I'm so excited to have Bethany from Board and Batten Design Co. here on the blog today sharing the secret to getting a solid etch fill...while making sure it's perfectly centered on the blank!
The Silhouette Cameo is really an amazing machine with endless possibilities. A year ago when I came across the possibility of etching with the Cameo using the Chomas Engraving Tip, I was blown away and HAD to know more.
The limitation I kept running into was that I could only etch the outline cut lines and not actually fill the design. That wasn’t what I wanted, so I kept experimenting until I figured out how to etch fill the design for gorgeous jewelry and other etched items. Today I’m going to show you what I’ve learned. This method requires Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. If you don’t have Designer Edition, you can still practice this technique with the free pre-made "LOVE" engraving file I'm sharing below!
Etching a Filled Design with Silhouette Studio - The ProcessYou want to start by preparing the design file in Silhouette Studio. Pull up or make your design and resize it. You’ll want it to be about 15-25 times larger than the end result will be. In this example, the design will be about an inch wide, so I’m making it 25 inches wide to start.
If any elements overlap, weld them together and convert the whole thing to a path (right click > convert to path) if you’re using text.
Replicate the design five times so you have six copies. You can use the copy/paste method, your favorite keyboard shortcut to replicate, or use the Replicate tool along the top tool bar.
Select three of the designs and from the Align tool "Center" the designs on each other by clicking the top "Center" option. Group the set of three and move them off to the side for right now.
Select one of the remaining designs and open the Sketch Fill tool (this tool will only be available if you have Designer Edition). Set the following settings:
- Edge Sketch: Plain
- Fill Sketch: Grill
- Advanced Options Spacing: .059
- Advanced Options Angle: 0 (this will give you a flat horizontal etch, you can play with this one if you want it angled)
- Advanced Options Sweep: 0
- Offset: .03
Take another copy of the design and do the same thing, using the same settings except your spacing will be .06 instead of .059.
Then, for your last copy, do the same thing again except the spacing will be .061.
Now you should have the three outlines that you grouped together, and three copies that have horizontal line fills.
Take all of your six copies, center them together (again using the Align > Center). Select the entire set and make it a compound path from the Modify window or by right clicking > Make Compound Path.
Now, resize the design to the actual size you want, roughly. It doesn’t have to be exact since you’ll tweak it a bit more. Move it off the cutting area.
Preparing Your Silhouette Cutting Mat and Positioning for EtchingExact positioning for this is really important because if it’s even off a tiny bit, your etched design will be off center and who wants that, right? Normally I use Melissa's Pixscan mat method for this but for some reason it wasn’t cooperating so I’ll show you my “vinyl scrap” positioning method.
Measure your blank so you know exactly the size it is. Using the drawing tools on the left sidebar of Silhouette Studio, create a shape that is a tad bit larger than your blank. My blank is a rectangle that is .5” x 1.4375...so I made my rectangle shape 0.75”x 1.688” which gives me a quarter inch leeway.
Take a piece of scrap vinyl (651 is best as it has the best stick) and put it on your mat upside down so the backing is up and vinyl is down. Don’t put it right at the top of the mat - put it a few inches down since you will need to access it without unloading the mat.
Using the regular ratchet blade and vinyl cut settings with a double cut to cut the shape out of the backing of the vinyl.
After the design has been cut DO NOT UNLOAD THE MAT! With the cutting at still in the Silhouette CAMEO, remove the backing for your cut out shape and voila - you have a nice super sticky place to put your blank and you’ll be able to center it perfectly.
In Studio, leave your rectangle shape where it is, but change it to “No Cut" from the Cut Settings window.
Etching Your DesignPosition your blank onto the sticky vinyl cutout, making sure to center it as best as you can.
In Studio, take the etching design you created earlier and resize it so it fits on the 'blank.' Position it correctly within the shape you had made. Keep in mind that your shape in Studio is still a bit larger than your actual blank.
TIP: Sometimes I find it helpful to create another no-cut shape on my Studio screen that’s the same exact size as my blank just so I can get a better idea of the correct proportion of my finished design on the blank.
Now, you’re ready to etch! Your blank is positioned, so load your machine with the Chomas Engraving Tip, set up your settings.
Silhouette CAMEO Machine “Cut” Settings for Metal EtchingHere are the two Silhouette cut settings I use for my etching based on the type of material:
- Blade Type: Sketch Pen (this is important!)
- Speed: 3
- Thickness: 33
- Double Cut
- Blade Type: Sketch Pen (this is important!)
- Speed: 3
- Thickness: 15
- No Double Cut
When you're ready, hit the Send to Silhouette button in Studio.
Keep in mind - you have created a lot of cut lines so this will cause your machine to work really hard (I'd recommend shutting down all other programs, making sure your coputer does not fall asleep, and closing any other work areas in Silhouette Studio).
Also, these do take quite a bit of time to etch - sometimes a half hour - so this is a good time to grab a cup of coffee and relax for a bit. (Or - if you’re like me, you sit there watching the machine like a hawk and say over and over “LOOK IT’S SOO PRETTY!”)
Other Noteworthy Thoughts
- Different metals have different hardnesses and so if you are etching onto metals other than aluminum or stainless steel you may want to test the settings. You can even do fine jewelry like silver and gold with this method.
- Size wise - you can etch any metal that will fit under your rollers. I am using a Cameo 2 and found that my 14 gauge cuff bracelet blanks will fit but I wouldn’t go any thicker than that without using the Curio instead.
- If you do intend to do this for a gift or for selling products, I recommend getting extra blanks so you can do a test etching when you have your mat set up. You can then “erase” (buff out) the etching using a Dremel tool and reuse it for the next time you need to test etch, which helps prevent misaligned designs and wasted blanks.
If you don’t have Designer Edition and would like to use the free “LOVE” etch file that I give away to newsletter subscribers, you may sign up and get the file here. With the pre-made file, you skip the design fill creation entirely and all you have to do is prepare your mat and etching blank positioning, resize the design as needed, and it’s all ready to etch.
If you’d like a deeper, more hand stamped look/feel you can increase the thickness setting on aluminum (or other soft metal) blanks and then use a sharpie to fill in the letters. Polish off the excess black and it will stay nice and dark inside the letters.
Bethany has been a Silhouette Cameo addict since 2012. She’s also a single mother of 3, serial entrepreneur, off-grid homesteader, SVG cut file designer at Board & Batten Design Co, and when she has time she likes to blog about businessy sorts of things at PRICUTRA.com.
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!
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