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Silhouette SD Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the Silhouette SD

Cristin Dillard said…
I really liked reading your review of the Silhouette SD cutting machine. I recently purchased a Cricut and am dissatisfied with it because it does not give me the flexibility or creativity I believe the Silhouette would.


I wish I had done my research (better) when making the decision to invest money into a cutting machine. Had I done my research, I would have definitely purchased the Silhouette!


This is such an awesome give away.

If you are our winner, please email your name and address to info@craftcritique.com. Please put TC Stampmaker Winner in the subject of your email. 


Today is the last day to grab up this AMAZING deal from Silhouette…

1 Silhouette SD
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper
for $199 (U.S. only)

That’s a $320 value!

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Silhouette SD

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Of all the craft products that are on the market today, it seems to me the most difficult one to reach a decision on when it comes to what to purchase is a die cutting machine. Not only does there seem to be a version of every shape and size from capability to budget, choosing a die cutting machine is not really a “this one is the best” type of purchase. When reviewing all that is out there, we also have to take into account our personal feelings and needs, because in truth all those machines are “good,” it is just a matter of which one is “best” for us.

We are faced with questions such as:

  • Do we want excellent portability, or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?
  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we okay with strictly pre-made ones?
  • How computer-savvy do we need to be to use the thing?
  • At what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

I have asked myself all of these questions before, and that led me to originally choose a different die cutting machine for my needs. I won’t be comparing the two in this article, as again which machine we prefer can be just as much of a personal choice as anything, however I do feel like I should mention testing out and playing with the Silhouette SD has probably changed my mind on which machine I would recommend to a friend if they were faced with those same questions above. Here’s the lowdown that I’d share with them, which I hope you find helpful in your pursuit of the perfect machine for you too.

What you get

Out of the box the Silhouette SD comes complete with just about everything to get you up and running.

  • The Silhouette SD machine, which is lightweight and not overly bulky (a must for precious craft space).
  • An electrical cord and USB cord for computer connection.
  • 2 cutting mats (one for thick media, one for thin media).
  • 3 blade caps (you replace a cap on the blade for different cuts when it comes to the Silhouette SD rather than the blade itself, which I did like).
  • 1 installation CD (complete with 50 preloaded designs) and 1 detailed tutorial CD (Software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher).
  • A basic manual.
  • $10 download card for the Silhouette Online Store.

What else you need (or might need)

  • A computer, Mac or PC.
  • A longer USB cord. I found the cord which came with the machine too short for my particular set up, however an existing (much longer) cord from another machine I had on hand worked great.
  • Material to cut of course (paper from your stash, or anything from Silhouette’s line of other materials including heat transfers, temporary tattoo paper, vinyl, etc).
  • Basic computer skills.
  • An SD card to make the most of the Silhouette SD’s capability (it seems to me like they could have tossed one in the box, but most of us probably have one on hand).
  • Patience and time for the learning curve.

Set up

Initial set up of the Silhouette SD was quick and easy. The software installed on my Windows 7 PC in minutes (though do make sure all Windows updates have been applied to your computer first, as this did add to the total time for install on my end).

As far as physical space, the machine does not take up a lot of room. You do need space in front and behind it for the material to move while being cut. The machine cuts 8 1/2″ x 12″ size or smaller using a mat.

The technical side (software and online)

The paper manual which comes in the box is enough to get you up and cutting quickly, however the array of tools and options in the software does require you take some time to watch the tutorial CD and learn the basics. The tutorials are very well put together and easy to understand, especially if you are a visual learner like I am.


I liked the look of the software; it is slightly customizable in appearance (color and button size), and pretty easy to navigate. Here’s an image of the basic desktop you start off with for each new design.


I especially appreciated that hovering with the pointer over a particular tool brought up its name until I got the hang of what they all were. If you are familiar with photo editing or drawing programs, the software will seem very intuitive to you. If not, the tutorials (which are very specific) will give you a great handle on it quickly.

You are able to cut just about any design (pre-made, your own, or a traced scan) with the Silhouette SD. All True Type fonts installed on your computer can be cut, which opens up the flood gates for font possibilities in projects.

