How To Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl With Silhouette Cameo: Expert Guide

A silhouette cameo is a cutting tool that comes as a computer accessory and is simply plugged in using a USB connection. The machine has got similar properties to a die cut machine, only this time the cutting process is automated.

Using this cutting tool and the software that comes with it, you are able to create various designs on your computer screen and cut these designs onto a selection of materials.

These include various types of paper, fabric vinyl, or heat transfer material. Your creativity only limits the kinds of designs.

One of the common materials that are used on this machine is Heat Transfer Vinyl. This is a unique kind of vinyl material that has properties that make it a convenient choice to design, cut and use to decorate fabrics.

It is very common with fabrics used for all sorts of functions like t-shirts, table mats, etc. The process is quite simple but elaborate, and you need to understand the material and machine you are working with to get the best results.

Materials That We Need To Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl

First of all, it is not just the material and cutter that is required in this process. So, to ensure you don’t have any hitches make sure you have everything before you start:

  • The silhouette cameo cutting and design tool
  • The heat transfer vinyl material. It comes in different brands and as varied opinions on which is the best.
  • A piece of 12’’ by 12’’ is the best size for this particular machine. You can either buy precut pieces or cut them yourself from a larger roll.
  • Weeding tool which is used to lift the vinyl after the cutting process
  • A heat press or iron box for heat the part that will require heat application
  • Cutting mat
  • Design. You can make your own or choose from a selection in the software that comes with the Cameo Silhouette.
  • The material on which the final product will be used.

Once your tools and materials are in place the process can begin.   

How To Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl With Silhouette Cameo: Step By Step Guide

Instruction Manual

Go through the Silhouette Cameo instruction manual. It is available on the software itself, online or for original purchases in a booklet that comes with it.

Despite this guide which cannot give detailed specifics to all the machine functions, it is important to understand the manufacturer’s instructions.

Design

You can create your own design on the software or access the cloud component and choose from a variety as big as 100,000. It is advisable that you make a very simple design for the first time. The machine is however not limited to simple designs.

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Load your design onto silhouette studio and mirror it which means it faces the wrong side. Take note that at the end of this, it is going to be pressed the right side up.

After this, press the send button at the top right end of your screen. You need to remember that the machine and software cut according to preset instructions.

So, you need to select that kind of material from the list. Like, in this case, the option for the Heat transfer vinyl is ‘heat transfer smooth.’

Placement

Place your HTV on a cutting mat with the shiny side facing down and adhesive side facing up.

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Load the cutting mat containing the vinyl with your design into the Cameo Silhouette cutting tool.

Then click send at the bottom of your screen to initiate the cutting process and wait as the machine slowly executes your command.  After the cutting process is complete, carefully remove cutting mat.

Make sure the blade setting is at 1 which is the pre-determined setting for lighter materials such as HTV and other materials of the same gauge.

Weeding

This refers to removing the excess material from the cutting just like people throw away paper residue after cutting out patterns.

However, in this case, you will need a small hook-like object with a smooth edge that will not damage your vinyl as you remove it. After weeding what you will be left with is your design facing upside down on the cutting mat.

Now, you have your design clearly cut out and the next step will be to ensure that the material to be decorated is also ready. A poorly prepared surface will cause one fault or another during or after you are done with the process.

So, if you are working on a t-shirt you need to make sure:

