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  • Writer's pictureMonica Montanari

"I Just Got a Used Silhouette Portrait....What Now?"

My sister has a friend who is a DIY queen, who has a Silhouette cutting machine. So last year, for Christmas, my parents surprised her with one of her own. The only problem? Learning to use a cutting machine takes time and trials that some of us can't afford. Hence, why she decided that she wanted to give it to me.

If you're busy with a 9-to-5, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and where to go. I looked for a simple tutorial but couldn't find anything. Moreover, because of the inherited nature of the machine, I had to figure out from scratch what should have come with it and what I was missing.

So here are all of the questions that I had- and hopefully some answers that will help.

What Do I Have (and What Am I Missing)?

You need to know which Portrait model you have- the comparison here should help you.

Uh... Software?

So I actually had the software CD that came with my sister's machine- but because I figured it would be outdated, I decided to go straight to Silhouette's website, knowing they would have the latest software available (and probably for free). Turns out I was right, and you can find the latest Silhouette software here for free download on a Mac or PC.

What is This Thing?

I got familiar with my Silhouette by sifting through tons of videos (that's just the way I like to learn. The best one I found was this one.

How Do I Use This?

Silhouette's handbook is a great resource. It's free, continuously updated, and super user-friendly. Skip ahead to page 15 to learn all about the Portrait, or check out page 25 for a Quick Start Guide to make your first cut a breeze!

What Else Will I Need?

This depends on what you're going to be using your machine for. Since I wanted to use mine to play with permanent and heat-transfer vinyls, I hunted down the best deals for everything I would need.

Silhouette makes a 'Tool Kit'/'Accessory Pack' that was 25% off at Michael's a few weeks ago. Given Michael's 20% coupons that are accessible every day, you're always guaranteed a good deal. It includes quite a few things- but personally, I've needed the little hook tool and the scraper tool for every project. Those are mandatory. This is also where I bought a replacement cutting mat so that I would have a backup after I cut the one I have apart trying to figure out how to use the machine. While you're at it, pick up a heavy-duty blade replacement for when you need that, too. The heavy-duty one cuts 3x longer than a regular one, which means 3x less replacements.

Siser EasyWeed Heat-Transfer Vinyl is the holy grail of heat-transfer vinyl. The stretchy kind, I've heard, just melts into fabrics and looks and feels just like a part of the shirt it's on. So I hunted down a roll on Amazon and I've yet to test it out.

If you're hoping to work more with permanent vinyl (think "sticker paper"), Oracal is one of the brands to beat, and Amazon does great with their prices there, too. Grab a few rolls. With permanent vinyl, you'll need to purchase a roll of Transfer Tape- it keeps your designs in the right place when you transfer them onto literally anything. I found a great kind on Amazon that's reusable, has grids for alignment, and leaves no residue behind. It's the perfect tack, too. Not too sticky, but not too plain. It's perfect and has over 13,000 reviews and almost 5-stars.

Got more questions? I'll walk you through the whole process of making your first project- just let me know if it's a topic you're interested in by commenting below or shooting me an email!

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