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Tips for Cutting, Weeding, and Placing Tiny Silhouette Designs

If you've ever tried to cut a really small design on your Silhouette you know it's not always the easiest thing.  

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Vinyl lifting off the backing and paper tearing are among the chief complaints. Cutting very small and delicate shapes is something the Silhouette can definitely handle, but it can be a lot less stressful - and let's face it, less wasteful - if you follow these few tips for success.

The first thing you want to do is slow the speed down...like to 2 or even one. In the Send Panel, slow down the speed at which the blade moves. This can help prevent the tiny cuts from peeling up. Some people will tell you it's actually better to speed up the blade so it doesn't drag in the area causing the vinyl or paper to lift.  I've always had luck with slooooooowwww cuts for tiny details, but if it doesn't work you can try the quick approach.

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Double cutting - or having more than one pass - can also be helpful especially if you're having trouble weeding the tiny design. Cutting twice just ensures that the material is cut completely so the design is easier to transfer.  When cutting adhesive vinyl, I prefer to avoid double cutting on very small designs, but on HTV double cutting is ideal.

To double cut your design increase the Passes setting in the Send panel.

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Giving your design a very slight offset can be a huge factor in how well it cuts.  If you can give the design even a .010 offset to 'thicken' it slightly without altering the design noticeably, I can pretty much guarantee you'll see a difference in how it cuts. 

Look closely and you'll notice that in the design on the right the monogram is slightly thicker than the non-offset image on the left.

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Once your small design is cut, you've only won half the battle. Just look how tiny that design is - and it cut great!

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But...now you need to weed. Grab your Silhouette hook and a good pair of tweezers. Place your design - still on the backing - on your cutting mat to keep it still while you're weeding. Then carefully weed the design. If you are working with paper, the Silhouette spatula is great for getting tiny designs up off the mat without tearing them.

You may also opt to reverse weed.

Using clear transfer tape is a huge help when placing tiny designs...so is securing your target. (Gotta love painter's tape).

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Because you can see through the tape and onto the surface where you're placing your tiny design, you're much more likely to get it perfect! I had the worst time lining up the monograms on these 5/8" acrylic studs until I switched from transfer paper to the see-through clear transfer tape.

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I hope these tips have helped you successfully cut even the smallest of projects with your Silhouette. I'm sure I'm leaving a few out...so please weigh in by leaving a comment!

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Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I received 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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17 comments

  1. What silver vinyl is used here?

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  3. Hi Please I need your help, I am having trouble with my vinyl lifting, I have slowed the cut right down, then I went a little quicker, then I put on double cut, then I put line segment over cut on and they all haven't worked, I can cut some colours but others just lift of the tiny details.
    Please can you help
    Thank you

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    1. Check your mat. It needs to be sticky enough that it holds the material really well & doesn't let it slide around even one little bit. I use adhesive spray on mine every so often to keep from having to keep buying new ones. Just do NOT leave material on the mat for longer than necessary or it will be hard to remove. A VERY light spray will keep it useable and keep your cutting more precise. Its tempting to say the machine is the problem with most issues but my experience is that it's about 90% user error. And once you figure out what it is causing it you'll have mo more problems (at least with that particular issue LOL). Always check basics first - blades, mat, placement, etc. The software & machine are amazing but the more time you spend experimenting before you try something for real the more success you will have. Good luck! :)

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  4. Thanks for your tips... very usefull for me

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  5. Thanks for your tips... very usefull for me

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  7. I'm having so much trouble cutting small stuff! Thanks going to try this!

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    1. This may be a "DUH" but, if you haven't already, try a new blade. Amazing how this simple change will often solve the whole problem but nobody seems to think of it. Good luck :)

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  8. Another tip. I had a very small image that kept lifting and ruining some parts. I rotated the image 90 degrees and it cut great. I previously slowed the speed way down and added overcut line segments and it did help, but one area kept lifting no matter what, and rotating image fixed it.

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  9. Thank you for your valuable tips. These tips are very useful. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. I luv that there is an Origami Owl bracelet in the picture.

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  11. As always very helpful tips! Going to try this and even trying anonymous tips on rotationg my design 90 degrees.

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  12. So helpful! Going to try it now - Thank you for posting!

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  13. One thing I've found that definitely raises my success rate is to always design & cut in landscape mode. It seems like the further down a page you get the more likely that the cut will be off what you printed. I think its just a weight & gravity thing. But using the whole landscape width of the page (in most cases the 11" edge) just seems to give it more stability & less distortion than cutting vertically. I also have placed an empty cardboard paper towel roll under the plastic carrier mat (held inside the pull-out frame for vinyl rolls but not connected to it) to help support it so the mat is able to easily roll up & down over it. The machine is a precise & delicate creature & the more the mat hangs down, the more gravity seems to affect the cutting - even 1-2 millimeters off is a huge deal on a small design or a set of stickers, as once it starts getting off it increases exponentially for every millimeter it goes further down the page. Also if you know you'll be cutting something really small & detailed use a new blade - its amazing how just that will make a huge difference (i keep one blade special just to use only for tiny delicate designs). Amazing how quickly they can get dulled to much to cut cleanly. Hope these tips help you avoid the "Silhouette Tears" :)

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  14. Melissa - thanks so much for all your research & tips on using Silhouette machine & software - they are soooooo useful! Could you do a video just on the depth vs speed settings? Just a series of experiments visually showing the effects of the 2 different settings, how they relate to each other & how & when to change them. You mentioned slowing down for smaller details - how does changing the pressure affect cutting, is it determined by material thickness (& is there some kind of a chart relating thickness & prrssure). Thanks for all your good work!

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