Silhouette Cameo Double-Adhesive Starter Kit Bundle
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- The silhouette cameo include a 12 inch cutting mat/cutting blade/51 exclusive cuttable designs
- Includes access to thousands of downloadable designs; Includes PC and Mac compatible software
- Cuts up to 12-inch wide and 10-feet long; cuts a variety of materials from vinyl to fabric
- Great for Scrapbook layouts, cards, custom apparel, vinyl decor, etched glass, sketch designs and paper crafts
- Use the double-sided adhesive starter kit with the Silhouette to create and apply intricate embellished designs to cards, scrapbook pages and more
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The Silhouette CAMEO is amazingly versatile. It can create intricate projects of all sizes from small (1/4" wide) to large (12" wide) and has an unlimited cutting length. It can cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric and other materials. It operates with or without a cutting mat. When the blade is replaced by a pen, the CAMEO will sketch instead of cut. It can be controlled from a computer or an SD card. With the print and cut feature, the CAMEO also has the ability to cut out designs that have been printed on your home printer Use the double-sided adhesive starter kit with the Silhouette to create and apply intricate embellished designs to cards, scrapbook pages and more. The kit includes: six 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheets double-sided adhesive, three colors of glitter and three colors of flocking powder, Silhouette spatula tool and brush, 10 exclusive designs and idea book. It includes 10 dollar download card to the Silhouette Online Store.
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By Arts & Crafts, I am referring to applications that involve the usual 'hearts, flowers, puppy dogs, cupcakes' shape cutting. By Industrial, I am referring to other tasks such as cutting stencils for spray painting numbers on shipping crates, cutting gaskets, cutting of labels and industrial markers, cutting picture frame masks, and so on.
NEW*** I have placed a short demo video on YouTube under the title "Silhouette Cameo Design Demonstration", URL is [...]
I have obtained and used both machines during the same time period. I have had extensive communications with both manufacturers, both in pre-sales discussions and in post-sales customer/technical support. If I mention a feature of a product here, it is one that I have used and verified personally. If I mention a limitation of a product, it is one that I have experienced personally AND also discussed with the manufacturer to see if I was missing something and/or if there was a work-around or alternative way of achieving the goal.
Both machines will cut out shapes from sheets of flat materials under computerized control. Both machines are very similar in design and layout, and both work in the same mechanical fashion. Both machines are about the same size and can cut shapes from similar sized pieces of raw material. Both machines use a tiny metal knife that is moved up and down under computer control, while the knife holder moves sideways and the material moves front and back. Both machines use a knife blade that swivels so that it always cuts regardless of the direction the material is moving relative to the knife itself.
Other than these similarities, there are significant differences in the philosophy between the two products. Henceforth in this review I will refer to the Cricut Expression 2 as the "Cricut" and the Silhouette Cameo as the "Cameo".
The Cricut is fundamentally designed to provide a wide range of predefined symbols and symbol sets from which the user can select and assemble the desired craft projects. It does this without the need for any additional equipment, and specifically the user does not need to have a personal computer or have any knowledge of software or computers. It is the more portable of the two products because you can pick it up and take it to another location easily without the need to lug along a personal computer (or have a personal computer in the new location). The Cricut is self-sufficient.
The Cameo is fundamentally designed to act exactly as an inkjet or laser printer does when connected to a personal computer; it is in effect a computer printer that produces patterns by cutting them from material as opposed to producing them by putting ink or toner on material. Without a personal computer, it cannot be used to design shapes or patterns. Its user must be able to learn and use computer software, the same as learning other software such as word processors, photo editing, web browser, page layout, and other popular applications. The Cameo is not self sufficient. HOWEVER, once a design(s) is done using the computer software, you can save the design to an SD memory card (such as are used in most digital cameras), then plug the SD card into a slot on the Cameo. At point the Cameo can be disconnected from the computer, taken elsewhere, and the cutting can be done in any location. However, I have not personally verified this SD card printing feature.
The Cricut does not allow the user to create shapes from scratch. You must find a suitable shape, or group of shapes, from within the huge library of predefined symbols that is spread across a large number of Cricut cartridges. It is possible to 'weld' different shapes together and this offers some flexibility, but ultimately the shapes must originate in the cartridges. When the user has a specific shape in mind and cannot alter it to suit what can be found in the cartridges, it can become quite frustrating. In the task of trying to assemble the designed custom shape, the user might have to purchase several cartridges, and they are not cheap. It is also quite possible that the desired shape cannot be cut at all.
