My New Favorite Tool + Freebie


This post is brought to you by Silhouette.

If you follow this blog at all you know that I love paper crafts. My friend Heather recently introduced me to a new paper-crafting tool that has blown my mind and opened up a whole range of craft and design possibilities.  It’s called a Silhouette SD.  I’ve seen cutting machines floating around the craft stores for years.  They use expensive cartridges pre-programmed with stock word art.  The Silhouette is entirely different.  It’s a computer peripheral that takes your true type fonts and digital designs and cuts them with PERFECT PRECISION.  Glorious.

Silhouette sent me a machine to test out about two weeks ago. I was in Arizona when it came, so I was more than a little jealous that Chris was home all alone with my new Silhouette SD.  He kept teasing me about all of the fun he was having with “his Silhouette”.  My husband senses gadget lust on my voice and moves quickly to exploit it for his own entertainment. At least he didn’t unbox it while I was gone. That’s not a line that he wants to cross. ;)

Silhouette machine with heat transfer material, vinyl, and rhinestone starter kit

My first impression was that the packaging is surprisingly clean.  The only other gadgets that I’ve purchased that had this level of attention to detail in the packaging was my Apple iMac and my Wacom tablet. The cutter itself is very light and attractive. The first words out of Chris’s mouth as he lifted it out of the box were, “Wow! It’s so light!”  The only two machines on our office table are the iMac and the Silhouette, and they make excellent desktop friends.

Installation was a tad tricky for a few reasons. First, we don’t have a PC. The silhouette is optimized for Windows, but can be used with Macs. Second, I was connecting the Silhouette through the USB hub on our backup hard drive. You’ll want to connect it directly to your computer to clear up any potential communication issues. Third, I was trying to install the illustrator plug-in for the Silhouette, not the Silhouette SD. There’s a difference. I was in business once I installed the correct software (Cutmaster 2 for CraftRobo 1.61 I have this for CS3, btw) and read this tutorial.

Mac users need Adobe Illustrator to use the Silhouette SD, because Silhouette America has yet to publish a standalone cutting application for the Mac. My contact with Silhouette says that they’ll have a dedicated Macintosh application in the near future.  This is good news for Mac users who don’t already own a copy of Illustrator.

I can’t quite describe how much fun I have watching the Silhouette cut a project. I’m like a little kid waiting for Santa Claus. I hover over the cutter, craning my head all over the place to catch a peek of the cutting blade in action.  It makes this awesome robot noise as the paper jerks in and out and the blade zooms back and forth along its tracks.

I needed a worthy project fast, and I quickly realized that I needed to cut out everyone’s names for Easter Sunday dinner. I used Bodoni font, squished each letter together and used the pathfinder tool to make each word one shape. The names didn’t take very long, so I whipped out an extra one for my mom and sent it along with a gift box I was prepping for her.

I submitted the above word art to Silhouette, and they’ve decided to offer it for free on the Silhouette online store. Click the “Purchase Online” button within the Silhouette software to view & download these graphics for free! YUP. Free. There are even two 10ss rhinestone graphics, perfect to add a little bling to some baby onesies. Mac users cannot access the Silhouette online store, but don’t feel left out. Just email me and I’ll send you the artwork. ;)

EDIT: Download my baby graphics for free by clicking the download button below! ENJOY!! And, as always, these graphics are free for personal use only. If you would like to use these graphics commercially, please email me. Thanks!

Currently I’m a little obsessed with the “baby” and “girl” graphics. Do I sound a little baby hungry?

I just wrapped up a little gift for my friend who’s having a girl soon. Doesn’t the girl word art look so cute when tied to the package? Ugh. I’m a woman obsessed.

The silhouette isn’t limited to word art. Check out their “What Can It Make?” section for more ideas. Penelope’s grandparents live far away, so we can’t forget to share her photos and videos with them. It’s been a while since I’ve burned them a CD or DVD, so I cut these cases to provide myself with a little motivation.

I’ve always printed and cut out my own CD sleeves, but it’s a time-consuming, hand-ache-inducing process.  The digital cutter speeds things up considerably.  I cut the card stock down to size, run it through the Silhouette, fold and glue.  If I’m going to make one, I might as well make ten.  Or twenty!

