How To Use Silhouette Cameo 3: The Ultimate Guideline (2021)

How To Use Silhouette Cameo 3: The Ultimate Guideline (2021) main article image
Posted on July 29, 2021 by Carrie Christenson

Hello, new Silhouette Cameo 3 owners!!  You’ve made the purchase, have the box, and are probably looking at it saying “now what?”  We are here to help!!  This is the ultimate Silhouette Cameo 3 guide for beginners to help answer all of your questions about how to start using your brand-new machine.

Table of Contents for Quick Reference:

  1. What is a Silhouette Cameo 3?
  2. Installing the Software
  3. Getting Started
  4. Home Screen Menu
  5. Cut Settings
  6. Toolbar Basics
  7. Drawing Shapes
  8. Project Ideas (blogs and YouTube)
  9. FAQ

Let’s start at the beginning!  

What exactly is the Silhouette Cameo 3? 

(This is if you are still on the fence about buying one)

The Silhouette Cameo is the ultimate DIY machine. It uses a small blade to cut over 100 materials, including paper, cardstock, vinyl, and fabric up to 12 inches wide. The Cameo has the ability to use registration marks for Print & Cut applications and is PixScan compatible. 

The Silhouette Cameo 3 has all of the same capabilities as the previous versions along with some added features. This Cameo features a dual-carriage so you can use two tools at once, and features Bluetooth technology and to top it all off, the Cameo 3 is compatible with Silhouette’s new AutoBlade.

Unboxing it for the first time! 

I really love this part, there is nothing better than opening a new toy!

This is everything included in the standard box:

  • Silhouette Cameo 3 Wireless Cutting Machine
  • Silhouette Studio Software
  • Power cable and USB cable
  • 12×12 inch cutting mat
  • AutoBlade – Silhouette’s new auto-adjusting blade
  • One month basic subscription to the Silhouette Design Store
  • Vinyl Crosscutter
  • 100 digital designs to begin creating right out of the box
  • Blade Adjustment tool

Installing the Software

Make sure to get the machine plugged in, turned on, and attached to your computer either via the cord or Bluetooth.  If you need help with connecting the Bluetooth, here is a full step-by-step tutorial.

Next, head to Silhouette’s website to make sure you have the most up-to-date version of the Silhouette Studio software.  Here’s a direct link to the right spot for you!  You will need to know what type of computer you’re using in order to download the correct software.

The software installation will guide you via prompts on the screen.  Just follow along with what it’s asking you to do and most likely it will be best to restart your computer once it’s complete.

If you’re having trouble with the Bluetooth not working correctly just use the cable that came with the machine to plug it directly into your computer.

The first time you open Silhouette Studio with your new machine it will come up with a box letting you know it’s adding the 100 designs that came with your machine.  I would recommend saving any custom designs or important projects directly to your computer and not exclusively to the Silhouette Studio.  This simple tip will save lots of frustration and tears because the software has been known to act up and you can lose all of that hard work!

Getting Started in Silhouette Studio

One thing to know is that your new machine comes with the free version of Silhouette Studio and anyone can use it as free design software.  You don’t have to own the machine to use it, only if you want to cut your designs out.

They have 3 more paid versions:  Designer Edition, Designer Edition Plus, and Business Edition.   If you are just starting out, get to know the free version and get comfortable using it.  As you gain confidence and skills you can move on to purchasing the upgraded versions which open up more features.

Learning the Home Screen Menu

When you first open the software this is the screen you will see.

Silhouette Studio home screen

All of the various tools are located around the edges of the screen.  The left-hand side has your basic tools like selection, lines, shapes, text, eraser, etc.  If you use your mouse and hover over the picture of the tool it will tell you what the tool is and will show you any alternate choices.

The top of the screen will have the save, open, print, undo, etc. tools that you will use all of the time.  Especially that save and undo button!!  

The right-hand side of the screen has more advanced tool options.  This is where you can select the font for your text, align, trace, replicate, etc.  Hovering over those icons will explain what that tool does as well.  When you click on them it will open a new panel with all of the various tool options.

I would suggest just playing around with the software and getting comfortable with it.  Click on a tool and see what it does.