The Cameo allows the user to create shapes from scratch. There are no cartridges at all. If the user does not wish to design their own shapes, there is also an extensive library of online shapes designed by other users. Cameo does not limit where the shapes come from, but does offer a great many from their own online library at 99 cents per shape. The user can buy only the shape, or shapes, desired and he/she does not need to buy an expensive cartridge only to get a single shape from it. Instead of purchasing shapes designed by others, the user can draw any desired shape using the computer software, and can offer it to others for use.
The Cricut has a nice display, consisting of a color LCD screen with touch sensitive surface. All the operations can be performed by touching the screen, or for more precise selections a plastic stylus is included. Once a given cartridge is plugged into the Cricut, all of its shapes can be viewed on the screen as tiny thumbnail images, and the desired shapes can be selected to a queue, from which they can be dragged to a virtual cutting mat, showing where they will appear on the material to be cut. Any shape can be selected, enlarged, and re-sized.
The Cameo has a small simple display like a calculator's or that of an older cell phone. It displays only one color and shows only text. It is used for diagnostics and for messages like "Load the material" and "Unload the material". It can also be used to initiate printing based on design(s) stored on an SD card, as previously mentioned. All other operations are done using the included computer software, using the computer's keyboard, mouse and screen.
The Cricut can be used, optionally, with the free Craft Room software on a personal computer. This software must be downloaded from the Cricut website; it is not included with the machine. The software includes a library of all currently known cartridges, and allows the user to assemble a complete cutting session before the actual cartridges needed have been purchased. The Craft Room software will not function unless the computer is currently online with Cricut; this is important, since it means that you must have an internet connection anywhere that you want to use the Cricut in conjunction with the Craft Room software. The Craft Room does not allow the user to design their shapes, but it does provide a more user-friendly interface for the Cricut, since more tools and objects can be viewed on the larger computer screen.
The Cameo must be used with the included Studio software; this comes on a CD-ROM in the box with the machine. For a fee of about $50, it will upgrade itself to the more advanced Designer Edition. The main advantages of the Designer Edition are the ability to import a wider range of graphics from other programs. Both the regular version and the Designer Edition allow the same design and cutting functionality, so for most people there is no need to buy the Designer Edition. The Cameo's software only needs to be online with the Silhouette website when you wish to purchase shapes from their library, or when you wish to do an upgrade to a newer version. Otherwise, the software works without the need for an internet connection.
The Cricut includes a white LED headlight next to the blade, so you can see what it is cutting as it does so. The Cameo does not have such a light.
Both machines use cutting mats, which are clear plastic sheets with a special adhesive on the top surface to make it a bit tacky. This holds the material to be cut so that it does not slide around during cuttings. The mats wear out due to wear from the blades cutting through into them, and from the adhesive wearing out.
Both machines use blades that attach to a tool holder on the machines. The Cricut uses tiny blades that fit into a blade holder, while the Cameo requires the user to replace the blade holder when the blade wears out; this makes the Cameo blades a bit more expensive, but on the other hand it is much easier to handle the larger blade holder than it is handling the tiny (and sharp!) Cricut blades. The Cricut blade depth can be adjusted while the blade holder is attached to the machine, whereas the Cameo blade holder must be removed from the machine in order to change blade depth. Both machines seem to cut equally well.
The Cricut is not intended to make its cuts on specific areas of the mat (you can get close, though, using the Craft Room software). The Cameo allows very precise cuts relative to the material, so you can specify that a shape be cut starting 1/2", for example, from the edge of the material.
The Cricut is not intended for cutting out pre-printed materials; it is intended to cut out shapes in different materials (of materials of different colors) that can be later assembled to form a multi-colored overall shape.