My contact at Silhouette hooked me up with a huge discount to share with ISLY readers, so this is your chance.  If you find yourself with a healthy combination of papercraft desire and spare change, check out the Silhouette store and make sure to place your order before MAY 8, 2010 to get $50 off a Silhouette machine and 10% off everything else in the Silhouette store. They’ll throw in 10 feet of vinyl, 10 feet of transfer tape, and a hook and scraper to sweeten the deal.

Full Disclosure:  Silhouette sent me a Silhouette SD in exchange for my honest review.  I suspect they knew that I’d love their product.

Silhouette Resources:

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    1. Bridget says:

      I have an old school silhouette and I LOVE it. I can’t wait to download your word art, thanks!

    2. Gillian says:

      The word art is beautiful… and perfect timing! I’m expecting #2 in October! But I’m a Mac user – could you please send me the graphics? Thank you!

    3. Samandra says:

      I want too, please could you send me? Thanks!

    4. Do you know if this can cut acetate, or some other piece of stiff plastic? I’d love to make a stencil, and I’m pretty sure the cuts will be a lot cleaner if I use this machine than if I use my hand and an Xacto knife :)

    5. Christi says:

      excited to download your free files – I love the big fat dot over the i on girl
      I don’t know how I crafted without the Silhouette before. It is wonderful.

    6. I have an older Silhouette and use it all the time. I’m so excited to download your free file. Thanks to you and the folks at Silhouette!

    7. this is the cutest thing I have seen in a long time!

    8. Can you show us how you made the “girl” package? It’s so cute.

    9. […] Melissa reviewed the Silhouette SD digital paper cutting machine, and it looks so fun. I want one, badly. […]

    10. alexismaia says:

      O.M.G. This looks fantastic! I’ve seen the Cricut at craft stores, but felt it was limited in design options and a little too “crafty” for my aesthetic. I wonder how I can fit this into my budget…

    11. Faith says:

      I used to cut out vinyl stickers in high school using a professional version of this sort of machine and it was really fun. I didn’t know they had consumer versions now. I’m feeling some serious gadget envy.

    12. Melissa says:


      Here’s the link to a little guest post tutorial I did for Black*Eiffel a while back. It’s got all the info you need on how to make it:

    13. Melissa says:


      I’m not sure I would suggest cutting plastic with the Silhouette, but if you’d really like to give it a try. . . email the folks at Silhouette and they’ll test out substrates for you (how nice, right?) you can even mail them an example of what you’re wanting to cut, and they’ll let you know how it works!

      Cutting stencils out of cardstock would work just fine. The negatives of the word art I’ve cut have held up really well!

      Here’s a link to Silhouette’s contact information:

      Good luck!

    14. Cynthia Marie says:

      So not free! They are charging 99 cents for each design!

    15. Yeah! You got one! Is•ly + Silhouette is a match made in heaven :) Can’t wait to see what else you come up with!

    16. That is so cool! I wish I had one!

    17. Christi says:

      just went to the Silhouette store and all your designs are 99 cents – and you don’t get credit for designing them either.
      That’s kind of a bummer. They should at least list you as the artist.

      • Melissa says:


        No NO! That’s so lame. They’re supposed to be completely free! I’m working on getting in touch with Silhouette to get the problem fixed. I’ll keep you posted.

    18. erin says:

      Hi – I am wondering if you can tell me the differences between this Sillouette and a Cricut. I looked on both websites, but the differences (and pros and cons) to each are very confusing. I am thinking about getting one – I just don’t know which is better for me. Thanks a million.

    19. Melissa says:


      I’m completely sold on the Silhouette. Here’s why. . .

      The Cricut can only cut from a cartridge which typically cost around $50-$70 (at least when I saw them a year ago). Each cartridge has about 50+ pre-made designs and/or letters. The Silhouette on the other hand can cut all of your true type fonts (dingbats, etc) which opens up your cutting options tremendously. And that’s just out of the box! Silhouette has an online store accessible through the silhouette cutting program where you can buy individual graphics for about 99¢.

