Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tips & Tricks for the BEGINNING Silhouette Portrait User


When I set out to create something, I like to get the biggest bang for my buck, so to speak.  You could say I'm thrifty.  Or frugal.  Or you could even say that I am fiscally responsible in these matters.  But that all sounds like the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.... So, I will just put it out there and call it as I see it -

There.... I said it.  Yes, I am CHEAP and I am not ashamed of that.  I like to save money, so, I've put together a list of tips/tricks I've discovered while working with my new Silhouette Portrait that are the CHEAPER alternatives to the products currently being offered. 
(You can see some of the projects I have completed here.)
1.  VINYL: Use contact paper instead of vinyl when you can get away with it.  Making a sign?  Cut your letters from black or colored contact paper - and then use clear contact paper (instead of "transfer paper" to transfer them onto the wood.  Vinyl is too expensive for me to paint over then peel it off and throw it away.   I have even used black contact paper on a mirror and it looks great! 
2.  TOOLS:  There is no need to buy the expensive Silhouette tools.  Buy a dental pick at the Dollar Store to use to pull off vinyl/contact paper.   This will do the same thing as the Silhoutte pick for a fraction of the cost.   Use a credit card to smooth your vinyl or contact paper onto your project to get it to adhere to your surface, rather than the smoothing tool Silhouette sells.  If the tools come with your Silhouette, as some are sold as bundles, then great.  But if you have to replace them - then why not save a little money?
3.  FABRIC INTERFACING: Regular old interfacing (lightweight) works just fine when cutting fabric - rather than the "Silhouette" brand of interfacing.  Iron it onto your material and then stick the material to your mat and cut.  While I am by no means an expert here.... I've used both and in my experience, they work the same. 
4.  CUTABLE FILES:  The online Silhouette Store is AMAZING!  Be sure to download the FREE weekly file, whether you can use it now or not.  It's FREE and it will grow your library.  Who knows, some day you may have a use for it!  Also, regularly do a seach using the word FREE.  From time to time, Silhouette offers other FREE files that aren't advertised. 
5.  FONTS:  My favorite place to view and download new fonts from is  This is an easy to use website with so many incredible fonts and new ones are being added the time!  Anything that you download to your computer will show up in your font section when you open your Silhouette Software. 
6.  CUTTING MAT:  To make your mat sticky again, use Krylon 'Easy Tack' Repositionable Spray or Aleen's 'Tack It Over & Over'.  You'll not only save money over the cost of a replacement mat, but you'll be able to use these multiple times and/or on other projects.
I'm sure this list will grow, the more I work with the Silhouette Portrait - but for now, these tips have saved me some money - and that makes me very happy!
What other money-saving tips have you found when using the Silhouette? 
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  1. Thanks Suzie. I am Cheap too and I appreciate your tips. I just got my Silhouette Portrait and still trying to figure it out. I have some wooden signs in a local card shop and was looking for a way to streamline production. I hope I can do this. I will go back and read your tutorials.

  2. Thanks for this list. I just ordered a Silhouette Portrait because I was too cheap to buy the Cameo. I wanted the feature of cutting without being hooked up to the computer but couldn't see that being with an extra $100. I was wondering about contact paper and the dental pick. Thanks for answering that plus the other tips (especially how to refresh the sticky mat). I've also read how to make a pen holder from an old silhouette pen. I got pens @.50 each, so I'm in no hurry to try. Very helpful post for "thrifty" *ahem* gals!

  3. Thanks for the tips! I just got a Portrait for Christmas and I ordered some of the tools off of Amazon since they were cheaper there than Silhouette. I will definitely use the dental pick and especially the resticky trick when I need replacements!

  4. Thank you for this info! I am a new owner of a Portrait. Looking forward to trying some of these ideas.

  5. I found a cheap and easer to find stencil material - Fellows brand "binding covers". They come in a 25 pack for about $15 (currently) at Staples and they make great re-usable stencils for spray painting fabrics. I set it on "coverstock", dial the blade to 10 and speed is up to you. Though for the really tiny lines, the slower speed is better. I've tried many things and those work the best.

  6. Thanks , just got my silhoulette portrait a few days ago and the company that sold it to me gives little help. i always think im a nuisance so i rely on internet for help. Thankx for the help and ideas . very helpfull

  7. Thanks for the tips! Love the contact idea. Just got my silhouette a few days ago. Trying find a better deal on vinyl to use on a car and walls still.

  8. Does anyone know where we could find tutorials or videos on how to use letter fonts to create different themed messages? We're Silhouette rookies. We don't know where to start. Thanks

    1. You can find lots of help on under portrait tutorials

  9. Hi, I'm new at this with my silhouette portrait machine because I bought it from a gal from our buy & sell site. Been trying learn how down load cutable files or how get them saved to the machine. I installed the one disc but the other one to show to use it didn't work. So I'm kinda lost with this machine. Thanks for hearing me out.