The Cameo is not a printer, but it does allow importing and designing shapes in any desired color or combination of colors. Then it will send the image to the printer of your choice, printing on the material to be cut; this is limited only by the ability of your printer (e.g. inkjet printers ate usually limited to printing on various papers, while laser printers, both black & white and color models, can print on paper as well as a variety of plastics). I would like to point out that 3M (the makers of Scotch tape and Post-Its) have a wonderful product called "Print To Last" paper, which is an almost indestructible paper-like plastic material designed for laser printers; it is very useful for crafts and industrial applications. Both the Silhouette tech support folks and I have verified the the Cameo will nicely cut this material using the 'Transparency' cut settings (and I fully expect that the Cricut can cut it too, but have not tried it). The Cameo software will print registration marks on the printed sheet, and when the printed sheet is then loaded into the Cameo machine, it uses an electric eye to scan for the registration marks, and will synchronize and align the cutting with the pre-printed images. This allows an infinite number of printed images and cut shapes to be made. The synchronized cuts are very accurate, matching the desired printed images. The user can specify where the cuts are to be made relative to the printed shapes, or the software can automatically figure it out. This even applies to graphical objects imported into the Cameo software, as opposed to being designed in that software.
The Cricut requires that all text come from the cartridges, so the user is very limited in regards to available fonts. The Cameo software can use any True Type font that is installed on the computer, which means pretty much all fonts available to other Windows applications, and of course you can download any font you want from the internet. Since none of the Cricut cartridges include a 'stencil' style font, you cannot easily use it to cut stencils for painting signs and such.
I find that overall, the Cricut is probably a better choice for people interested simply in arts & crafts projects, or for people who don't have or don't care to use a personal computer. I find that the Cameo is better for people who are prepared to use a personal computer and who desire complete freedom in what shapes they cut.
I have noticed that most crafts stores, such as JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc; carry the Cricut Machines and their supplies; I rarely see many cartridges sold in the stores though. Unfortunately, these same stores carry little or no Silhouette supplies. It seems that different chains carry the Silhouette. This may be marketing pressure placed on the stores by the one or both manufacturers. I have read that Cricut blades and cutting mats can be used with the Cameo, but have not experimented with this; some alterations may be needed. But in any case, Supplies for the Silhouette products are widely and readily available online.
Finally, I have found that emails to Cricut take four to fives days before a reply arrives, whereas emails to the Cameo folks are answered almost immediately, and with real and useful responses (and you are talking to people who apparently actually work at Silhouette, not some contracted call center where people read from scripts). I have found that phone calls to Cricut require long waits on hold (typically 20 to 30 minutes) and then often the person answering the phone does not know the answer and transfers me to another group of tech support people, with another long wait. Every time I have called the Cameo folks, I have gotten through very quickly. Most importantly, it seems that Cricut support people either know the software or they know the machine, but not both. The Cameo folks seem to know both the software and the machine, since they must be used together. My experiences with the Cricut software included issues with getting the software to recognize the machine, whereas in my experience, the Cameo software was more bullet proof and installed easily and recognized the machine every time without trouble.
The Silhouette Cameo comes with basic software that will be perfect for most crafters. It is more than I have needed so far. With this basic software, I am able to use images from the internet that I have "googled" by using the trace tool (will get into that more later), use the basic images that come with the program (a nice start), create shapes, use any font that is on my computer (tons of free fonts are available by searching online), combine images into one by "welding," remove parts of images by detaching, subtracting, etc. The only feature I have not tried out yet is print and cut. Haven't had a reason to use it yet, but I'm sure I'll be using it in the future.
The Silhouette Cameo blade is easily removable and adjustable to accommodate various paper, fabric, and other media. I have used the "Test Cut" button to test out my cut depth on media that aren't listed under the presets in the software. I have cut vinyl, contact paper, construction paper, card stock, scrapbook paper, and fabric with an iron-on backing (I used a non-Silhouette brand and it worked fine). I did purchase an extra blade to use solely for fabric, as paper dulls a blade very quickly. I purchased the blue fabric blade, which is the exact same blade with a different color housing so you can easily identify which blade you'll be using for fabric.
Now, as for the blade and mat, I am still using the ones that came with my Silhouette Cameo. My mat did get quite messy after heavy use for a few days, but some baby wipes cleaned it up nicely (thanks Pinterest for that tip). The original blade is just now beginning to dull from all the paper I've been cutting, but I suspect it still has TONS of life left in it. The blades and mats aren't very expensive (around $10 each) if you need to replace them. I've purchased some 2-way glue that was recommended to use to re-sticky the mat. I'll update and let you know how that works. Spent about $6 on the glue that I should be able to use multiple times to re-sticky the mat, saving me quite a few bucks! Hoping it works. According to blogs, it does.
