A few people have been asking about the capabilities of the Silhouette Cameo that I have been using on my Wainfleet thread to help my scratchbuilding efforts and whether it would be right for them or for a club to buy. I can’t answer that, but I thought that this thread would help people decide if its right for them (and worth the outlay) while helping to provide information specifically for modellers.
The Silhouette Cameo is effectively a glorified plotter that cuts materials as well as draws on them. Plotters have been around for a long time (I remember using one in the 1980s) and use a pen in a cartridge to draw pictures in a similar way that a person would. They have traditionally been used to print engineering and architectural designs and line illustrations. While the Cameo can act like a traditional plotter, its main function is to cut out shapes. The video at the bottom of this post is from Silhouette gives you a better idea of what happens.
I’ll just add that the Cameo isn’t the only plotter out there, so it’s worth researching before you buy one. If you do get one, make sure it can cut user defined shapes. Not all of them can.
The Silhouette Cameo can be useful in a number of ways:
Cutting fiddly parts such as wrought iron gates or girders.
Cutting repetitive parts uniformly such as valance.
Cutting repetitive fiddly parts, such as ornate column brackets!
Cutting things more quickly.
Here’s an example. Say you need third open coach sides for five coaches, that's ten sides. You could cut them individually by hand, or you could create one cut file of the two coach sides and run it five times. In six months’ time you could run it again to produce some more with no extra effort. Also, if a coach is made of repetitive elements, you can group these elements together and copy them into the correct locations, so making the creation of the cut file even faster. I created a drawing for a 6-wheel brake van that took about an hour, it then took about 30 minutes to cut while I had a cup of tea.
A number of these posts have been written already but need photos and diagrams adding, so I’ll be posting them up over the next couple of weeks.
While I’ve got a fair bit of experience of the Cameo now, cutting things out is just one small part of the process. I would like to say that I’m in no way a seasoned modeller, so please weigh in if you like!
Here are a few things I've created already. I hope you don't mind that these photos are duplicates from other threads.
GNR 6 -wheel coach from styrene. This is my current project. The beading in the first photo is in .010" styrene and is approximately 0.45mm wide. Sorry I'm mixing my measuring systems! The windows in the back layer were scored and snapped and needed tidying up when the first photo was taken.
GNR Footbridge at Wainfleet (mostly styrene with some elements from the Hornby footbridge, mostly the steps.)
Valance (styrene, straight from the cutter and needing cleaning up)
At the time of writing, there are 184 people subscribed to this thread and 168 people have a Silhouette cutter or alternative. So that new comers to the machine can get a head start I've decided to update this index post so that it includes both tutorials on this thread and on other threads and blogs. That said, there is still a lot of information in one-off posts in this thread, so if you have a few days spare, it's worth looking at. You'll also see some of the incredible work done by the members.
That's cool Nile, you should be using the Silhouette Studio software as well. It'll be interesting to see how the Silhouette Portrait compares with the Cameo. You'll have to let us know where they diverge. By the looks of the two specification sheets, the difference seems to be the maximum cutting width.silhouette and the fact that the portrait doesn't have an SD card slot. I've never used this feature. I've had a quick look at prices on Amazon, and there seems to be a 110GBP difference with the portrait at 150GBP and the cameo at 260GBP. Based on that, it looks like if you are using styrene or card no wider than letter or A4 then the Portrait might be a better bet.
I agree entirely with your comparison of the two models, which is why I went for the Portrait.
As for what I'm going to do with it, not sure yet. Maybe some experiments. I'm watching what you get up to ;-) .
I managed to get a big sheet of 20thou plastic yesterday, plus some 10thou.
When I looked at cutters I the following were important to me:
software that wasn't buggy
ability to cut or score reasonably thick material, whether card or styrene
not too expensive on the consumables
can I cut my own designs cleanly
To answer some of these, the software that comes with the cutter isn't the best in the world but you can get around its shortcomings very easily. Once you understand the tricks you can work fairly quickly to put drawings together. the coach drawing below took me about an hour to rough out and then thirty minutes to fine tune, for example. If you use CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator there is a utility that will allow you to cut directly from those applications.
