Cutting with the Silhouette Cameo


I (briefly) mentioned the Silhouette Cameo cutter in a previous post, but I thought I should dedicate a full post to it and how I use it.

I treat the Silhouette Cameo like a CNC machine, and have a similar workflow to the one I use with the laser cutters at Milwaukee Makerspace. I know the Silhouette folks have the Silhouette Online Store where you can buy ready-made shapes to cut, but we’re makers, and we make our own things, so I use Inkscape and if I need a shape I hit up OpenClipArt and find what I need. (Note: All the art on is in the Public Domain, which means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission, because permission has already been granted.)

My daughter wanted a kangaroo cut out of vinyl to give to her friend, so I found a kangaroo on OpenClipArt and cut it for her.

Kangaroo in Inkscape

The files on OpenClipArt are in SVG format, which are perfect for Inkscape, as they are the native file format, meaning you can open them right up with no conversion necessary. Here’s our kangaroo in Inkscape. (I won’t go too deep into vector artwork, but if you don’t know, you can scale up and down vector art with no loss of quality, as it’s comprised of lines defined by fancy math, and not a set grid of pixels like raster art, or a digital photo.)

Resizing in Inkscape

The final piece was to be about 4 inches wide, or roughly 100 mm. (You can work in Imperial or Metric measurements in Silhouette Studio—and Inkscape—so use whatever you’re comfortable with.)

I resized the document to 4″ x 3″ using the Document Properties dialog box…

Resizing the Kangaroo in Inkscape

You can see our kangaroo will need to be shrunk to fit within the confines of the document…

Resizing the Kangaroo in Inkscape

Resizing something proportionally in Inkscape is pretty simple. Use the arrow tool, hold down the control key, and move one of the corner points. There’s actually more than one way to resize things, but for eyeballing it, this will work.

Resizing in Inkscape

OK, once we have our artwork the proper size, we can save it (still in SVG format) and the we’ll need to save it as a DXF file so we can get it into Silhouette Studio.

Select ‘Save a Copy…” from the file menu…

Kangaroo in Inkscape

Select “Desktop Cutting Plotter” from the file type menu. (You’ll see it has ‘dxf’ in the name as well, and you may have other DXF options depending on your Inkscape installation, but this one works for me.)

Kangaroo in Inkscape

You shouldn’t need to check either checkbox, just leave the options as they are.

I should note that when exporting DXF files for other purposes, such as loading into OpenSCAD for 3D modeling, we would have needed to convert all the curves to straight lines before creating our DXF file, but the Silhouette Studio software will work just fine without this step.

Kangaroo in Silhouette Studio

OK! We now create a new file in Silhouette Studio, and you can just drag and drop your DXF file onto the canvas. Once it’s there you can resize it as desired. (Wait, didn’t we size it in Inkscape already? Yes we did, that was just my way of teaching you one more thing about Inkscape. You’re welcome!)

Once you’ve got your artwork sized and positioned, you can do your cutting with the appropriate settings.

Kangaroo cut from vinyl

Here’s our final version of a white kangaroo, which my daughter gave to her friend. Hooray for CNC machines that can cut vinyl!

(You may be saying, “Hey! That kangaroo looks larger than the 4″ x 3” one you mentioned above! And yes, it is. After cutting one, a much larger version was requested, so that’s the one you see here.)