As mentioned above, the Silhouette SD software comes pre-loaded with 50 extremely usable designs:


Right at your finger tips is also a link to the online store with thousands of options to choose from (most are 99 cents each, though subscription programs are available which reduce the cost greatly), including designs from well-known companies like Hero Arts and Donna Downey. I quickly spent the $10 download card that comes with the machine while looking at all the great options!

Of course, possibilities are endless when you take into account designing your own images as well. Here’s a simple project made by creating my own design using standards fonts (Impact and Lucida Handwriting). The weld tool makes easy work of combining letters.

My design in the software:


And the finished project:

Performance

Though I only had opportunity to test the Silhouette SD on regular cardstock and paper for this review, it worked absolutely great. The machine is noisy when cutting, but does the job. I appreciate the 2 different cutting mats for different thicknesses of media, between which the only difference is the amount of adhesive (the lesser amount of adhesive meant for thinner materials).

As far as actual cutting, the Silhouette SD has more than just one option too. It also perforates. I love this option which makes super quick work of folded projects such as this pillow box (this template comes with the software).


Other features

The Silhouette has a Print and Cut feature which for me was the tipping point on why I’d now lean towards recommending this machine to a friend. I am a very big fan of cutting elements out of patterned paper for projects, and this option is quick, easy, and works great.

As an example, these 3D flowers were available in the online store.


First I printed them with the necessary registration marks so the Silhouette knows where to cut (this is covered in the tutorials) and then simply loaded into the machine for cutting. Here’s a peek of the Silhouette SD in action with the lid raised.


And the result:


Here’s a card using the finished flowers (which would have been about $2.99 in a pre-made pack).


The card template and sentiment also come preloaded with the software, and the dress form is from the online store.

To make the Print and Cut feature even more appealing, the software also includes a trace tool for tracing scanned images you wish to cut out. The trace tool takes a little getting used to, but once I practiced a bit I was able to make a near perfect replica of this vintage doily in a few easy steps. First I scanned the doily into Photoshop Elements and saved the image as a bitmap, then opened the bitmap image in Silhouette SD Studio and followed the steps to trace it, and finally proceeded just like I would with a print and cut image:



Finally, the Silhouette SD has portability thanks to the SD card slot located on the machine.


Designs are able to be loaded onto an SD card and then retrieved by the machine for cutting while not connected to a computer.

To sum up, let’s revisit those primary questions above when purchasing a die cutting machine.

  • Do we want excellent portability or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?

You don’t have to necessarily choose with the Silhouette SD. Thanks to the SD card slot, you are able to pre-load designs to be cut onto an SD card (not included), unplug the machine from your computer, and take it with you to a crop or anywhere else. You must, of course, take the time to load up the SD card with images first, however if you do so with ones you use often that can become very handy. I myself don’t crop out of the home much, but traveling from my craft area (where my husband is playing a loud video game) to the dining room table (where I don’t have to hear “watch your back!” every few minutes) is a nice option.

  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we OK with strictly pre-made ones?

Again no choice necessary here. Countless designs are available online, many great ones come with the machine preloaded in the software, and designing our own is a piece of cake once you get the hang of the software. And, no need to buy many designs we don’t care for either just to get a few that we do.

  • How computer savvy do we need to be to use the thing?

Basics are definitely needed, and knowledge of working with other drawing type programs would put you that much further ahead of the learning curve, however the tutorials are very good at explaining each and every tool. So there should not be any intimidation about the computer needs as long as you are willing to take the time to learn.

  • And of course at what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

There is certainly more freedom in how we can answer this question with the Silhouette SD versus other machines currently on the market. For one, designs can be purchased separately for 99 cents, however if you become good at it you can also design your own for free (or download the weekly freebies from the online store to build your collection also). If you find you are constantly wanting to use new images, you can choose one of the subscription plans available which roll over from month to month if you do not use them up. Also there is no third party software to purchase in order to increase the capability of the machine, it simply comes with the flexibility we wish they all had.

