I got a Silhouette. Now what? Cameo Help, Tips, Tricks, Project Ideas

New Silhouette cutting machine?  Cameo tips, tricks and advice!

So, are you one of the lucky Lous who got a new Silhouette for Christmas? If so, congratulations! It took me a good, long while before I really warmed up to my machine. You see I don’t scrapbook and couldn’t really see the point of having a cutting machine with that one missing bit of the equation. But my Silhouette is for so much more than than and I love it so, so much!

Now when I was just getting started I was nervous about hitting that on button. I mean, some of this stuff is pretty expensive and it’s not something you want to ruin. But I finally just decided to get into it, come what may. And, as it would happen, a lot would come of it. I’ve made some pretty awesome things with my Silhouette, but I’ve also ruined a lot of paper and even sliced through one of my cutting mats. THAT was a silly and expensive mistake! But I’m sharing what I’ve learned in a year of using my machine and sharing Cameo Help with you. I hope that it helps you out!

1. ALWAYS double check the setting on your blade. I cut something at 7 and then weeks later went to cut regular paper and the blade cut the shape out of my mat in places, too. That sucked.

2. If you shut down the program, it quits cutting. I’ve ruined a good piece of iron on flocked vinyl because I got sidetracked and shut the program down just before it would have been finished… Ugh.

3. Practice the cut on paper before you use an expensive material like flocked vinyl. I would have saved big money if I would have figured this one out sooner!

New Silhouette cutting machine?  Cameo tips, tricks and advice!

4. Lost the little cap that comes with your blade? No worries! There is a built in thingamabob that does the same thing. This took me far longer to realize than it should have.

5. Are you having a hard time getting your paper or card stock off of the mat without some of it tearing and getting stuck? Your mat is probably new-ish, right? It’s too sticky! Take a clean tee shirt or other fabric item and blot at the adhesive side like you were trying to get water up out of your carpet. Some of the fibers and whatnot will stick making it less sticky.

6. On the flip side have you used your mat to the point where it is hardly sticky anymore? Wash in warm and soapy water and allow to dry 24 hours. You should notice that the sticky is back when fully dry!

7. Not sticky enough? Use a few coats of a re-positionable spray adhesive like Krylon Easy-Tack. Just be sure to tape off the edges of the mat before spraying!

8. Are your bits and pieces curling up when you remove them, making them unusable or requiring they sit under something heavy for a few hours to straighten out? Turn the mat over so that your cut bits are on a flat surface like a table. Instead of peeling away the cut bits, peel away the cutting mat. Notice how the mat curves as you’re pulling away? That was why your paper kept coming out wonky!

9. Invest in a dust cover. I learned this one the hard way. With as many cats as I have I was cleaning out my machine way too often. One dust cover later and I haven’t had to bother with that in months!

New Silhouette cutting machine?  Cameo tips, tricks and advice!

10. Keep your blades clean to ensure they stay sharp longer. To clean the blades turn to 0 then unscrew the white cap at the end. Use cotton swab to clean out sticky, glittery or paper gunk that accumulates.  If you have a blade that isn’t very old and isn’t doing a great job, try this before buying a new one!

New Silhouette cutting machine?  Cameo tips, tricks and advice!

Look at all that glitter and gunk!

11. If your cuts start having weird edges, and cleaning doesn’t help, it’s probably time to order a new blade. On the flip side, don’t toss that less than perfect blade out just yet. I mark mine with OLD in silver Sharpie and use it instead of my good blade when making practice cuts or seeing if my cut file works the way I want to. For these tests a perfect cut isn’t required so I may as well save my good blade for the real deal!

12. You don’t have to purchase every cut file you need from the Silhouette store. There’s a lot in there and some awesome stuff at awesome prices can be found, but if you don’t want to spend 99 cents for the perfect heart, you can totally make one yourself from a JPG image you find online. Get the tutorial for that here…

13. If your mat is getting grimy clean it with baby wipes. Yep, plain ol’ baby wipes!

14. Need a bit more of a deep clean? Remove cat hair or lint or glitter or whatever may be gunking up your cutting mats by getting after them with Duck Tape! Dab at the mat like if you were trying to remove lint or whatnot from your clothes with tape!

And before you leave, looking for some inspiration or free cut files? Check out the projects I’ve whipped up in the last 12 months of Silhouette ownership! And feel free to link up your own projects here, too!

 Loading InLinkz ...
See where I link up.


  1. says

    I totally got one for Christmas and haven’t turned it on yet. I am waiting for the most-awesomest project idea, I guess… or maybe I am just intimidated. Either way, I should just get after it. Thanks for the tips, I am sure they will come in handy!