With regards to the materials that can be cut, when I bought the Cameo I was only going to use it with card and laminate the sides together. This is exactly what I did with the signal box that I built. I actually used coloured card for the windows and the window frames, white card to go around that and then I hand cut brick paper to finish. In the end I think I used about seven layers of card. Here's a photo of the window that was on my signal box thread. The wave in the vertical part of the frame was down to my bad gluing! You might be able to make out the sash window below. I'll be covering those later.
Two limitations are the thickness and the resistance of the materials. Although the blade extends to approximately 1mm, or .040", you will only be able to cut through styrene up to .015" thick (someone here has done it: http://www.hobbytalk...p/t-361584.html), after that you will be scoring and snapping. I tend to use .010" and .020" styrene, and have just tested .040" for this thread. .010" cuts, the other two definitely score only. At some point you will find that the styrene is too thick to get under the blade.
So here's a list that I've found. They are assuming a knife that isn't dull:
Styrene - .005”, .010” can be cut.
Styrene - .015", .020”, .040” (I haven’t tried thicker) can be scored and snapped.
Paper, tissue paper, labels and Card – all sorts of card can be cut pretty much up to cornflake packet thickness.
Fabric, including thin canvas – a number of materials could be cut (for wagon hoods for example).
Chipboard (very thin chipboard, about 1/16"!)
If won't cut
Brass – I saw a question once, "would it cut brass?", the answer was only once . Don’t even try it!
Wills sheets, too thick and small.
The maximum width of material is 12” on a Cameo, 8 1/2" on a Portrait, and the maximum length is either the length of the mat you are using, or 10' if you aren't using a mat. The maximum cutting force is 210gf. I could see this machine not only useful for 4mm scale modellers, but also the larger scales. While it’s true you are limited in thickness, you could conceivably cut 1/16” chipboard or laminate thinner layers of styrene. Or even have a base layer of styrene that is, say .030" thick that's just scored while the detail is on a .010" layer the planking and strapping on a wagon for example. I've also seen a thread where someone scores his own brickwork - it would make arches easier, but I think I'd use an older blade for this.
The consumables, hmm, well this is a consumer product which often means that the extras, such as new blades, can get expensive. You can get them for about 10GBP each in the UK, $9 in Wall-mart in the USA, and about $12 in Canada. They also regularly turn up on Ebay. That said, last night I was looking at one of these http://www.ebay.co.u...=item35c495029a . I might look into this as once you have the holder it'll reduce the cost of ownership considerably.
I can guarantee that you can cut customizable designs. That should be a given, shouldn't it? I'm afraid that if you have a Cricut machine at home, which is one of the Silhouette's competitors, then unfortunately you are going to be out of luck. These machines will only let you cut using designs in cartridges. The cartridges are expensive, and I doubt they'll have that GNR coach you were looking to put together! The Cameo can cut very small designs and cut thin strips of styrene. I've managed to cut beading on mine that is about 0.5mm thick which I think equates to .020".
Don't take my word for it though, the Cameo was right for me, and if the Portrait had been around when I bought it, I might have gone for that instead, $110 for an extra 4" is a lot of money, only you know if it's worth it.
When I decided to buy a cutter I also looked at:
Manufacturer's websites to get the specifications
Amazon to look at reviews (and Google - type in the machine and the word review)
Blogs, although they are craft blogs, they are essentially doing the same machine, and any frustrations or whoops of joy are just as valid
I think you might have noticed that I'm passing between metric and imperial measurements all of the time. I'm afraid it's a product of my upbringing as well as the fact that I'm in Canada, like the UK it's nominally decimalised, but there are gaps and influences. A lot of my stuff, and a lot of the documentation on the internet is from the States for example
I hope that covers everything! Next up, Silhouette Studio software.
Cheers Al. One thing about the Wills sheets being too thick and small, its is this combination that's a problem. Just to make it clear, you can use small sheets of thinner materials, for example a bit of scrap card or styrene that you want to cut a small design into.
Hi all, I have been using the cameo for about 6 months now and am still finding it's capabilities out. It does however allow me to tackle projects that I wouldn't have even been game to attempt by hand.
The panelling is part of the platform buildings on my layout of Wigan Wallgate ex L&Y station, 5 various buildings in all. The trips to the chemist for plasters would have far outweighed the cost of the machine if past efforts are anything to go by .
