Silhouette Cameo come with a Silhouette Studio Software plus an assortment of pre-loaded designs. If you want a little more design diversity, Silhouette has a software upgrade called Silhouette Studio Design Edition (affiliate) which sells for $50.

And, then there are the unlimited projects. If you subscribe to the Silhouette blog, you will have more ideas than you have time to create. Here’s a project that uses paper and fabric. And, the design was free.

Silhouette ProjectsOne of the coolest features is print and cut. This allows me to set my design in the software, send it to the printer, then send it back to the Silhouette for cutting. This is a sample project showing what you can do with this feature.Silhouette MachineOne of the most popular uses for a Silhouette is cutting vinyl. I confess, I have yet to do this and I will tell you why below. Nevertheless, cutting on vinyl can really open up creative possibilities. Vinyl makes great stencils and beautiful lettering.

What is a Silhouette

I originally purchased my Silhouette Cameo to cut out lettering for applique. Cutting fabric requires a ‘fabric’ blade. To cut letters for applique I iron on fusible web like Heat ‘n Bond Lite to the back of my fabric. Then I peel off the paper backing and stick the fabric to the mat with the fusbile web side down. Load it into the machine and hit the ‘cut’ button. (affiliates)

Since purchasing my Silhouette Cameo last year at an online Black Friday sale, I’ve had to replace my cutting mat and blades a couple of times. The blades dull after a lot of cutting and the mat loses its stickiness (which is essential to all cutting projects). To extend the sticky life of my mats I use a temporary adhesive spray by Sulky called KK2000 (affiliate). It’s just the right amount of stickiness for the mats.

I am hoping to post a few projects using my Silhouette Cameo. I especially want to try some vinyl.

I’ll keep you posted.

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  1. I have had that question running around my head for months. Thank you for your ultra informative posting. Suzanne

  2. I have had a Silhouette for about a year now and I have barely used it. Not sure if I am afraid of the thing or not sure how to work it, or both! I make a lot of baby items where I use applique so this would be perfect for it too. If there is any way you could find time to do a tutorial on using the Silhouette that would be awesome!

  3. So happy to learn about this device! I had no idea! In the long run, more economical and versatile than buying die cut sets. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for the informative post. I’ve been wanting to find out more about these machines for a while. It will be a while before I can invest in one, but it is now on the list!

  5. Hi Leslie,
    I have had my Silhouette Cameo for about a year and a half and still haven’t used it! It is out of the box and sitting in my sewing room, but no where near my printer, unfortunately! I wish it was wireless like my printer! I do have a laptop in my sewing room, and maybe I will get it hooked up and get it going soon. Thanks for this post. Maybe I will get it connected and try it out! I do want to purchase the fabric blades since I learned a while back that it could cut fabric. I was about to purchase a Go when I discovered that tidbit! So glad I didn’t do that!

  6. Thanks for all of this info! I just recently started doing projects with my Silhouette. I know there’s a ton more that I can do, but I’m starting small.

  7. I am visiting you from Not Just a Housewife/Show Me What Ya Got. Thank you for the information. This was quite thorough. The links help to find out the cost. I guess you would really have to be into this to make it worth your while—-just like any other machine I guess. I will definitely keep this in mind. I am posting this to my Sewing Pinterest board.

  8. wow I have never heard of these before but hmmm something that would come in handy…thanks Julie

  9. Thanks so much for this information! I only heard about the Silhouette a few weeks ago. I was all set to get a Cricut because a friend had one and I had used hers, but now I’m torn – so I’m all over “real people” reviews and love seeing how and why they chose the machine they did.
    My understanding is that you always have to have a lap top hooked up to the Silhouette in order to make it cut, is that right?

    1. That is correct. You must be tethered to a computer for your Silhouette to work. I am hoping they come out with some sort of wireless device soon. I have several “real” projects planned for in the coming weeks.

  10. Thanks for the information. The company should pay you for this because I’m sold. But it has to be put on the long list of wants vs. needs. But it did make it onto the list!

  11. Thanks for your great explanation of these machines. I would love to get a die cutting machine. I do a lot of sewing and a lot of applique. Does it also cut shapes from fabric? This is exciting. Now if the money fairy will visit me ,I could get one sooner rather than later. At least I know what I need now. Thank you. Marilyn

  12. I think there are some good tutoraials on utube also. thanks so much for the information. my sewing room is small and would love to have one but if it has to be plugged into my computer there just isen’t room.

  13. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this great article! I do not sew but love to stencil and can see the Silhouette would be a great way to make stencils. I am mostly interested in cutting paper shapes and letters as my husband has an Etsy store with beautiful digital patterns.

    Leslie, have you used it on vinyl yet?

    Thank you so much. I am reading article after article here on your blog! Love it.

    And, by the way, if the Money Fairy shows up at your house, could you please ask that I be added to the flight pattern? 🙂


  14. Thank you for the explaination on the differences. I also have wondered what the difference is between the two. This will go on my Christmas list.

    1. Yes and no. I cut out fabric appliqué design. However, I’ve backed my fabric with fusible web and then removed the paper backing before cutting. If you’re interested in cutting stacks of fabric, I recommend the Accuquilt. (affiliate)

  15. love this but when I went to the links the price for the Portrait had gone up, was comparable to the Cameo – do you know if that’s accurate?

      1. um, it’s not updated; do you have to do something different? anyway, based on new info, which would you recommend now?

  16. Great artiicle. Thank you. Like many others I’ve been looking for information on silhouette and the cricket. I’m looking for something to cut out stencils in different fonts to use for painting. Can the silhouette do that?

  17. I’m looking to cut out several felt shapes to make Christmas ornaments. Which machine could do this? Will I need to put any backing on the felt? Thank you for your help.

  18. Hi. any chance of a YouTube video as I don’t have a clue about it and am a visual person. rely what to know about it before I decide.

    1. There is a blog called Silhouette School that has a ton of videos and tutorials. They will give you the latest information.

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