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Silhouette CAMEO Beginners and Newbies: Start Here with My Best Advice

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Were you lucky enough to get a Silhouette CAMEO or Portrait for Christmas? If so, don't be like some Silhouette owners and let it sit in the box (seriously more people than you'd believe do this!!) because you're too intimidated to use it. Instead, follow my best piece of advice for Silhouette CAMEO and Silhouette Portrait beginners.

This is advice I give to so many Silhouette owners who say they're just so overwhelmed by everything that the machine can do.  And it's true..heck I've written a tutorial a day for the last year..which means there is NO shortage of ways to use and explore your machine. But it all starts with baby steps and the first step is opening the box.

While I give the same advice to everyone, it's a little different for everyone and you'll see what I mean.  

My best piece of advice is: 

Find one project you'd like to do.  Just think about one reason you wanted your Silhouette CAMEO...was it to make customized shirts or cards or scrapbooking or sign making or to make gifts? 
  
Whatever it is, just focus on one project you want to tackle instead of the 10 million possibilities.  Picking your first project will help you focus and as you work your way through this first project, you'll begin to learn the Silhouette Studio software and the machine.  As you get familiar with the software you'll start to see how the icons and tools work and those techniques can be applied to future projects in a wide range of materials.

Once you have that project in mind, search Silhouette School blog using the search function on the right sidebar to find the 101 or beginner lesson.  I've included links to a few 101 lessons below to help you get started with some of the most common questions from Silhouette Beginners.

Also you'll notice that as often as possible within tutorials I link to related tutorials to help you work all the way through your project from start to finish.

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Silhouette CAMEO Heat Transfer Vinyl Tips for Beginners Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Tutorial Beginners 
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 How to Etch Glass with Silhouette CAMEO or Portrait  Freezer Paper Stencils with Silhouette CAMEO Silhouette CAMEO Stickers Tutorial for Beginners
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Silhouette CAMEO DIY Planner Stickers Tutorial (Beginner) Silhouette CAMEO Rhinestones Beginner Tutorial Silhouette PixScan Tutorial for Beginners
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Silhouette Stamp Material Beginner Tutorial Silhouette Paper Card Tutorial for Beginners Silhouette Sketch Pen Beginner Tutorial


UPDATE: The Ultimate Silhouette Guide is now what I would consider the best place for Silhouette newbies to begin.  I've jam packed it with more than 150 pages and more than 200 diagrams on everything you could possibly want to know about how to use the Silhouette. 

The Ultimate Silhouette Guide, Silhouette Cameo, Silhouette Studio, Silhouette tutorial


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine! 

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!


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68 comments

  1. Please help me figure out how to cut a stencil but I want it to be like a coloring page. I only want the outlines of the design. Example: An easter egg with circles and chevron patterns inside the egg. The only thing I want to cut on the stencil is the outside of the egg and the outside of the dots and chevron inside. Thank you

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  3. Me too!! That's why I bought this machine!

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  4. First, decide what you want to cut. Ungroup your design and you may possibly have to right click on it and "release compound path" to get to the parts you want, depending on how complex your design is. Zoom in. Select the parts you want to cut out individually and go to the cut screen and choose "cut" for these. You can now see if you can do a quick fix. Zoom out and see if those parts you want to cut have the thicker cutting edge highlighted. (Mine shows dark orange). Hopefully, the other parts will still have the lighter orange line but be sure and check to se that they have "no cut" chosen for them. Re-group everything so the little bits won't start away and throw your design off. You should now get what you want. I did this the other day on a school bus I first drew with the pen, then wanted to only cut out the windows so I could put a different color behind them.

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  5. All newbie's like me need to buy the book! I had to print it out cause I love to have it in my hands write on it and make it my own. "The ultimate silhouette guide" should come with the machine!!!! It is very user friendly when you don't have a clue or if you just need to refresh cause you haven't done it in a while.

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    1. Sharon I am brand new and haven't a clue where to start I am so overwjelmed can you suggest the very first thing you tried

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    2. Question about the books, I understand they are printable but what option do I choose EBook version or paper back? Thank, guess that might be a silly question

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  7. Thanks Melissa! You are very helpful.

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  8. Two things. I have downloaded the software for my new Silhouette cameo and when I try to end the program, the page hangs up. I have to go to task manager and end it from there. Any ideas? Also I have not done a single thing with my machine yet, but would like to do the hammers for Father's Day. Do you have a tutorial for those. Thanks. I am very much a newbie.

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  9. I bought my cameo to cut appliqué for embroidery. Can you help me? I use Pulse software.
    Thank you

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  10. I have 4 shapes on a sheet of cardstock that I would like cut - can I scan it and the silhouette will cut exactly how they are placed on the sheet??

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  11. I have a silhouette cameo. I have purchased some HTV with a pattern and cannot get it to stick to my mat. I tried to tape it down, used adhesive on back of the vinyl. It still will not cut without rugged edges or it cuts completely through the vinyl and tears up the design. Can someone please tell me what I am doing wrong or what I should do. Thanks

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    1. not an expert but I think you are not supposed to use the mat with vinyl. Load the vinyl by itself using the "load media" option in stead of the "load cutting mat".