    • says

      I know exactly what you mean, these machines are intimidating. I got mine out and started to set it up a dozen times just to change my mind and start packing it up in its box again. And when I did finally get it set up I decided that if I was going to break it I might as well get it over with… but luckily I didn’t. I just know when you get into it you’ll super big time love it!!! I can’t wait to see what you create with it!

  2. says

    Fantastic tips and tricks, Allison! This will be a gold-mine for new users. You’re so generous to share it. (I have a similar post in draft mode in my mind…might not need to write it now! Lol.) I’ll definitely be directing newbies over here to soak up this wealth of information. Pinning!

  3. Magthecrafter says

    Hi and thanks for sharing this with us. I am in the UK and only had my machine a few months, so got such a lot to learn and will try out your tips especially for lengthening the life of the mat. So expensive to replace! I’ve just discovered a UK supplier who sells discs for cutting shapes, so that’s my next session of playing.

  4. teresa says

    Like everyone else, I’ve had mine for several weeks and haven’t used it yet. I’ve got it all set up but will take your advice and try it out with paper…the vinyl is way to expensive to practice on. I do wish there was a place you could go for classes!

    • Amy hugo says

      Contact paper is a good alternative to use to practice vinyl cuts. I also use it to make stencils! Even just left the wood grained contact paper in place for a project because I liked the way it looked. Last Oct and it’s still stuck!

  5. says

    Great information! I find I’m much less intimidated with just getting down and trying this machine. I was much slower to get going with my Cricut (that’s where the “seriously, it’s just paper” came from). I was so worried about ruining something that I had my Cricut for months and never tried anything.

    With this, I’ve already made several small things (nothing extravagant but I’m pleased).

  6. says

    I’ve used mine a few times and designed some basic boxes myself, although I want to learn how to draw/design more complicated things. It’s a challenge! I’m trying to find some good online tutorials about all the commands and how to use them. I’ll get there one day!

    Thanks for the tips, though. Great ideas!

  7. cindy says

    I did that clean thing you talked about ….the white tip of the blade holder came off with not problems…now I can’t get the cap to stay on and unable to turn the setting back as it will not move…any ideas…

    • says

      Did the white ring with the red line come out also? I’ve been playing and playing with a blade and I cannot recreate what you’re speaking of…

      Have you called Silhouette? Your blade could be defective, in which case they will send you a replacement. You should be able to open and clean your blade with no issue and if you couldn’t it looks to me like there was a bigger problem at hand…

  8. Barbie says

    I got mine for Xmas as well and really only started to use it a few weeks ago. It’s nice to know I’m not alone with feeling a bit overwhelmed by the anticipation of using it..lol Craft support group! ;) This is a very helpful post, thanks!
    p.s. In number 4 you talk about a built-in blade cap..? I don’t know what you mean by that. I haven’t lost the little grey part, but I’m just curious about what you meant. :)

    • says

      Hey, Barbie! In the second pic you can see where the blade is in cap thingie that is built inside of the machine. It is a better explanation than I can put into words :)

  9. Denise says

    All this info is amazing!! Question! My vinyl keeps peeling off as it’s still being cut. What am I doing wrong??

    • says

      Hi, Denise! What brand are you using? Is it the Silhouette brand by any chance because I’ve had big problems with it peeling like that. I now use either the Cricut brand if I need quickly (can buy in store at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby) otherwise I order oracal online. I like Craft Vinyl the best. http://www.craftvinyl.com/

      Let me know if that fixes you up!!!

  10. Katherine says

    This put me at ease! I finally decided to treat myself to a cutter and picked the Cameo. I am going to buy today but was getting apprehensive and overwhelmed that I wouldn’t figure out how to use it or money saving tricks. I mostly want to cut stencils to paint phrases or Etch glass with. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  11. Laurie Rempp says

    HELP!!! SAVE ME FROM MY MACHINE!!! I have owned a Cameo for not quite a year, and have gotten fairly good at using it, and problem solving but I am about ready to pull my hair out. I am cutting a pretty complex pattern for my sister-in-law’s wedding invitations. I will get one cut perfectly and the next one is messed up. The problems range from the intricate pattern coming up off the mat and getting torn off by the machine (I think my mat wasn’t sticky enough), then I had problems where it was cutting off the page (restarted the machine), now it seems like on the double cut that it is not following the same line and is cutting through the pattern when it changes lines. Am I the only one that has a problem getting consistent cuts?

