Making a Stencil With the Silhouette Cutter

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Introduction: Making a Stencil With the Silhouette Cutter

Having my own designs as stencils frees up my mixed-media art quite a bit. I can cut cardstock or mylar with a craft knife, but it's a luxury to have a machine that cuts complex designs.

It's also a delight to go searching for lovely, irregular patterns in photographs online. Many Flickr users offer Creative Commons licenses for their images and the site provides a special search category for such licenses.

This Instructable won't give all the details about using the Silhouette Studio software or cutter.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Step 2: Find and Prepare an Image

  • On Flickr, search for images with a Creative Commons license.
    I searched specifically for commercial use licenses--since I may want to sell an artwork that I make using my new stencil--and picked a nicely contrast-y photo of a fern leaf by Tanaka Juuyoh.
  • Use Paint.net, a free digital image editor, to prep the photo.
    I converted the photo to black-and-white and saved a couple JPGs with different brightness and contrast settings.
  • Make sure the shapes you want to outline for your stencil are light against dark.
    I don't know why, but when I tried this with a photo where the leaf shapes were dark against a light background, I couldn't get the Silhouette Studio software to trace it correctly.

Step 3: Import Image to Silhouette Studio and Trace It

  • Open a JPG in Silhouette Studio and resize it to fit the page you'll be cutting it from, leaving a pretty wide border.
    The wide border will lend strength to the stencil, both when you remove it from the adhesive cutting mat and as you store and re-use it later.


  • Go to the Trace tab. Mess around with the Threshold and High Pass Filter settings until the shapes you want to capture are outlined in yellow.

  • Click "Trace Outer Edge."
    When red lines replace the yellow areas, you can move the photo out of the way to see if the outlines capture the shape you want.

  • You can keep Undoing and trying again until you've traced the shapes you want.

Step 4: Cut It Out! (cardstock)

  • Lay cardstock on the sticky mat and insert it into the cutter.
    Don't forget to use the gridded insert button!
  • Try cutting with the blade setting recommended by the Silhouette software, but increase the blade depth if needed.
    I was pretty worried about wrecking the cutting mat, so I resisted a higher blade setting. But at the lower setting, when I tried to remove the waste areas, the cardstock came off in layers and I kept tearing parts of the the stencil.

  • Remove the waste areas from the adhesive mat before carefully peeling off the stencil.

Step 5: Cut It Out! (ye Olde Transparency Film)

  • Lay the transparency or mylar on the adhesive cutting mat and insert it.
    Don't forget to use the gridded insert button!

  • Use the Test Cut feature until you've found blade depth and thickness settings that work.
    This took me a while. I finally cranked the thickness setting all the way up to 33. That plastic is tough!

  • Unlike with the cardstock, carefully pull the stencil off the adhesive and then remove the waste bits.
    Removing the nearly invisible waste bits was a pain, but I think it's easier than levering them out while the stencil is still adhered.

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    8 Discussions

    0
    smokinguns908
    smokinguns908

    Tip 6 months ago

    i went out and picked up some of that cricut foil mylar sheets that jo annes had in the discount ben didnt know what iwas going to do with it so sat a good part of two days tring to cut this stuff. no go on that so i looked at my blades and said hey what about my premium blade set it to 10 and inserted it in the carrier went into my canmeo software and selected stencil material wich is standard 33 pressure 1 pass and 2 speed all i changed was the pass from 1 to 2 and bang it cut through it with no problems .well except the mylar keeped wanting to bunch up aftrer sertain parts weere cut but all i did was tape the sides of the mylar all 4 of them and it sovled my issue. mow i have a bunch of reusable stencils.

    0
    jla181
    jla181

    9 months ago

    I think I’ll make a sourdough bread scoring stencil on my silhouette studio machine! Thanks

    0
    MitziMoon
    MitziMoon

    Question 1 year ago

    I've tried cutting stencils but no matter how hard or deep I set it even with 3 passes it won't cut? It is mylar that I bought - help?

    0
    One80Bits
    One80Bits

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen one too many great stencils now.... I need one of these machines! Thanks for sharing :)

    0
    erin0212
    erin0212

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work! Thank you for sharing the steps within the software. I'm still learning the basics.

    0
    sobeeya
    sobeeya

    5 years ago

    lovely

    This looks so much fun, I cut stencils by hand with a scalpel, this opens up a whole new world, thankyou for sharing.

    0
    Tater Zoid
    Tater Zoid

    5 years ago

    This is great, I can't wait to try it.