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  12. I cant figure out how to turn off the pan. Ive tried clicking on it but it wont stop!!!! Help please!!!

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  13. Hwas reading your tutorial on freezer papers stencil but I am not sure what kind of paint to use.

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  14. I'm searching for a tutorial on cutting large (4-5') vinyl wall decals. I've heard someone say they did it in grids. Can you help me?

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  15. Just wondering if you have ever had or heard of this software problem: The program keeps closing down saying the "Silhouette studio.exe has stopped working and will close down. Keeps happening. Have uninstalled the program and re-installed it. I Have reset the library and am now busy refiling over 4000 files but as the program keeps closing it has become a very long and arduous task. Can you help?

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    1. I am having the same problem. It's so frustrating. I emailed customer service. They are closed until January 4. I would love an answer.

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    2. I was hoping I could find an answer here. I e-mailed customer service, but haven't gotten a reply. I have almost 10,000 files, but can't keep the library open long enough to get them categorized. The Design Studio seems to work fine, but I can't search for files I want to use before the program shuts down.

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    3. I'm having the same issue sincting a new laptop with Windows 10. Please help, have sent message to customer service but no answer yet and I need to do some cutting of designs and it keeps shutting down and I have to sart all over refiling everything, very frustrating, haven't had this issue before now.

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  16. I love this site I refer to it very often for help and tips!

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  17. The best thing I have learned from this site/blog is not just one thing. I have learned about so many valuable resources and ideas! Thank you!!

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  18. The Best Tip I have learned is how to do the knockout technique.

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  19. I love this site, first place I come when I want to learn something!

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  20. I love this site and I bought and printed out "The Ultimate Silhouette Guide" and it has helped me tremendously! I actually cut my first print and cut design today and it worked great although somehow I did not get it printed and cut as in your directions. My only wish is that in the manual that comes with the machine or somewhere there were detailed instructions for initial setup of the machine, such as inserting the blade and if it has to be set in a specific direction, if it makes a difference.

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  21. I read somewhere that you could use glitter cardstock to make rhinestone templates.. That would be perfect for custom designs I may never use.. However I can not find the instructions no. Can anyone help???

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  22. Newbie here. How do I know what kind of vinyl I have? I have several opened rolls and don't remember if their removable or not? Even the SiL roll that came with my Cameo doesn't say if its removable??

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  23. Hello. I have purchased an alphabet from the Silhouette design store. it's all on one page...how do I separate the letters to use them individually??

    Thank you for your time.

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  24. 100% free download some category software. such as photo editor, graphic, antivirus, video editor, editor, computer tips so on.
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  25. Hello can you please make a tutorial of using the silhouette for cake jobs on sugar sheets

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  26. I bought some 5.5x7.5 cardstock. Printed a very nice invitation and wanted to emboss. Turned out I used the wrong mat setting for the registration marks. no problem. Reset to curio, went to print, and cannot get the printer to print a 5x7 anymore - When I switch to printer settings in design page, its letter size. when I change the dimensions, it goes to custom, but does not change my printer's mind about it. I've changed page settings, I've done everything i can think of. Frustrated to tears at this point. I hope you can help! Thank you for your blog and lessons.

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  27. I am test driving the Cameo for a friend who read the instructions and left the machine in the box after a bout with frustration.
    I find the cameo to be an excellent tool in cutting stencils and I am finding my way through the instructions. Thank you Melissa for the tip on the "eraser". I need to "bridge" some stencils so I will not lose the centers of the O's. IE: I am making stencils and applying acrylic paint to signs so I need the "bridges"?

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  28. I purchased the bundle start pack for kindle but can not find in my kindle app now. Any suggestions?

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  29. Thank you for you helpful tutorials. With my new Silhouette I've successfully used HTV for shirts so far. Today I am trying my hand at 651 vinyl to apply to a tumbler. When the Silhouette started cutting out the name, it is cutting too deep and tearing up the letters! The cutting knife is set at 1, and I was not using a mat. Would using a mat correct the problem??? Please help. Thank you

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    1. I am having the exact same problem. I tried with and without the cutting mat. Same results . I also set my blade to 1 . So when you find the answer , please let me know . I've wasted like 30 12ⅹ12 sheets!!! Ugh

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  30. Hi... so excited about this site. Can someone please help me by telling me on what type of fabric i can use to make scatter cushions with to heat press. I know 100% cotton is the best, but it is so expensive. Is there perhaps a more costly way. Thank you so much

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  31. How do you know how much vinyl to buy to make 10 shirts for an event

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  32. This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links. Accounting Assignment Help and get success.

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  33. I just brought my silhouette portrait out after 2 years of staring at it in the box. My main project was to make my own note cards with a cut out on the front. Behind that cut out I wanted to attache design paper to show through the cut out. I am somewhat crafty and thought this was going to be easy. Now that I took the machine out of the box, I am unsure of my ability. Would your book ( I am hands on and prefer the paper edition) help me get started with that project? Please and Thank You.

