Graphtec Silhouette Craft Vinyl Cutter Kit w/ ClipArt CD
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- 16 inches long by 5.5 inches deep and 4.5 inches tall
- 4.5 lbs
- Can handle media up to 11 inches wide by more than 1 yard long, with a cutting area of 8 inches wide by 39.4 inches in extended mode.
- Has a removable SD Card media slot so you can cut saved files without a PC.
- Portable, cost effective, & durable.
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BUYER TAKE NOTICE!!! This product comes with a $10 download card as per the manufacturer, and not the $25 download card as stated in the prior description. The manufacturer has chosen to change the amount of the download card. However, Amazon's SKU still shows the old description.
Top Customer Reviews
First, a little about me. I'm a graphic designer with training in Adobe Illustrator. The Silhouette appealed to me because I could create my own shapes and it was cheaper than buying a more expensive machine plus a million cartridges with something like Cricut. I did a lot of research on Wishblade and Silhouette and found the most positive reviews for the Silhouette so I decided to buy it.
I bought the SD because I liked the idea of an auto-load/eject vs. the original Silhouette manual crank. Now, though, I think it'd be ok with the manual crank. I've never used the "SD" feature of this Silhouette.
I was a little nervous about the learning curve with this machine, but it hasn't been a problem for me at all (I consider myself about a 7/10 for computer savvy). I think this cutting machine might be more frustrating for people who are less computer literate or those who don't want to hassle with setting up shapes to cut in the most economical way (so to not waste paper).
I use the red cap (for "thick" paper) most of the time as the yellow cap just wasn't cutting well enough. I think I use average cardstock from the craft store, like the DCWV stacks. If you have really thick paper like bristol, the plugin I linked to below allows you to set the blade to run over the design multiple times. I haven't tried cutting vellum yet, but supposedly this machine can do that with the blue cap. I tried to cut out some pre-printed designs, but it seems like it never cuts exactly the same way twice, so I gave up trying (even after creating the template I talk about below).
- make my own designs
- not much else to buy after the machine except cutting mats (see my tip below) and paper
- can cut very long designs (not even sure how long because I've never had paper longer than 12")
- small and light, super easy to store
- with the proprietary cutting software that comes with it, paper is wasted [UPDATE: Silhouette Studio (SS) software greatly improves this!]
- a little difficult to use with Adobe Illustrator [UPDATE: easy to export AI as DXF and import into SS, just make sure to ungroup all objects and release compound paths otherwise you'll get errors]
- proprietary ROBO Master software is PC only Mac users need a plugin [UPDATE: SS software available for Mac & PC]
- for some, may have to buy shapes through the Silhouette store, but they are inexpensive
- only cuts up to 8" wide (if you cut the 1/4-1/2" wider they claim it can, you have an indented line on your shape from the wheels)
- lint and pet hair clings to the cutting mats pretty easily. They are hard to keep clean, but still work fine when dirty like this
- when I bought in Dec 09, Vista users had to download a new driver from the Silhouette website (not really a con, just an FYI)
Even though I listed more cons than pros, this is a GREAT buy. I think the pros still outweigh the cons and I would buy it again and recommend it to friends. I guess I'm just paying more attention to the down sides that you probably won't read about anywhere else online.
I downloaded a free plugin for use with Illustrator (on PC, may work for Mac too) from the GraphtecCorp website.
You'll have to test and set up a template to get everything to cut on the paper with this plugin (I made a 8 x 12 document and added a small box to be cut just outside these borders and make sure all of my shapes are within a 1/4" margin of the document and haven't had a problem. The box doesn't cut on the paper, but it lines up everything else to cut properly. I can set shapes to cut almost right at the edges, so no wasted paper!!). If you know Illy and like the freedom it gives you, it's worth the frustration of figuring this out. This plugin gives you a lot of control over the cutting. You can set the paper type, pressure, how many times the blade runs over the design and even the line type (solid, dashes, dots!!).
