Cardmaking · Planning

Silhouette Portrait – alternative die cutter

After about a year of cardmaking I really needed some sort of cutting machine/implement.

I first tried the Fiskars Shapecutter and while it was okay to use (after lots of practice), I was restricted by the templates available.

I then started looking into die cutting machines such as the Sizzix Big Shot and the Cuttlebug. While I liked the idea of these, they seemed extremely expensive both in terms of the machine and the price of the dies. I made multiple not-so-subtle hints to my other half about rrrrreally wanting one and as my birthday was coming up I was sure he’d give me a headstart with at least the machine (the Big Shot was winning at this point).

I got a very nice surprise when I opened my Silhouette Portrait!

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For those unfamilar with a Silhouette it is an electronic cutting tool which hooks up to your computer via USB and includes software that allows you to cut a million different things a million different ways.

How does it work?

It basically looks like a laminator and has a similar kind of set up. You get a blade that you can adjust to different depths, depending on the thickness of the material you’re cutting and a sticky A4 cutting mat. You set your blade to the right setting, stick your card/paperstock to the cutting mat and feed it into the machine.

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You then pick your design on the software which can be something you’ve designed yourself, purchased from the Silhouette store (69p per shape/design) or something you’ve got from the internet, place it on the cutting mat on the screen where you’d like it to cut, press a button and off it goes!

When the cut is done you simply peel off your material and find your shape! Peeling off either the cut or the leftover bits of paper that you don’t need can be a bit of a pain (especially if you’re cutting out something intricate like a doily) but other than that the machine is fuss-free.

The ongoing costs

As already mentioned above, each shape/design in the Silhouette store is 69p and that can vary from one set of nested shapes to full card and everything in between. Each week in the store there is a free shape of the week, a weekly ‘clearance’ and bundle deals that coincide with projects on their blog. That’s for personal use of the designs but you can pay to reuse most of the shapes in the store, with different levels of licensing based on number of uses.

If you’re skilled with designing on computers you can make your own designs to really lessen the cost or you can usually find a whole host of free designs on pintrest (or just by Googling free Silhouette designs). You may have to convert some files using Inkscape into the requiste .svg but that was easy enough for me to find out how to do (Google certainly was my friend that week).

The replacement blades and cutting mats can be expensive but if you shop around, are willing to wait for it to ship from another country and don’t need them to be made by Silhouette (which I’ve found with the cutting mats to not be an issue if they’re not ‘official’) you can usually get a new mat for £10 and a new blade for £9. I had to replace my cutting mat after around 4 months after fairly regular usage but 5/6 months on, I’m still getting a good run with my original blade. I estimate I’ll be going through two cutting mats to one blade.

Any cards you’ve already seen on the blog have used the Silhouette but here’s just a run down of some of the different ways I’ve used the machine so far.

Cutting simple shapes and sentiments.
Cutting simple shapes and sentiments.

You can also download any font online and use it in the Silhouette to make really original sentiments or personalise an item (fonts from a favourite game or TV show perhaps?)

Some designs aren't just cutting designs - the dolls are an example of a 'print and cut' where you cut out the image on the printer and then send it through the Silhouette to get perfectly cut out.
Some designs aren’t just cutting designs – the dolls are an example of a ‘print and cut’ where you cut out the image on the printer and then send it through the Silhouette to get perfectly cut out.

You can also get sketch pens for the Silhouette and designs for use with that are available in the store. Vinyl cutting to make wall decals will probably be my next project quickly followed by the fabric blade.

A full card cut from the machine. I added extra cuts and then finished with embellishments.
A full card cut from the machine. I added extra cuts using the design software and then finished with some embellishments.

I think in the future I’m probably going to explore how to use my Silhouette for customising my planner – I got some cute tab designs in the Black Friday sale and that will probably be my first stop.

What cutting tool do you use?

Em x

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