    • says

      Laurie – to be honest I’d get in touch with customer support. It sounds like you got a lemon of a machine! You should NOT be having these problems.

      • Elise says

        This has been happening to me too! I’ve had my new edition Cameo since the release in Dec ’14’ and have had so many problems. peeling off the matt, vinyl peeling up, no finishing cuts properly (stopping short of start line), double cut lines not lining up (second cut has a mind of it’s own), print and cut lines realigning themselves halfway through a job, or any cuts for that matter, sketch pens leaving drag marks across the page, you name it, I’ve had the problem. Just emailed silhouette America about it all, waiting on a reply. I honestly think we have gremlins in our machines, not many people seem to experience the same thing.
        I have tried every fix it procedure I have read about, an too am tearing out my hair…
        Get onto Silhouette might be a machine fault.

  12. tracey says

    Laurie Rempp is having the same problems as me. When i am cutting patterns, names etc it drags my paper and makes a mess of the cut, i have purchased 4 blades in a year thinking it could be the blade, i have bought different mats thinking it could be that, i have used old mats incase the new ones are too sticky. I have e-mailed Silhouette and still waiting for replies, can anyone help PLEASE………

    • says

      You can use just about any paper, Annette and that is why the silhouette is awesome! I mostly use scrapbooking paper but I’ve also used regular computer paper and origami paper and even poster board. I cannot recommend construction paper (like the kids use) because it sort of tears apart in layers. Very odd.

      • Danielle says

        Hobby Lobby has construction paper (on the isle with poster board) that is “heavy duty”. It is inexpensive, i think it is $1.99 for 50 sheets. Anyway, it is durable on the mat as long as the mat isn’t too sticky. I haven’t had any problems with it peeling off in layers.. I initially bought the paper to use for test cuts before I cut on vinyl, but I have used it for paper cutting crafts as well. There are several colors to choose from. :)

        • says

          I JUST bought some pretty rose construction paper on clearance in that aisle of Hobby Lobby that I happened on accidentally. I’ve not used it on the Silhouette but now I must find a reason to. Great tip!

  13. Brandy says

    Hi, I just got a Silhouette Cameo and I have not only watched the instructional video but Youtube videos and I am doing what it says but my Vinyl roll is sliding all kinds of directions and NO ONE at Michael’s can help me. My settings are right and my bar is in the right position and the rollers that you can adjust are also in the right place. Do you have ANY idea what I can do?

    • says

      Since I’m not an expert, I got in touch with a bunch of bloggers and crafters who are :) Here are their suggestions (let me know what works?):

      Does she have the bar locked in place using the lever on the right? (I have had this problem, too)
      Oh and make sure you have selected load media (not cutting mat) on both screen & the machine!
      Is she maybe putting the vinyl in right side up instead of right side down?

      And then a full checklist for you to check out:
      The material needs to be under the fat part of the white rollers on both edges of the vinyl.

      The right roller will need to be adjusted for the width of the vinyl. Make sure the blue lever on the right is pointing up after adjusting the roller. To make sure there isn’t a problem with the machine, line up the edges of the vinyl with the fat part of the white roller until the vinyl stops.

      With the bar locked, you should not be able to slide either the vinyl or the mat under the rollers. When the vinyl is against the rollers as far as it can go, load it into the machine with the Load Vinyl setting.

      Test that the vinyl is loaded properly by gently tugging on it. Once it is loaded, it should not be able to move. You can also hold the up or down arrows on the panel of the machine to test that it is properly moving in the machine before you cut it.

      If all of these steps have been done and the vinyl is moving back and forth without drifting side to side, then they should be able to cut the vinyl correctly.

  14. Priscila says

    I am just about to buy the cameo. I am in the US now and I want to buy until Dec 8th, its on sale!!! i have only a week to buy, I will travel afterwards. what should I buy with it? I am going to Brazil and there is no silhouette stores there I can buy any other accessories! What do you recommend?

    • says

      You will definitely want to grab some extra cutting mats (and maybe one of the long, 2 foot ones just in case) and a good couple of replacement blades. Those are definite musts. IF you think you’ll be using your machine to draw, I’d grab a pen holder rather than sketch pens, because the sketch pens do run out. This kit right here looks to have most of what you’ll need (beside the extra blades and mats) AND it’s the NEW SILHOUETTE!

      I don’t know if you will be able to get heat transfer vinyl in Brazil, but once you get into it you’ll love making your own tees and whatnot so you might want to snag that, too. I’m thinking scrapbooking paper might be easy to find there? But if not you can grab big books of different papers to take with you. They have decent books of paper at Wal-Mart for only $5 apiece!

