Decide What Type Of Project That You Want To Do First
There are so many things that you can do now with your machine that it can be overwhelming and expensive to put money into everything. So, I recommend starting off with what you want to do first, after doing some trial runs with some paper to get some experience and confidence built up. Destroying a piece of paper that cost a few pennies compared to vinyl is the way to go! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what you can do or check out Silhouette’s list here:
- traditional paper crafts (cards, scrap booking, 3D shapes, paper dolls, etc)
- vinyl work
- fabric cutting & heat transfer
- glass etching
- stamp making
- sketches and lettering done by the machine with pens and markers
- embossing (unofficial)
Choose a Machine
For the purposes of this site, the choice is narrowed down to the Cameo and the Portrait. While the Portrait is newer than the Cameo, they share the bulk of their specs. The three main differences are:
- When you’re using the cutting mat, the Cameo has 12×12″ cutting area or 12×24″ when using larger mat, whereas Portrait only has 8×12″.
- The price per machine varies depending on bundle and sale, but the Cameo is roughly $100 more expensive than Portrait.
- The Cameo naturally takes up more counter space. The Portrait, on the other hand, is the size of a small printer.
To our benefit, they share all consumables and parts, except for the cutting mats. I currently own only the Portrait, but as I get more comfortable with it, I’m itching for the extra space of the Cameo. If you want to make cards and want to make projects larger than a piece of paper, you’ll want the Cameo.
Research Sales & Bundles
You can save a bundle on bundles, if you can find them. The special bundles, that Silhouetteamerica.com does, frequently pop up on blogs, so it would be good to do a web search at the beginning of the week with the keywords “Silhouette bundle” and then the type of project you’re interested in, along with the current month and year. I say beginning of the week because the sales I have seen typically only run from Monday to Wednesday! (As of September 2013, the glass etching bundles are popular since it is a new-ish product for them.) You may also be in luck to also grab some consumables on sale too. These sales typically happen around US holidays.
Other sites have Silhouette sales as well, but theirs are independent of the official website. I got my Portrait for $130 at USCutter.com. In retrospect, I should have picked up one of the starter kit and blades with it which were discounted because I was buying the machine, but live and learn. :) I have also bought from Zulily, but I don’t remember them selling the machines, only consumables like transfer paper, and parts like mats and blades.
You can also buy used machines from others, but I’ve seen much better deals on new machines with the bundles that I mentioned. People try to sell them near the full retail price. I’m not sure that the warranty carries over to you, either, which is important because there have been bad batches of blades and you may need to exchange your machine!
- Cameo or Portrait machine (and the cutting mat and blade that comes with it)
- Card stock – the thinnest I would recommend is 65lb. The best card stock that works for the machines are in the order of: Silhouette made, American Crafts, Michaels Recollections, and Bazzill. (Save money by buying Georgia-Pacific 110lb white card stock. 150 sheets for under $10.)
You’ll likely want:
- extra cutting mat (If you can’t buy them on sale, save money by buying other brand’s cutting mats. Eclips for Cameo.)
- extra blade
While You’re Waiting For It to Arrive..
- Make a space for your machine by the computer you will primarily use the machine with. It seems like most other crafters use laptops when working with these machines, so I would recommend a long table for that.
- Install the latest Silhouette Studio software.
- Set up a file folder system for your graphics and cut its that you buy and find off the internet. You can divide up your files by site and then set or you can organize by theme–or really, any way that you would like!
- Watch videos of how to set up your machine, perform a basic cut, and videos related to what you’re interested in doing.