      The Cricut can only cut paper about 6×8 inches (at least that’s my mom’s cutter) while the Silhouette can do 8 inches by 40 inches.

      The Cricut is bigger and heavier, while the Silhouette is smaller and lighter.

      The only con I see to the Silhouette (not really a con, though) is that the silhouette HAS to be connected to a computer in order to cut files. The Cricut is more portable since you don’t need to connect it to a computer to cut images.

      So that’s how I see it. I like the silhouette best, but that’s just my personal opinion. If you’re not entirely sure which one is for you, you do have the option to test the silhouette (risk free) for a month for $25. If you decide you don’t like it, you can take it back. If you do, just pay the remaining balance. Not bad, right?

      Hope all this info helps!!


    20. Cameo says:

      Their software for the PC has a feature where you can print a design on your printer, with registration marks, then run the printed sheet through the Silhoutte to cut it. The Silhouette uses the printed registration marks to line up its cuts correctly to the printed image.

      I too am on a Mac and would be using Illustrator were I to get a Silhouette. (I’m getting married in 6 months, so it’s pretty much an essential! : ) Have you tried cutting a printed design? Was it tricky to get it to line up without their software handling the registration marks? I wasn’t sure in one of the images above if you used the Silhoutte to cut out the Easter egg gift box, or if you just used it to cut out “MEL” and did the box by hand.

      I’m a graphic designer and would have no problem creating the registration marks in Illustrator. I’m just not sure if the Silhoutte would handle them well.

      Thanks for your thorough review!!!

    21. marissa says:

      i should be “mad” at you for making me want another gadget. i just finally ordered a wacom and it’s coming in the mail this week. now, i will have to (secretly) save for this. truthfully, though, thanks for the heads up on this gadget. the cricut was the only machine i’d heard of. QuickKutz should pat themselves on the back for gifting you one of these – smart move! :)

    22. Heather says:

      I have this machine and love it!
      You can cut also your own designs – although I”ve only done simple designs. For example, I created a ‘thank you tag’ in a circle shape with my daughters picture on it in Photoshop. I changed it to a jpg file (required for the silhouette), put it into their program, printed with registration marks and then cut it. It was awesome.
      I’m not sure about more intricate homemade designs – I’m not designer, just someone who likes to play in photoshop.

      Thanks for freebies! Can’t wait to see what you do with this machine!

    23. A Mullins says:

      I love this digital cutter. I was wondering if such a digital cutter is available to cut out fabric? I’m looking for something like this for fabric, so I can cut out themed appliqués and sew them with decorative stitching to clothing.

      A Mullins

      • Melissa says:

        I know that Silhouette offers Heat Transfer Material in their shop . I’ve been thinking about cutting out applique designs with the Silhouette, and I think if you did a really light-weight fabric backed with heat transfer material it just might work. But I would probably send a sample of it to Silhouette to test it out for me before I try it out on my machine.

    24. summer says:

      how fabulous! i confess to owning a cricut and selling it on craigslist due to its limitations. the silhouette seems like a much better machine! and the price is very reasonable. thanks melissa!

    25. Jana says:

      I had a Silhouette for a year and now have the SD. Love it, love it, love it! Cannot say enough about Silhouette and their customer service.

      Couple of notes to some of the questions…
      *Print & cuts are fabulous! Sometimes they are a little hard to line up with the registration marks, but practice helps.
      *You CAN cut without being connected to a computer (at least with Windows)–that’s where the SD part comes in. You save the file to your SD and then pop your SD card into the Sil when you’re ready to cut. However, you can’t move or resize the objects so you have to have know exactly where you want it.
      *I’ve used their vinyl, heat transfer, and rhinestones–all work beautifully and allow for amazingly creative projects.
      *Follow their blog–they give away freebies every Tuesday, so maybe they will post Melissa’s this week–and check out their Flickr group (link found on the blog) to see all of the creative projects.