Back to the trace feature that allows you to save any image (with right-click and "save image") from the internet (love Google), just find an image you want, right-click on it and choose "save image" from the drop down menu, and save it to your desktop or wherever you can easily find it. Now open up your Silhouette Cameo software, choose "File," and then "Import Image to Library." Locate your image you just saved and add it to your Silhouette Library. Now it is there. You may have to click on different library files to find it, but it is available to use now. Once you open it into the program, most clip art has white around the edges, now allowing you to do much. So to get the outline, just go up to the right side of the top menu bar and click on the trace icon. Highlight the entire image, click the outline image choice, and there you go. It has now traced the outer edges of your clip art image. You can now remove the colored part, leaving behind the red outlined area. Easy Peasy!
I've created many gifts and projects with the Silhouette Cameo. So far, I've created labels for tubs and containers, special occasion cards, letters for bulletin boards and decorations (I teach), birthday party decorations such as banners and cake topper buntings, vinyl lettering for buckets, gift boxes, and other gift containers, contact paper stencils to use with etching cream to etch various glass containers, fabric lettering and shapes for shirts and dresses (must use an iron-on stabilizer on the back of your fabric to cut it precisely), scrapbook lettering for some of my children's crafty projects such as Valentine's Day boxes they created for school, and many other projects I've long forgotten! I work full-time and have two children, so I'm not using my Cameo every day, sometimes not even every week, but when I do have a need, it is there and so easy to just plug in, connect to the computer via USB, and begin using immediately. It can't possibly get any easier than this!
The mat itself has grid lines that are also on the screen when you're using the software. This makes it very easy to line up and have the Cameo cut exactly where you want it to. The only thing I can say negatively about this entire system is the fact that I can't see numbers for the grid lines on the screen on the software. It shows the lines, but doesn't have the numbers. So I'm having to count them on the screen to get my paper or vinyl exactly on the correct location. The mat does have numbers. If I am overlooking some sort of menu choice that allows you to show the numbers, someone please tell me!!!! The mat seems to be very long-lasting and heavy duty. I have cut too deep on some things, causing the mat itself to have some slight cuts, but it still works fine. I haven't used the Cameo without the mat yet, but it is an option. without a mat, your length limit is endless! You can cut any length without the mat. The 12 x 12 size that is included is just right for me though. They do have a 12 x 24 option available, but I haven't found a reason to buy that yet.
I purchased two tools to use with my Cameo, the hook and the spatula. I can see how the spatula would be useful if you were doing intricate work, but I found it to tear the paper or bend it a bit on the edges too much to be very beneficial. The hook, however, is a GREAT tool to have. I use it to grasp those little pieces of vinyl that I need to remove before applying my vinyl to whatever. I thought I could get by without this little tool, mainly by just using an open safety pin or the end of an open paperclip. However, this little hook tool made my life so much easier. I highly recommend it if you plan on doing much vinyl. If you're buying the Cameo, I'm assuming you ARE going to do some vinyl!
Another tip I have learned is to use Press 'N Seal Wrap (similar to plastic cling wrap, used to cover food, etc.) to transfer my vinyl. This works amazingly well, saving me quite a bit of money on transfer tape. I've also used painter's tape. It works OK, but the Press 'N Seal wrap method is perfect! I used it in conjunction with a scraper tool (a credit card would work just fine) that I already had from a Creative Expressions vinyl order I placed a few years ago (I knew that tool would come in handy again).
That is pretty much the Silhouette Cameo in a rather large nutshell. If you're torn between this and the other popular, chirping insect style cutting machine, I would highly recommend this little baby! It is all you need...no extra cartridges to purchase, free fonts and clip art available on the internet, Silhouette Image store available for specific images you may want to purchase for typically less than $1, easy software to use, etc. I have converted a few chirping insect style cutting machine users to Silhouette Cameo users, and they are going crazy over how much cheaper and easier it is to use. They love the no-cartridge freedom!