The building below had all the window openings cut by the cameo and the windows frames were cut out following a design done in a slightly better cad program than the one supplied, the building itself is developed from a couple of photos of the actual building in Wigan. All of the above were either printed onto or cut directly from self adhesive label paper prior to sticking onto a thicker card and then cut or in the case of the windows clear sheet.
Haven't been game to try styrene sheet yet but given the in depth info provided here I had better give it a go.
Great thread JCL thanks for starting , will keep up with interest
Your cutter, whether it's Portrait or Cameo will actually come with a 12" long mat. The mat isn't really anything special; it's just a sheet of thin plastic (I've seen place mats of the same material) with tacky glue on it, so in theory, if you got one of those cheap place mats you could make your own by masking the edges and spraying 3M repositional mount on it. I've two mats, a 12"x12" and a 12"x24" They have lasted me about a year, and I've only had to reglue the long one once following it's altercation with a long haired dog
Based on the fact that they are the same machine, just narrower, then you're right about the Portrait. If you position the coach sides so that they are vertical, then you could easily cut them out on it.
Based on the fact that they are the same machine, just narrower, then you're right about the Portrait. If you position the coach sides so that they are vertical, then you could easily cut them out on it.
Coach sides of about 48' in 4mm will <Just> fit on an 8" sheet horizontally with a 1/4" margin around them to keep it all together while going through the machine.
Today's topic is about software. Up until now I've been using the software that came with the cutter, but I was surprised at the number of different options that are available, each with their pros and cons, and with prices ranging from $0 to $400 (and beyond if you start buying CAD - Computer Aided Design - programs).
A quick talk About File Types
This won’t take too long, but before I talk about the Silhouette Studio software proper, I need to take a minute to talk about the two different types of graphic files there are out there. It's going to get a bit techy for a few minutes, so it you aren't that way inclined, please bear with me.
Computers can create and save pictures as either raster image or vector images. A raster image, such as a photo, is any image that is made up of pixels, or dots of colours. Vector images are made of paths defined by mathematical expressions. These paths can create lines, circles, and other shapes.
As you can see from the circles in the illustrations above, the red raster circle on the left loses definition as you zoom in, whereas the white vector circle on the right doesn't. This shows that a design created using vector files is scalable. To put it bluntly, a vector design that is printed three feet high will be as sharp as a design that's created three inches high. Vector files use many different file types, the main ones being .SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and .DXF (Drawing eXchange Format).
To create a cutting file you need some sort of drawing program that produces vector files that the cutter can understand, or software that will allow you to take a raster file and create a vector file from it either automatically or using drawing tools.
Researching for this thread I found that there were quite a number of software options available to the modeller, some expensive, and some free, some basic and some fully featured and professional. I will outline some of the options available that I know of, and provide a bit more detail for the ones that I think are the most likely to be used. As the Silhouette Studio software will open DXF files, then any software that can create a DXF file can be used to draw a file if you use the Silhouette Studio to cut it. At the end of this post I'll talk quickly about the Cut Wizard utility.
As a precaution, I would always say to download a trial version of the software that you want to use for creating a drawing and create a DXF file with it to import into Silhouette Studio. Sometimes these applications aren't quite as compatible as you would hope.
I will be using Silhouette Studio for the first project.
Silhouette Studio Basic Edition
Price: Free on CD with the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait software, free download
Silhouette Studio is the free drawing package for Windows and Macs that has been written specifically for the Silhouette cutter family. The software uses vector paths to represent the lines that will be cut. It has a friendly interface that includes a large number of tools that allow you to draw out practically anything you wish. There are a few niggles with it, but most of them can be worked around. The only major downside is that this software will only save your work in the .STUDIO file format. This file format is exclusive to Silhouette Studio, so you won’t be able to then give your work to someone else with a different cutter, and you won’t be able to open it in other software. If this isn’t important, you can a look yourself and download the free version from the link above.
As I mentioned above, I will be using Studio in my Projects on this thread as it comes with the cutter, is easy to use and can be downloaded and used without buying a cutter up front. I’ll be assuming you’ve watched the video to get the basics in my future posts.