Pros:

  • The Silhouette SD can cut just about any image, increasing its value potential over other machines.
  • The software and online store are user friendly and fairly easy to navigate after a bit of learning time.
  • Many options are available from cutting style (straight line or perforated), cutting mat (thin or thicker media), to material which can be cut (Silhouette also offers vinyl, heat transfer material, flocked paper, and even temporary tattoo paper).

Cons:

  • Initial purchase price of around $200 is expensive and may not fit your budget, no matter what the possibilities for use could be.
  • The Silhouette cuts a smaller size overall than other die cutting machines (8 1/2″ x 12″ vs 12″ x 12″ or larger), and if you have large 12″ x 12″ stash you will be trimming a lot before cutting is possible.
  • Like other machines, eventually the blade and mats will need to be replaced which will be an added cost.

Good DEALS…
Our friends at Silhouette are providing our readers with some fabulous offers… from now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (that’s a $120 savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.
 
AND A GIVEAWAY!

They’ve also given us a Silhouette SD and two packages of their Tattoo Paper to give away to one of our very lucky readers. First enter by leaving a comment below answering the following question(s):

Do you own a Silhouette SD or are you considering purchasing one? What are your thoughts on how this machine can do versus other machines you know of? 

We can’t wait to hear from you on this one! This will give you one entry but wait, there’s more…

Optional Bonus Entries
Earn additional entry for each of the following:

■ Tweet about the giveaway! (example): WIN a Free Silhouette on @CraftCritique from @silhouetteam and read the Reviews. http://is.gd/QxOcYB

Like Silhouette America on Facebook and let them know you saw them on Craft Critique!

■ Link to the giveaway on Facebook!

Please enter one comment per entry. So, once you have done any of the additional entries remember to come back and comment to let us know. Contest closes at midnight. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Silhouette Promotion

Next week we will be featuring reviews of the Silhouette SD. We have put this puppy to the test and we can’t wait to share the results. In the meantime, if you have been dying to get your hands on this cool die cutting machine, we have a special promotion for Craft Critique readers.

From now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (120 dollars in savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.

(Silhouette SD reviews will be available June 28th and 29th with an amazing giveaway, stay tuned!)

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Quickutz Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter

Editor’s note: The QuicKutz Silhouette has been discontinued and replaced by the Silhouette Cameo Cutter.

Quickutz_Silhouette_600I told myself I did NOT need a digital craft cutter. When they first became prevalent in the scrapbooking market I thought… “Cool…but not for me.” Fast forward to two weeks ago. I still had absolutely no intention of purchasing one. I mostly stamp. When I scrapbook I love using chipboard and felt sticker letters. Not for me. Until armed with a rather large scrapbook store credit after a very successful scrapbooking garage sale, the last QuicKutz Silhouette in the store caught my eye. I shook my head and moved on. But I came back. After all, it was almost half price and I really wasn’t paying for it out of pocket. Hmmmm…. I went and purchased loads of adhesive and some paper goodies and went home to ponder. I was back a couple days later to purchase some much needed storage and thought I’d save the rest of my credit for paper and goodies spread over the next 6 months. But that little sale sign must have had the equivalent of neon lights on it as I had to walk by it again. What ARE those cartridge things? I don’t want to get sucked into buying a pile of those! And I’ve been there, done that with the die-cut thing. I really don’t need to revisit the die-cut sneeze look on my pages from 8 years ago. At which point, Jen the lovely salesperson very kindly gave me a few ideas of what it could do. Cut through vinyl you say? Use fonts and dingbats from the internet. Make large letters for school projects. In almost ANY size. OK, OK…I’m a mom. That sold me. I wasn’t buying another tool for me. I was selflessly spending the last of my credit on my children. I’m a good mom, right? And let’s not forget Craft Critique! I hope you’ll all be beholden for ever (wink) as you were just dying to read this review.

I toted my prize home to the family… this thing that I was never going to buy. My oldest child thought the technology was pretty cool. My little boys were thrilled to have their names cut out in letters to play with. My daughter is not technically inclined and hasn’t worked up the courage to touch it. Hubby and child number three could not care less. As for me…while it wasn’t love at first sight, it was definitely love at first try!


The Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter by QuicKutz looks and works very much like your home printer, only it cuts rather than prints. It takes up less space than a printer and easily hooks up to your home computer or laptop with a USB cable. Instead of an ink head, a similar contraption holds a small blade that can be adjusted easily with the accompanying plunger tips for various thicknesses of paper and other flat material. This blade swivels and cuts your image one line at a time with the document feeds through the machine. This is a different process than your traditional die cut machine that uses a metal die and pressure to punch out an image. The Silhouette blade feature allows you to cut out any shape or size without the use of dies. Many craft cutters on the market require you to use cartridges that you must purchase for the specific shapes that you wish to cut out. The Silhouette uses software on your computer and while you can purchase extra images for this machine, you can design them yourself or purchase them individually via the internet. The Silhouette machine itself is extremely easy to use. Simply plug it into your computer and the only button is for power on and off. A feed knob on the left side makes it simple to insert your cutting sheet, much as you would paper into a typewriter. Everything you need to get started right away is included.

Included in the package:

  • Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter machine
  • all necessary power and USB cords
  • ROBO Master software
  • 50 cutting designs as well as basic shapes
  • blade & plunger tips
  • cutting sheet
  • instructions

An essential part of the Silhouette cutting process is the software. ROBO Master is the software included with the package. It is very easy to use. Simply install on your computer and drag a template from your library onto the work-surface or create your own custom shape or pattern. Shapes and templates can be altered by adding extra shapes (see example below) or by changing the size or skewing it wider or taller. The text is easy to cut out as well by just typing in your phrase and printing. While this program does not include measurement increments along the sides of the workspace, you can add a grid to the workspace by selecting view, then grid. Depending on your preference, you can set the grid size to 1″, 1/2″, 1/4″ or other increments to best suit your needs. The default is 1/2″ grid which would mean that every two squares equals one inch making it easy to size the shape to the desired measurement. Once you are done designing the cutting pattern, click on the Craft Robo icon and the program will guide you through set up and which blade cap best suits your cutting surface.

Screen Shot of Robo Master software with downloaded QuicKutz
pillow box template altered with circle to create window

Cutting out these fabulous shapes is quite addictive. One of the things I love best about the Silhouette is the QuicKutz approach to adding to your template library. I’m not a fan of expensive cartridges, and what sold me on this machine is the option of using any true-type font that is installed on your computer. The options and sizing on them makes for almost limitless possibilities. In addition, QuicKutz has a very cool offering of on-line templates easily accessed from your home computer. You don’t need to leave the house when you need the perfect finishing touch to your project…just download it! All the templates are very reasonably priced at $1.99 USD, and this works so much better than purchasing a cartridge that you may only use some of the templates on. It’s also quite addictive as they release new designs each month, making it a fabulous marketing concept. I love how fresh and on trend these templates are and I must confess…I’ve been back to visit (and buy) at least three times over the past couple weeks. My current favorites are the mini-box templates and the lace paper cutting templates. Gorgeous! Next on my wish list…some more vinyl to make custom wall art.

Vinyl cut out for wall art or window application

Things you can do with the Silhouette:

  • cut images
  • design your own die cuts
  • change the sizes of your images
  • Use the negative image of your cutting for a different look
  • cut out text for layouts, projects, decorations etc.
  • cut out mini boxes
  • create your own lace paper
  • cut out perfect circles
  • cut out scalloped shapes for stamping or matting
  • cut out vinyl wall art
  • cut out any digital brush or design
  • cut magnet sheets
  • cut you own custom envelopes
  • use cut vinyl shapes to create masks for etching glass
  • create you own masks for paint and ink
  • draw shapes with a marker
  • create decorations
  • create custom embellishments
  • pierce a design for stitching
  • optical sensor will allow you to print and cut die-cuts perfectly
  • create table decorations and party favors

Mini Octagonal box template purchased from QuicKutz on-line store
Paper by Graphic 45
Stamps by Cornish Heritage Farms

Media you can cut:

  • cardstock
  • patterned paper
  • transparencies
  • vinyl film
  • vellum
  • specialty papers
  • adhesive backed paper or stickers
  • magnetic paper
  • wood paper
  • iron-on transfer paper

