The Silhouette Cameo (aka the Vinyl Cutter) is a useful machine for cutting not just vinyl, but also other thin materials like paper & cardstock. Many of the supplies (including the cutting mat & the manual) can be found in the drawer below the cutter.
Just hook the USB cable up to your computer, and press the power button on the right side of the machine. Lift up the panel on the front of the machine to expose the blade adjustment and cutting area. You will need to download the free software from Cameo (Silhouette Studio, here) to connect to the cutter.
The blade depth can be adjusted based on the material you’re cutting. To adjust it, stick the blade assembly into the blade depth adjustment thingy built into the machine next to to blade holder, press down, and turn the blade until the red line is pointed to the number you want. The software will suggest a blade depth based on material (see below).
After adjustment, load the blade back in the holder with the fin facing out towards you, and lock it by pushing the lock to the right.
The tip of the blade is very fragile, be careful!
The cutting mat is required for cutting paper, cardstock, or anything that doesn’t have its own backing material. Vinyl should not require the cutting mat.
Peel the protective layer off the sticky surface (replace this layer when you’re done with the machine!), and stick your paper on. There’s a grid to help you align things with what you see on the screen. Load the mat by aligning the left side with the blue line on the machine, and pressing “load cutting mat”.
Silhouette Studio comes with some basic vector drawing tools, and lots of images in the library if you don’t have your own custom vector file (if you do have your own file, see below). After you’ve set up your file, go to “Cut Settings” (Menu > Silhouette > Cut Settings, or click the icon on the top right menu).
Choose the appropriate cut style, and choose the material type you’re working with. The program offers suggestions for blade depth, speed, & thickness for a given material; these can be manually adjusted if they aren’t working for you. It’s highly recommended that you do a “test cut” with your settings before trying to cut your final project. Just hit the “Test Cut” button, and the machine will cut a small square & triangle. Try to use the lowest settings you can that will still cut through your material – otherwise, the blade will be dulled unnecessarily quickly.
Once you have the settings dialed in, hit “Send to Silhouette”, and your cuts will be made!
The free version of the software does not allow direct importation of lots of useful vector file formats, such as .ai, .svg, or .pdf. To get around this, export your file to .dxf using your vector illustration program of choice, then open it with Silhouette Studio.
To keep the same scale as the file was originally created, go to Menu > Preferences > Import Options, and choose “As-is” under DXF import options.