Reported by Julia Stainton
Editor’s note: The QuicKutz Silhouette has been discontinued and replaced by the Silhouette Cameo Cutter.
I 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
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
Media you can cut:
- patterned paper
- vinyl film
- 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.
- 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
- 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!