Geometric lace cardstock cut on Silhouette from white cardstock

Now I know writing this that I’m going to get asked for a comparison of the Silhouette with other Digital Craft cutting machines. I honestly have never tried another machine. Remember…I’m the girl who DIDN’T want one! I did however do a little research for you before writing this article as I like to be able to give you as much information as possible. I, girl reporter, want to turn over every rock to help you make an informed decision. I came across this great comparison chart right on the Silhouette web-site comparing the Silhouette to the Cricut. I was totally impressed with the amount of information on that site. Now obviously there are other cutters out there on the market. The Pazzles Creative Cutter is one. Now it’s not included on the chart but seriously…if you want to spend that kind of money of a craft cutter…go right ahead. It’s a totally different league and not one I need to be part of.

Damask download cut from Prima patterned paper.
The reverse shape can be used as a window or a mask.

Because I bought the Silhouette just a couple weeks ago, I’ve only had the time to try out a few projects but I did try to cover a few different ideas for this machine. I’m particularly thrilled with the darling little box templates and the scalloped shapes. Letters and words cut out like a dream. When cutting out the above Damask template, the reverse image (what was left behind) was so gorgeous I decided to use that. Cardstock and patterned paper both cut exceptionally well. I did try cutting out a transparency but the kind I have on hand are exceptionally sturdy and didn’t cut right through. Auto trace is one of the coolest features on this program. I tried it in two different ways. Basically if you have skills in Photoshop, PSE or any other soft of photo editing program you can cut almost anything you can design. To make this work, simply same the design you’ve created as a jpeg or bitmap image. In Robo Master you can make a new document and the open your file. The auto trace command will then map out a cutting line that is editable. I tried this out with both a digital element I designed and also a silhouette image of one of my children at the beach. Very cool.

Pros:

  • easy to use
  • very professional fine cuts
  • doesn’t take up much room
  • cuts a wide variety of products and various weights of paper
  • almost endless possibilities if you want to design your own ideas
  • don’t need to purchase expensive cartridges to expand unit
  • can easily purchase new elements on-line in single units
  • excellent service…computer program updates available for free
  • extremely flexible product…can draw as well as cut

Cons:

  • Maximum size for paper is 8.5 x 11. This is very comparable to other electronic cutters on the market and is pretty much the industry standard, so it is not much of a drawback.
  • Lack of portability: While a new Silhouette model will soon be on the market, this current model must be hooked up a computer to cut. For me this isn’t even an issue as I rarely leave the house anyway! And really… I just don’t get the portability option of the soon to be released Silhouette 2
  • You must have a computer to use this machine. Obviously…not an issue for myself and most of the population.
  • Cutting out intricate shapes can leave you with lots of tiny pieces of paper to clean up…but trust me…it’s worth it.
  • Software only works on PC computers… edited to add: You can use the Silhouette with a Mac if you have Adobe Illustrator and download the plug-in from QuicKutz
  • replacement blades and cutting sheets are expensive

Basically…the original Silhouette may be a little harder to find but in my opinion…if you can find it for a great deal…it’s a fabulous product. If you can’t find it or you’re more interested in portability issues, the Silhouette SD is now on the market as well. It is pretty much identical except for the portability features.

When I’m looking at purchasing a crafting tool, I take a look at a few things… durability, flexibility, practicality, ease of use and whether the product is on trend. I give the Quickutz Silhouette high marks for all of these and rate it a 9.5 out of 10. The Silhouette is extremely well designed and a tool I’m thrilled to own. If you’re looking for more information, QuicKutz has a fabulous resource site Silhouette Machines, filled with ideas, tutorials, troubleshooting and basically, almost everything you want to know.

I’m sure you’re like me and have purchased products and tools that you’ve been excited about but didn’t live up to your expectations. This product surpassed all my expectations and is totally worth the investment for me.I initially purchased it as something to play with and as a tool for my kids projects. But here I am…eating my words and totally happy to be doing so. The more I use it, the more possibilities I see. I love my Silhouette and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite tools ever.

Do you own the QuicKutz Silhouette or other digital craft cutter? We’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

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