A $50 version of the software is also available that enables you to open the industry standard SVG file format and to create and use guides. It's not necessary for what we are doing here.
Inkscape is a fully featured and free application that will allow you to create drawing files to be cut on the Silhouette cutter either by saving your file in the DXF file format or directly using the commercial Cut Wizard utility. It is similar to the commercial Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. I’ve used Inkscape on and off for a few years and found it fairly buggy in the past; it used to close down on the simplest of things – opening files for example. The latest version seems to be very stable and it hasn’t closed down once on me while working on this tutorial. On the drawing side, Inkscape can do everything that Silhouette Studio can do and then some. It has a steeper learning curve than Silhouette Studio because it isn’t specifically engineered to work with it. That said, if you get to the point where Studio isn’t good enough, and you don’t want to fork out a lot of money, then this is the way to go.
I’m going to skate over the next two options because I haven’t used either of them. Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator have been around for years. These are high end professional applications used by graphic designers as well. They have a huge learning curve, but you can work out the basics for both of them fairly quickly with a host of tutorials. I would imagine that the people using these on this site are already using them for work or other reasons.
Note that Illustrator only seems to be available on a subscription model now.
For Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape (check your version is supported)
This is not illustration software, It's a utility that allows you to cut shapes directly from drawings opened with Corel Draw, Illustrator and Inkscape, thereby removing the need for Silhouette Studio. There are more cut options with Cut Wizard than with Silhouette Studio. For example, when drawing you can give different colours to different lines or elements, and then have each colour cut in a different way. I'll cover this later on in the thread.
For Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator (check your version is supported)
Silhouette Connect is similar to the Cut Wizard in that it is a utility to allow you to directly send cut instructions from Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw to the Silhouette cutter. It is not compatible with Inkscape.
Make the Cut! And Sure Cuts a Lot 3 are both applications that allow you to create drawings that can be sent to the Silhouette Studio. These are both aimed at the people that do craft cards etc. Make the Cut! does not allow easy editing of shapes so can’t be recommended. Sure Cuts a Lot 3 allows the editing of nodes, but actually seems to have fewer features than the free Silhouette Studio.
You can also use any Computer Aided Design (CAD) program such as TurboCAD and AutoCAD that supports DXF files. If you are going to use any software other than Silhouette Studio, as I said at the top of this post, check that the DXF file is compatible, although there are standards out there, bugs can creep in.
Silhouette Studio is good enough to do the job, albeit with a few niggles, but the closed output format means that it isn't as flexible as other options such as Inkscape or Corel Draw. I'm going to be moving onto Inkscape myself so that I can exchange my files with other people, and if I get a different cutter one day, I'll know I'll be able to reuse the plans I've drawn on that. If you already are using Corel Draw or some other application, then you can continue to use them and this should be a breeze!
Edited to add information about Silhouette Connect
I'm going to get the decks cleared ready for the project, so one more post before we start.
Using a Template
I like to try to be organised (though I don’t always manage it). To help me with this, I have a template that I use when I’m drawing up my plans in Silhouette Studio. The table includes a data panel and a 4mm scale ruler. I find that things can get confusing further down the line if I don't have a panel that tells me the scale and purpose of the file. Most of the information I type in there should be fairly obvious, but just to make it clear, on the action line I tend to write cut, score, draw if you have a pen or engrave if you buy their engraving kit.
Of course you can produce your own data panel that includes other information. I created the ruler to show scale feet as there are often measurements on drawings such as coach body length or height. The ruler can be a second opinion to your calculations. I also make sure that I have one folder per project so that if I make multiple files, and multiple backup files, they don't get mixed up. Finally, my file naming is as follows:
<name of project> <material> <action> <version>.studio or, to give an example, the file name for the first version of a coal office file to cut using .010" styrene would be "Coal Office 010 cut v1.studio"
I have uploaded a copy of the Silhouette Studio template with a 4mm scale ruler here. Right click on the link and choose save or download then open it in Silhouette Studio. As always, I don't believe I have any viruses, and I'm sure the server doesn't, but you need to make sure you check the file yourself.
At the conclusion of the first project I'll upload the studio file for it so you can play around.
I probably won't be on tomorrow, but feel free to post any questions you have and I'll answer them (or someone else can) as soon as I can.
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