How To Test Cut in Silhouette Studio & Find Your Ideal Cut Settings

If you own a Silhouette Cameo 1, 2, or 3 you probably know that you possess a very powerful machine that can cut all kinds of materials. Basically the crafting door is wide open and waiting for you to get creative. Whether you craft for business or pleasure, heat transfer vinyl is a useful material. Customizing textiles with logos, names, and images is simple with HTV.  All you need is your Silhouette Cameo, Siser® HTV, and either a home iron or heat press. A home iron is great for general crafting, but if you want to start selling your items we definitely recommend investing in a heat press.

But before you make anything it’s best familiarize yourself with HTV and how to use it (that’s where this post comes in!) instead of wasting a whole roll of vinyl. The best way to reduce wasted material is to test and adjust your cut settings for every HTV type you use (ie. EasyWeed®, Glitter, Brick® 600, etc.) It’s also beneficial to do a test cut even when you may be using the same material, but a different color. There can be minor variations from color to color that can effect your cut settings. Knowing how to test cut and identify a good cut is invaluable! So let’s get started!

 

Place HTV Glossy Side Down and Matte Side Up

The shiny side of the material is the clear carrier. The carrier holds the heat transfer vinyl pieces in place so they’re always properly aligned. The carrier side goes face down on the cutting mat because we need it to stay intact for heat application. So the duller, adhesive side of the material is the side that gets cut. During heat application the carrier side will be face up. This is why you must always mirror your image and text in your designs before cutting.

Place Siser HTV carrier side down on the Silhouette cutting mat

 

Align and Load Cutting Mat

Line up the edge of the cutting mat up with the blue guideline on the left side. Your mat should now have an equal margin on either side of the pinch rollers. If your mat slides under the pinch rollers without resistance, they may not be locked in place. Double check the white lever on the right of the machine (red arrow pictured). If it’s turned down, the rollers are raised slightly and not ready for cutting.  It should be turned up in the locked position.

It’s very important that the mat is fed straight into the machine. Press the mat up against the roller bar while pressing “Load” on the touch screen. If you’re working with the Cameo 1 or 2 you’ll select “Load Mat” unless you want to cut the HTV without the mat. Cutting HTV without the mat can be done and is helpful when you want to cut a design larger than the 12″ or even 24″ mat. Check out this post if you want to cut HTV without the mat.

align silhouette cutting mat with blue line

Place the mat so that it just touches the blue guide line.

Press the mat against the rollers and select load mat

While pressing the mat against the rollers select “Load” on the Cameo 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use The Test Cut Function in Silhouette Studio

Conveniently, Silhouette Studio has a test cut feature. To find this tool you’ll have to go to the Send window and select Heat Transfer (Smooth, Flocked, or Glitter depending on what you’re working with.) After selecting the material type, you can adjust the Blade, Speed, and Force settings if necessary. If you find yourself consistently changing these settings to our recommendations, know that you have the option to save those settings and label them “EasyWeed” for example.

If your machine only has one tool holder then you’re ready to select “Test.” However, the Cameo 3 is equipped with a dual carriage, so if want to use both blades select the drop down arrow next to the blue circle. Now you can make setting adjustments like you did with Tool 1. To test cut your second blade, select the blue circle next to “Test” and use the arrows in the software or on the touch screen to move the blade to a new area and select “Test” to cut.

how to test cut in Silhouette Studio

If you have a Cameo 3 with the dual blade carriage, then you also received an Auto Blade.  Please note that the Auto Blade is only compatible with the Cameo 3 and can only go in the first (red) tool holder. Also, the Auto Blade must be selected as the “Tool” in Silhouette Studio for the machine to know to adjust the blade length. If the “Tool” is set to Ratchet Blade, but an Auto Blade is in the holder, the machine will not adjust the blade. The Auto Blade is “automatic” in the sense that the Cameo will change the length of the blade to whatever you’ve set on the dial in Silhouette Studio. The Auto Blade does not sense the material thickness and adjust accordingly. You must manually select the blade setting for the machine to automatically adjust the blade length.

 

Unload the Cutting Mat

After the test cut is completed unload the mat.

How to unload the cutting mat from the Silhouette Cameo 3

Unload the cutting mat from the Cameo 3 by selecting “Unload.”

 

Weed and Inspect the Test Cut

The Silhouette Cameo will cut a triangle shape inside of a square as the test cut. Weed the triangle first. If the material rips instead of separating easily then the cut settings were too low. Increase only the Force until you can weed the triangle easily. If you reach the highest Force and the material is still not cut deep enough then it’s time to bring your blade out further.

This test cut is bad because it didn't cut far enough into the HTV

One side of the triangle is still attached to the square. This is a bad test cut.

A good test cut will have visible score marks from the blade. The lines should be complete and connecting at all corners. However, if you run your finger on the glossy side of the carrier you should not be able to feel the cut marks through the carrier. If you can feel the cut lines through the carrier then you’re getting dangerously close to puncturing it. If you cut through the carrier, reduce your blade depth and/or Force.

No cut lines on the left compared to cut lines on the right

The first test cut on the left has no cut lines. The second test cut on the right has visible cut marks.

The cut settings were too high and cut through the carrier

The carrier was cut through. This is a bad test cut.

 

 

Adjust the Ratchet Blade

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is the only Silhouette machine that uses the Auto Blade. This tool eliminates the need to manually adjust the blade depth. However since the Cameo 3 is equipped with a dual carriage, you can still use the Ratchet Blades. The older versions of the Cameo also use a Ratchet Blade.

To adjust the blade, remove it from the carriage (pull the plastic tab on the Cameo 3. The Cameo 1 and 2 have a twisting lock).

Pull tab to unlock the ratchet blade

Then fit the blade into the adjustment socket. Align the white arrow on the socket with the red dash on the blade holder and twist until you’ve reached your desired blade depth.

The red dash indicates the blade lengthAlign the white arrow with the red dash to adjust blade depth

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that a well used blade will require higher cut settings than a fresh new blade. Many Silhouette users dedicate certain blades to certain materials. Your HTV blade will stay sharper longer if it’s not also cutting through other materials like fabric and cardstock.

You’re now ready to take on HTV projects with your Silhouette Cameo 1, 2, or 3! If you liked this post, pin the image below. If you’d like to know more about the basics of HTV check out this post.

Everything you need to know before your first cut on the Silhouette Cameo 1, 2, or 3 is in this blog post! Get Siser's must read tips for getting the perfect cut on your heat transfer vinyl.