You can also check out various tutorials that walk you through projects.  Here are a few to check out:

Understanding Cut Settings

This is the hardest part of using a Silhouette Cameo, in my opinion. 

To get to the cut settings area, look at the top right-hand corner of the screen and you’ll see four different headings: Design, Store, Library, and Send.  

Design is where you design your project and can make any edits needed.

Store is where you can buy designs that are ready to go, or you can buy them and customize them to fit your project best.

Library is where you find your purchased designs and anything you’ve added yourself.  Again, I can’t stress enough about the importance of backing up your own designs to your actual computer hard drive.

Send is where you adjust the cut settings for your project before sending it to the machine.

Silhouette Studio Send screen

Most materials will come with recommended cut settings and there is a large drop-down menu loaded in the software to help guide you to the best setting.

Silhouette Studio material options

Let’s say you want to cut some vinyl.  You would select vinyl and match the type of vinyl too, so for this example pick vinyl, glossy.  The settings below will automatically change to the best standard choices for properly cutting your vinyl out.  You want it to cut through the vinyl but not all the way through the backing.

The scroll on the left represents the blade depth that you set on the cutting blade loaded into your machine.  If you’re using the autoblade it will do this step for you.  If you’re using a ratchet blade you’ll need to physically twist the blade in the base to match the correct depth.  

Silhouette Studio cut settings

The 1 setting has the blade just barely sticking out which is most commonly the best for vinyl and stickers.  The thicker the material you’re cutting the deeper the blade depth you’ll need.

Force tells the machine how hard to press down while cutting.  This plays hand in hand with the blade depth.  The thicker the material the more pressure you want.  If you just want to score some paper lightly you’ll want barely any pressure.  

Speed tells the machine how fast to cut the design out.  If you have something that has lots of intricate details or a small font you’ll want to go nice and slow to avoid the blade from catching and ruining your project.  If it’s a simple design you can speed it up to save some time.

Passes tells the machine how many times to cut the project.  For thicker materials, you might need to have it cut 2-3 times to get a clean edge.

The most important thing I can advise you to do when cutting a new material is to utilize the test cut feature in the lower right-hand corner BEFORE sending your whole project to be cut.  The test cut will make a small 1/4” square with a triangle inside in the top left-hand corner of your material.  You can also move it around to test other areas using the arrow keys but the default is the left top corner.  If this cuts perfectly using the settings then you’re good to cut your whole project out.  If the square cuts too deep, doesn’t cut deep enough, or doesn’t have clean edges you’ll need to play with your settings until you get the right cut.  Friends don’t let friends ruin expensive materials!!  The test cut is your best friend, use it!

Silhouette Studio Test button

Now let’s head back to the design screen and test out the toolbar.

Toolbar Basics

Click on the A to create a text box. You can type out anything you want and it will automatically default to Lucida Grande. Now move over to the tools on the right-hand side of the screen.  Click on the A| button to pull up the text style box. This is where you can change your font, make it bold, change the alignment, spacing, kerning, etc. You just need to make sure you have the words selected first to change them.

Silhouette Studio text screen

You can purchase fonts through the Silhouette library but the catch is they are for personal use only unless you buy the more expensive commercial-use version.  I recommend buying any special fonts from Creative Fabrica or similar websites because they typically include the commercial license AND they are usually more affordable, especially if you buy a bundle!  There are also lots of great freebies too!

The best part of Silhouette Studio with new fonts is to install them the only thing you need to do is close out of your current session.  Make sure the fonts are installed on your computer.  Then reopen Silhouette Studio and they will automatically load upon opening!

Let’s try drawing a shape now!

Click on the star icon and you’ll see that it comes up with multiple shape choices.  I might have more showing in my version because I have the business edition.  

Silhouette Studio star drawing

Now click in the drawing area and use your mouse to draw your shape to any size you want.  

Silhouette Studio star drawing 1

While the shape is selected (the box showing the size will be around it) you will see that there is also a slider bar in the center.  If you click on that and drag it left or right it will change the shape of the star!

Silhouette Studio star draw 2

Finally, there is a small red dot inside the shape too.  If you click and drag that you can change the length of the star “arms”.  This is how you can easily create your very own designs!