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  34. after looking at the box for 2 years. I decided to get it in gear and really concentrate on moving forward. What I want to do is make my own note cards with a cut out on the front. HELP!! Please and thank you.

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  35. Curious as to how to down load a font following your directions with out getting a virus. I have downloaded fonts before and my computer needed to go to the dr ;((

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  36. when u download sil. files to your computer , do they need to be imported to the silhouette . In order to keep in order to keep them on the software. For instance if you have to do a factory restore on your computer & you have to put the software back on will it be on there when you reinstall the software. Or can you drag and drop the & them stay in the sil. software?

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  37. Don't you want to add a spam filter on your blogger account? please

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  38. How do you transfer your files and bought fonts from an old computer to a new one?

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  39. Hello I have a question about your heat transfer. I wasn't sure how else to send a question via your blog page. There so much great info! I'm just getting started on this adventure and I am trying absorb so much. Your heat transfer is a sublimation transfer? Not a heat press? I want to make shirts heat press only. Is that what yours does?

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  40. I am trying to cut vinyl but want it to go around a large candle holder. How do I cut so it goes around the glass?

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  41. I want to use this machine to cut out sayings for cards and scrapbook pages but my edges always look ragged and the cardstock tears. I'd love to try vinyl, but am afraid to since I can't even get it to work right with paper!

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  42. What's the best computer to use I was told a Mac is this true? What do all of you use??

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    1. I do have a Mac and Windows, but I prefer to use my Mac when creating, it just seems easier for me. With that being said, I did invest in taking a class at the Apple story when I purchased my Mac. I was a window user for over 20 (gasp, I am old) years, but will not go back to Windows.

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  43. I am one of those people who have kept my Cameo in the box for 2 years after trying to cut out designs for my cards with no good results. I wanted to get some designs from the computer to transfer to my Cameo and again with difficulty. What advice can you give me or do you have a section related to this problem?

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  44. I have a question ( do not look to my bad Englisch please) but i have used that 3G Jet Opaque Heat transfer paper for inkjet, and they told me not to mirror the image because you must put it from the back before pressing or iron it, the image is going with the face up not to the shirt or something els. Is there a different between this 2 kinds of Opaque heat transfer????

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  45. This was one of the 1st posts I read when I got my silhouette! I've been hooked on the silhouette school blog ever sense!!

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  46. I love silhouette school! I refer to your tutorials EVERY TIME I even think about a project I want to tackle. I am always able to find my answer here. Thank you for all the great information and the time you put in to teaching the rest of us. I am always looking forward to what's next. Thank you!

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  47. Love your blog and all the great info. I look forward to seeing them in my emails. I would love to win a Cameo 3! Thank you!

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  48. I have a question. Can you sketch a design on the Curio then deboss it--or vice versa?

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  49. Thanks for keeping us educated in the use of the Silhouette Cameo ! Your Ultimate Guide is wonderful !

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  50. Hi I need help I bought the cameo2,and I just don't know where to start with it.Took it out the box hubby loaded the cd onto my computer,and that is it I just don't know where to go from there,it's all very daunting any help would be very much appreciated thank you .

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    1. As I suggest in this post, I would pick one project and just start there, as you work your way through it you'll start to learn how to use the machine.

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  51. Thanks you so much for all the info. I am just getting my feet wet and so far I love it. I am only talking to myself most of the time but I never answer �� I am on WordPress and would love to make money blogging …I want to stay home with my kids too and if I could make money doing this it would be an answered prayer! Heads up I will be stalking you as you put it ,so much great information…Thanks again

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  52. This is so frustrating, my book told me to come to this website to download and save the free beginner-level vinyl silhouette cut file studio to my computer and ive searched everywhere and everything. Im actually starting to rethink this entire purchase

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    1. Please email me and I will get you to the right page to download the designs.

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  53. I just received a new Silhouette Cameo 3 and am having a terrible time with the Library. With this software i also activated the Silhouette Cloud and my knowledge of what i thought i knew has gone to outer space. I have reviewed several tutorials on creating new folders but for some reason i cannot create a new folder in this new software program. Melissa can you help?

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  54. I just updated to DE Plus and cant figure out how to convert/export/import my PES files help

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    1. I'm not terribly familiar with the file type, but you should be able to do File > open or drag and drop. Again, I'm not sure if that file type is compatible with Silhouette Studio though

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  55. Hi I just stumbled onto your website while looking for help on how to resize an envelope cut file from the design store (or even one of my own). I haven't used my machine in months and I'm rusty! I have all these pretty envelopes in my library and would like to know how to resize them for different sized cards. Any help would be great!

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Thanks for leaving a comment! We get several hundred comments a day. While we appreciate every single one of them it's nearly impossible to respond back to all of them, all the time. So... if you could help me by treating these comments like a forum where readers help readers.

In addition, don't forget to look for specific answers by using the Search Box on the blog. If you're still not having any luck, feel free to email me with your question.