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Man, oh, man, was this a scary topic for me back in the day. I content just cutting my 12×12 vinyl and sticking it to my mat. If I wanted to make something bigger than 12×12, I would puzzle piece my 12×12 pieces together….apparently, I really enjoyed doing things the hard way.
Now, I rarely use my cutting mat unless I am cutting scraps or I only need a small piece cut. I make big signs in bulk and my Silhouette cutting mats have gotten to take a break.
Why Would You Need To Cut Without A Mat?
- You want to make a cut larger than 12×12.
- You have a new mat and want to cut delicate paper. Silhouette Cutting Mats are like the ultimate fly paper when you first get them and they will tear paper and vinyl in a second.
- Because… you want to, you daredevil, you.
Preparing your Silhouette Cameo
Before I teach you about cutting without your Silhouette mat, you’re going to need to adjust the bars on your Silhouette Cameo feeder. These bars put pressure on the vinyl to push it backwards and forwards for the cutter. This is one of those glorious things that you don’t have to understand. Just follow the pictures to adjust and forget it. I leave my bars on this setting whether I’m using a mat or not.
Just flip the handle down. This is pretty fool-proof. The release is labeled with a down arrow that says ‘Release’.
Next, unlock the little white sleeve that is on the far right end of the bar.
The above picture is what your machine should look like right now. This is the setting most people use when cutting with a mat. Do you see the notch in the metal? You’re going to unlock this plastic piece and slide it to the left to nest in that metal slot.
I put two steps in one for the last picture. I slid the plastic sleeve over to the notch in the metal bar AND locked it. If I jumped too fast, e-mail me. But like I said, I do feel like that part is pretty easy and self-explanatory.
Wait! Don’t forget to flip your plastic release handle back to the locked position!
Lining Up Your Vinyl
This is the entire purpose for this post. A picture of what it looks like when you load your vinyl to cut. Because…. I ruined a lot of vinyl figuring it out on my own.
When you get your vinyl lined up with that line, steady it with one or both hands while pressing ‘Load’ on your touchscreen.
As it loads into the machine, keep an eye on the alignment with that blue line. If it feeds sideways into the machine, it will obviously also cut sideways. For big cuts that lead right up to the edge of the vinyl, this could ruin your cut by going off the edge.
Silhouette Design Studio Settings
Open up your Silhouette Design Studio and lets change a few settings. The blade actually starts in a different place when you change this setting, so you can almost guarantee that if you skip this step, your cut will be ruined. I’ve done it a ton of times on accident and maybe only once, the design was close enough to the middle that it didn’t need to be re-cut.
In the current version of Silhouette Studio Designer Edition, the Page Setup Dialog box you need to access will be on the far right toolbar- very top icon. It looks like a page with the bottom corner dog-eared.
Page Size Settings
This is an up-close look at what the default settings will be under the Page Setup settings. I want to talk about the differences between the headings. Everything under the subheading ‘Page Size’ is referring to your material size. When it is set to ‘Automatic (CAMEO)’, it will default to 12×12. Silhouette is assume that you plan to cut on the entire 12×12 Cameo Mat.
When you change the dimensions under the ‘Page Size’ header, the drop-down menu will change to say ‘Custom’. Please make sure to check, double check and triple check the numbers you put here as well as the orientation.
The above picture is why you want to check everything twice like Santa. If you change the numbers under ‘Page Size’ without also changing the ‘Cutting Mat Settings, you’re going to have to re-cut your design. It is faint because the picture is small, but your Cut Border is still 12×12.
NEVER UNCHECK ‘SHOW CUT BORDER’!!! The ‘Show Cut Border’ checkbox will save you from so many whoopsies!
Cutting Mat Settings
In order to get the cut you’re looking for, you also have to adjust the Cutting Mat settings. If you really break it down to basic computer logic, let’s think about what you are asking your machine to do. In the above section, we were telling your Silhouette software ‘this is how big my material is’. Obviously, if it is bigger than 12×12, you have to tell it that you are cutting without your Silhouette mat. Right?
In the ‘Cutting Mat’ section, you’re going to click the dropdown box and select ‘None’.
Selecting ‘None’ for our cutting mat expanded our Cut Border area! The Silhouette will now cut anything inside the thin red line of the Cut Border.
Material Size vs Design Size
As I said earlier, the ‘Page Size’ setting refer to the size of the material you plan on feeding into the Silhouette. Design Size and Material size are very different when cutting without a mat. If you want your actual design to be 12×24, you have a few adjustments to make before sending to cut.
The red line is to show you a comparison on the ruler. The white box is exactly 12×24. We told our Silhouette that we are giving it a 12×24 piece of material- not that our design was 12×24.
Silhouette sets a defined Cut Border to show you what boundaries you need to design inside. As wonderful as a Silhouette is, it cannot print edge-to-edge without any waste. It uses that blank space to the bottom of the Cut Border to grip the material as it is being fed. It gives you a thin margin on either side of the cut to make sure the blade doesn’t catch the edge.
Of course, you can’t cut material bigger than 12inches wide, but you can adjust the length to be longer to compensate for the Cut Border. If you want 12×24, feed a 12×26 inch of material to your Silhouette and adjust the ‘Page Size’ settings. If it was up to me, they would change the wording on that setting to ‘Material Size’. But… I’m just Silhouette obsessed, not Silhouette employed.
Check Your Steps & Cut!
- Make sure your plastic roller sleeve is set and locked.
- Check your plastic release handle and make sure it is back in the locked position.
- Make sure your material is loaded and still aligned straight with our blue line.
- Check your ‘Page Size’ is set to the size of the material you are feeding it.
- Make sure your ‘Cutting Mat’ drop-down is changed to ‘None’.
- Send to cut and check your material type/cut settings.
After one successful cut without the mat, you will be addicted. If you start cutting without a Silhouette mat often, reading my review of the Silhouette Vinyl Roll Feeder. It quickly became one of my favorite Silhouette add-ons! It will save you time, vinyl and frustration.
That should be all the steps to cut big, beautiful designs. Whether you cut a stencil, vinyl or paper, you deserve a pat on the back. I’ll post soon about applying transfer tape to big pieces of material. Stay tuned and bask in the glory of your accomplishment. You deserve a glass of wine!