    26. adrienne says:

      For what it’s worth: I have a graphic design background, a mac computer with illustrator, and I opted for a cricut. That was purely because of the software made by (worst name ever) “Sure Cuts A Lot” which allows you to cut any svg type file. So you can use anything you can create in illustrator, any font…I even made silhouettes of my kids by taking a profile photo, modifying it in photoshop and creating an svg file from it, which the cricut cut out for me. (I agree, the cartridges are way overpriced and mostly heinous and cutesy). The other plus is that the bigger cricut can cut 12″ by 24″ so you can do a lot bigger stuff. I’ve run fabric through it (stiffened with heat ‘n’ bond) and even felt, vinyl, contact paper… Anyway, I have no stake in swaying people either way. I hadn’t heard of the Silhouette before so I got all panicky like I maybe made a mistake in getting my cricut because maybe there was something better out there… But I think I’m okay.

    27. Chatelaine B says:

      Thanks! I can’t wait to get it in the mail and get started! I’ve been eyeing this thing since last summer!!

    28. […] love my new Silhouette machine. There are just so many things you can do with it! Click here to read my review of the machine. If you’re in the market to buy one, or if you know your mom would like one (Hello, […]

    29. Michelle says:

      Hi Melissa – I don’t if you remember me, but we met at Alt Summit. I was there with the Lifestyle Crafts Letterpress product line. Just wanted to say thanks for recognizing the packaging design! Silhouette was part of the QuicKutz family of brands until about 6 months ago so I was originally responsible for the development of the product line and the packaging design. Clean yet detailed was exactly how I hoped people would feel about the design. Love the stuff you’re creating with it!

    30. Tanya says:

      Hi Melissa – thnx for the review!
      do you know if the ‘Print & Cut´feature works when using a Mac?


    31. Victoria says:

      Oh my word….I need one of these machines!

    32. […] had a bunch of black heat transfer material that I got with my Silhouette, so when I saw this shirt in the thrift store I knew exactly what I needed to do. I wasn’t […]

    33. […] mentioned wanting a Silhouette SD a few months ago after reading Melissa’s review of it, and much to my delight the company sent one to me to try out. Well I’ve been having so much […]

    34. sheriece says:

      Hey there. The download link isn’t working for me. It’s downloading a zip file, but when I go to extract it, it’s empty. HELP?!

    35. Laurie says:

      do you mind sharing what speed/force settings you are using to cut cardstock?

    36. Hi there, just stopped by doing some research for my Cricut site. Truly more information than you can imagine on the web. Wasn’t what I was looking for, but good site. Have a nice day.

    37. Amy says:

      Hi there Melissa!
      I was thinking about purchasing the Silhouette SD recently. I have tons and tons of paper at home from an invitation design company I co-owned for a number of years. Was curious whether the machine has been tested with Stardream cardstock paper? If you are not familiar with stardream it’s about 110 pound weight cardstock. Any feedback is appreciated.
      Amy W.

    38. Nancy says:

      Help! Help! The link to the craft robo master v 1.6 or whatever is not functioning. I’ve downloaded the silhouette’s plug-in for illustrator, but to no avail. Any ideas on where to find the correct version?

    39. Kayla says:

      I just love these fonts I have a Mac too can you please send them to me too!



    40. Stéphanie says:

      Hi Melissa,
      first thank you for your blog, i follow it since few weeks and i love it !
      I’m really in love with this shilouette sd !
      But i’m french and live in France, so maybe i don’t really understand but it’s seems only for American people ? No ?
      In the website, i don’t find any informations. Could i buy it, and be delivery in France ?
      Do you know something ?

      Thank you for your generosity and your talent !

    41. Can says:

      Hi I can’t seem to download your free fonts…which i LOVE LOVE LOVE are you able to email them to me?

    42. […] kwernerdesignblog     craftobostore     sewdangcute     melissaesplin […]

    43. It’s arduous to seek out educated individuals on this topic, however you sound like you already know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

    44. SHAWN says:

      HELP – I am not sure what I am doing wrong but I can not get the files to open?

    45. Kira says:


      These are so darling, thank you so much! I used the “baby” cut-out to make my sister’s baby shower invites.

      Her husband is a graphic designer, and the first thing he asked me when he saw the cards is “what font did you use for the word baby?” I thought I’d ask you for it. It is a really cute font.

      Thanks again.

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