      Let me know if you have any questions :)

  15. says

    This is fantastic. I have just ordered a silhouette, and feel like I will be off to a much better start now that I don’t have to figure all of this out myself. Thank you :)

  16. Amanda flowers says

    Thank you so much for the great advice. My new project is heat transfer and not many people with that experience. Thank You!

  17. Angela says

    My husband bought me the cameo and he has been pressuring me to use it but I feel so overwhelmed and intimidated. I’ve been putting it off and making excuses to not try it out. I’m starting to feel bad because he put so much effort and money into buying me this gift. I have no clue where to start or what to do. I’m pretty crafty but I guess I’m “old school” crafty :) Give me scissors, glue, paper and glitter and I’m a happy girl! HaHa. I’ve done some research (thats how I ended up here) but I still am not sure where to start. Any advice you can give me? Thanks!

    • says

      To be completely honest Angela, you just have to dive right on in! I know it is super intimidating but find something online that you dig and follow the tutorial to make it. If you have a step by step maybe some of the fear will be removed since you’ll know exactly what to do next. I’d highly recommend checking out The Silhouette School or The Thinking Closet for some fab Silhouette tutorials!

  18. Alicia Merla says

    Thanks for the FYI’s. I am also a new owner and find it unfortunate that the Silhouette company did not provide a tutorial on the wonderful things it can do. I also bought the Rhinestone software, the DVD it came with is very, very basic. Thank goodness for you and many other real people who take the time to share their knowledge.
    I appreciate it.

  19. Julie Jones says

    Hi Allison, I found you when I searched for the best paper to use with the silhouette cameo.
    Thank you for all your great hints and tips. YOU ARE A STAR ;))

  20. Pam Martens says

    I too am a new Silhouette owner and have been computer diving to find how to run the thing. Silhouette has some basic directions but I want keystroke by keystroke, almost, to get started. This cutter is intimidating, I run advanced chemistry analyzers, at work, so I shouldn’t feel this way. The difference being I got good complete written operating directions when we set up the new instrument. Thanks for the help and I will be visiting your site regularly.

  21. Lupe says

    I am new with my Silhouette, how can I peel the vinyl letters off so that I can place them on my board and get them straight?

    • says

      No worries, Paula! I think we all are at a loss at first. I know I definitely was :) You’ll get the hang of it and be an old pro in no time flat. It’s just getting over that initial “what the heck do I do?” thing!

  22. Irupe Alzogaray Hernandez says

    Hi, Allison! Greetings from Montevideo, Uruguay!!
    I bought my Silhouette Cameo a month ago and I have been postponing using it until now that I have just started my annual vacations, so that I can really focus on its use, the tutorials I have been finding since I bought it and such.
    It is somehow a relief to find out that I am not the only one fearing to turn it on and take the plunge. Don’t misunderstand me! :)
    I am a long-time experienced graphic designer, used to testing new software and hardware, but have to admit this thing is challenging.
    Thank you so much for sharing your valuable experience! And thanks to all the other Silhouette users for their inputs. They are all good chances to learn!
    You have a great blog and for sure I will be following it.

  23. Andre says

    Hi Allison, how are you?

    Great article, I’m really interested in buying a silhouette cameo but I’m really newbie on this, and hopefully you could clarify things for me.

    Since in my country this kind of machinary is much more expensive, I would like to know if this would fit my needs.

    One thing I don’t understand completly is:
    The cutting mat has a glue on it? This makes possible to cut all kind of paper? Including normal A4 paper for example?
    Do you know how much a blade and a cutting mat lasts? Of course, an estimative considering a regular use of the silhouette.

    All the best,

    • says

      Hey, Andre! Since the mats are sticky you can cut any size of paper. Even an inch by inch piece if that strikes your fancy :) I haven’t found a paper that doesn’t work in the Silhouette yet but I have had issues when cutting plastic or chipboard.

      Since the mat is sticky it wears out. You can refresh by washing with warm soapy water and allowing to air dry or by putting a new layer of sticky on with spray adhesive without buying new mats over and over. You’ll of course need to replace occasionally and sometimes accidents happen and you’ll cut through your mat. I always have 2 on hand just in case one does go off the rails.

      There’s no telling on the blade… it depends on what you cut and how much. Glitter paper, for example, is going to kill your blades. I keep a new one on hand ready to go and then I use the same one I have in my little Silhouette cameo supply box to always cut glitter paper (it’s actually an older, duller blade but it works fabulously).

      You’ll get the hang of it once you start playing around with it. It is a big expense but if you use it you’ll love it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>