  • Your t-shirt must be clean whether new or already used. There is a general assumption that new clothes are always clean which is not true.
  • Place your t-shirt on a hard-firm surface. The next process of transferring the cut design from the cutting mat to the garment will involve a lot of pressure; anything less will result in wrong positioning of the design and/or damage to the t-shirt.
  • Make sure your t-shirt is ironed right before you place the design. It needs to be dry for proper adhesive properties and straightened out for proper positioning of the newly cut vinyl design.
  • Flip over the design and place it facing the right side up at the exact position of the t-shirt that you want it to be.
  • At this point, it is important to note that every vinyl brand has got specific handling directions including the amount of heat to be used during the pressing process and the time you should take to do the same.
  • The heat factor is a tricky one as various fabric behave differently when exposed to particular temperatures. The fabric you are using must be able to withstand the heat as you do not want that getting damaged so close to the finish.
  • You will need a protective layer between the iron and the carrier sheet, and the recommended material is parchment paper.
  • You can, however, use any fabric that can withstand the temperatures to be used during the process. If the protective layer gives in especially by melting then it will destroy the carrier paper and consequently your design.
  • After that preheat, set the iron box or heat press to the recommended temperatures and simply place on top of the parchment paper and apply reasonable force during the process.
  • Do not move the iron box in motions like you do when ironing garments. The iron box is now being used as a heat application tool and not an ironing tool. Moving it will cause a shift in the original positioning of the design and may spoil the same.
  • Lift the iron box and place it at the next spot while slightly overlapping into the previous area to ensure you do not miss any spot. Also, remember to apply the recommended time of heat application.
  • Applying heat for a lesser period may result in the design not being properly attached to the garment. Applying the same for a longer than prescribed period may destroy the vinyl design.
  • The average time it takes is between 10 and 15 seconds. Preferably use a dry iron.
  • After the heat application is done slowly lift off the carrier paper to reveal the design. Manufacturer’s instructions will direct whether to do this while the paper is still hot or to let it cool first.
  • It varies with different brands. Make sure the design is firmly in place and if not simply repeat the heat application process. You can safely return the carrier paper and repeat the exercise until your design is firmly fixed onto your t-shirt.

And, now you have your design. It may seem like a very tiring process, but in a real sense, the application of these instructions is much simpler than it appears on paper.

It’s the attention to detail that is important as a mess in one stage could ruin the whole process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What blade setting on silhouette for heat transfer?

There are different settings for cutting different thickness of the material. In short, there are ten settings that range from 1 to 10. Blade setting one is used cut thin vinyl and other smooth material. Two to three is for medium-weight material like paper, flocked heat transfer and cardstock. Settings four to six used to cut thicker material like pattern papers and textured cardstock. Last of the settings are 7 to 10 which are used for cutting thick canvas.

2. Do you cut HTV shiny side up or down?

If you don’t want to mirror your text, you can send the original text from the screen of your design for printing. If you do, don’t remove the original text. Move the mirror text back and forth to position it correctly. Cut it backward if you don’t want to mirror your text. 

3. Can I print on silhouette vinyl?

There are some printable vinyl’s that you can use for Silhouette print and cut. Sublimation is costly, and layering vinyl isn’t always ideal. The inkjet printable vinyl is such bliss when it comes to printing. Print the vinyl with the laminate on top and keep the Silhouette settings on speed 8, Blade 6 double cut and thickness 16. 

4. What materials can be cut with a silhouette cameo?

The silhouette cameo is designed to cut a wide variety of materials including cardstock, paper, vellum, vinyl, patterned papers, fabric, iron-on heat transfer and many more. Different blade settings accommodate for different material cut and thickness.

For example, the standard blade can extend to approximately 1mm in depth. Depending on thickness, you can cut selected fabric. Felt materials can also be used to cut. The deep cut blade setting can cut fun foam and wax paper.

Final Words

Silhouette Design Studio is powerful software, and at the right settings and design, you can make some creative patterns. It gives you more freedom to create the shape you want as long as the material you want to cut can be done so with 210g of force.

Take a picture with your camera and send it to the Cameo 3. This is possible thanks to the PixScan technology. The dual cartridges give you the ability to swap out the empty one without turning off the power.

The software is easy to use, and the basic version is free. If you want to make some awesome designs by cutting heat transfer vinyl with silhouette cameo, go ahead. It’s worth the investment. The cameo 3 which is the newest can cut most vinyl, paper, and standard fabric just fine.  

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