[UPDATE] I had some trouble with the blade after a few months even when I replaced it with a new one so I called Silhouette customer support and they replaced the blade carrier and blade for free! Their customer support is really awesome and I highly recommend contacting them if you have any trouble (US only 800.859.8243). They also have a great blog with tips and tutorials for using your Silhouette and be sure to check the Silhouette store every week for a free shape download!
My best tip: buy the Cricut brand cutting mats. They are thicker and I feel like they last longer. They are a lot cheaper than the Silhouette brand cutting mats. The only down side is that you'll need to trim them to fit in the Silhouette, but it's very worth it. I thought the Silhouette brand cutting mats were too sticky and pretty thin; it seemed like I was cutting through them after a dozen uses. Paper doesn't stick to the Cricut ones but they hold it in place just fine.
P.S. Read the comments on this review, particularly the ones from "Becky" about how to cut your own fabric with the Silhouette! Thanks for letting us know about that, Becky!
At first I wanted to use Print+Cut mode. They don't tell you in the specs but in this mode you have a reduced cut area. You cannot cut the full width due to built in margins that reduce it from 7.9" to about 7.2" max. This was important for me because I had designs I made to fit what I thought was spec'd as the 7.9" limit.
Tips: When pulling photo paper off the carrier it helps to put the carrier on a table edge and bend it down as you pull the paper off keeping the paper straight. This prevents most of the "curl" you will otherwise get. At first my cut photos were rolling up into tubes and this worked to stop that.
I didn't use the Print+Cut in the end. By locating the paper onto the carrier accurately and loading the carrier accurately you can get fairly good results without registration. In my brief experience about 1mm of registration accuracy is typical.
I found the force setting in the software has only limited control over cutting. You really need to choose the cut cap that best suits the paper thickness.
The blue cap indicates 0.1mm depth but seems to cut deeper. It's very hard to "score" paper with it as it cuts too deep even under lowest force setting. I found that by cutting a 7mm donut (with 3mm hole) on bond paper and placing that inside the blue cap it raises the blade slightly and causes it to cut slightly less deep and works well for scoring photo paper (for folds). This technique can be used to fine tune the depth for other cases too. (Better yet would be if they made the holder adjustable like the after market ones out there - switching caps is a time waster at best).
I always cut and score on the back of photo paper as it doesn't leave white lines on the scores on the front of the paper. This also means you are cutting blind as far as registration (unless you copy the marks to the back and mirror your artwork).
Tips for Studio software: If you have a complex multi-layer design (with different cut depths) then it's better to get it all on one document and then save it with a different name for each layer. Then delete the unwanted elements from each layer. I started out going the other way and copy/pasting into new documents but found that the copy/paste is very unreliable regarding position. Things seem to get moved around. The software is usable but a far cry from the best available.
You can import AI files via Inkscape (free). Load the AI there and then save as DXF (with polylines not Robo Craft checked). Studio will read that format. First make sure paths are compound and grouped or else it will explode everything into bits. Even then you need to re-position and scale the imported paths as it seems to miss read scale and document values.
Hope this helps someone trying to do their own designs. I'm told that new DXF import features in the software are coming soon. I found the Illustrator plugin available to be useless. It forced re-positioning of the design to the top-right corner and so makes it impossible to cut at an exact position. The Print+cut mode in the Illustrator plugin did not work at all and always gave me read errors when trying to cut.
In the end, after working through issues and learning how to control the machine I'd say this is a very useful low priced tool for cutting. It does work well once you've mastered it. It won't do everything you can throw at it but it's pretty good for many jobs. Email support did answer my questions promptly but wasn't that useful in the end.
There are more tips out there for users so if you're having trouble I'd suggest googling for a while and see what you can find out. It can be tricky to get good results but once you master it, the thing works.
I love that you can put files on an SD card and use it simply from the lcd screen without a computer (again, does not work with Print+Cut reg marks).
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