Silhouette Studio star draw 3

If designing your own designs from scratch is overwhelming or too time-consuming for you, guess what, you can easily find an amazing free file or purchase a pre-made design from places like Creative Fabrica.  If you’re designing a lot there are also subscription options that you pay one low monthly fee and have access to thousands of great designs.  

Are you ready for full projects now?

After you’ve played around and gotten familiar with the software I would suggest checking out one of these great tutorials and try making your first project. If you look on Pinterest or the Creative Fabrica blog you’ll find tons of options.

  • Heat transfer t-shirt project

This is a great beginner tutorial for heat transfer t-shirts! This is how I started my crafting hobby and still one of my favorite gifts to make friends and family.

  • DIY living room decor

Making your own home decor is another big reason to learn how to use your Silhouette Cameo! This article shows you how to make a bunch of different projects for around the house.

  • Beautiful bows

Want to add extra details to a gift or make adorable bows for you or your kid’s hair? Here’s a free SVG file for a simple bow.

  • Ralph Lauren inspired gold striped pillow

Who says you need to buy fabric to make a beautiful custom pillow? Heat transfer to the rescue!! With this tutorial, the options are endless for creating your very own style on a budget.

  • DIY acrylic wall calendar

I love following Jen Woodhouse on Instagram! This wall calendar is a great way for keeping the whole family on the same page with busy school season quickly approaching.

  • DIY birch shadow box

Make your own artwork for your home with some paper, this will walk you through the steps and includes the files needed.

  • Harry Potter-inspired onesies

Accio cute baby onesies! If you’re a Harry Potter fan like me you’ll definitely want to dress your muggle baby up in these cute designs.

  • DIY stenciled pallet floor

DIY your outdoor space with this stencil pallet floor tutorial.

  • Monthly baby stickers

This is a must-have for all new parents, cute monthly baby stickers for those progress photos. Fair warning, each month gets harder and harder to get that perfect shot!

  • Baby cloth shoes

Here’s another baby project showing you how to make cute baby shoes with Silhouette, I wish I had seen this when my kids were younger!

If you’re more of a video-based learner then here are some YouTube tutorials to check out:

  • This is a great starter video that goes over the basics of the software:

  • Here’s a video that will walk you through the unboxing and set-up process:

  • New to heat transfer?  This will walk you through how to create a phrase and make a one-of-a-kind zipper pouch:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Is making things with the Silhouette Cameo easy?

A:  I think this depends on the project!  Start simple and follow some beginner tutorials.  Join Facebook groups and ask questions to the more experienced crafters and you’ll find that there is a whole community of support waiting to help!

Q:  Do you need to have a computer to use the Silhouette Cameo?

A:  The short answer is yes.  They do have an app but I would not recommend it for beginners to use unless you are simply cutting a pre-made design.  If you want to fully utilize everything the software has to offer you are best using your computer.

Q:  How can I make money with my Silhouette Cameo?

A:  The options are endless!!  You can make custom shirts, signs, artwork, stickers, etc.  The main thing I can’t stress enough is to do it right.  Buy the commercial licenses, don’t steal/copy other’s designs.  Research copyrights on designs before offering them for sale, etc.

Q:  Can I cut wood with my Silhouette Cameo 3?

A:  Honestly, no.  You might be able to cut thin balsa wood but this machine is not powerful enough to cut wood.  The Cricut Maker cuts it a little better but I still wouldn’t bother doing it with a machine like that.  You’re best investing in a laser cutting machine or hand cutting it with a jigsaw or scroll saw.

Q:  Is Silhouette Cameo a software-only machine?

A:  Yes, you will need the app or software to use your Cameo.  If you have a design pre-made you can save it to a USB and plug that into the machine to be cut.

I hope all of this information has helped you gain the confidence needed to pull that machine out of the box and start making!! I promise after you make one project you won’t want to stop. You will always be dreaming up of new projects and ways to make them come to life!  Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments below.  

What’s the first project you want to make with your Silhouette Cameo?

Happy Crafting!!

-Carrie Christenson 


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1 Comment
Joanne Greenland

October 12, 2021

Can i have 2 different versions of the software on 2 laptops so one version on one and a more updated on the other and still use my business edition code on both versions?

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