Planner Friday: Behind the Curtain

planner friday

When I started making planner stickers, I cut them out by hand and then peeled them off the sheet one by one.  I realized pretty quickly that making my customers do that was deeply annoying and way less professional than most of the other Etsy shops.  There was only one cure:  I needed a Silhouette Cameo.

The Cameo is one of a line of cutting machines – they don’t just make stickers, but can emboss, etch, draw, and cut through a variety of materials from cardstock to vinyl and fabric. For the average sticker maker they’re a bit on the “hell no, do you see how much that thing COSTS?” but if you run a sticker shop it’s soooooo worth it.

I thought I’d give you a peek at how the whole thing works.  It’s kind of a mysterious process to a  lot of people – how does the machine work?  How does it know what to cut?

Basically, it goes like this:

  1. Design your sticker in whatever graphics program you like.
  2. Import the design to the Cameo’s software.
  3. Create a print-and-cut file.
  4. Print and cut.

Here’s a slightly closer look, in pictures.  Click on each to see larger (and read the notes I added; they may or may not be big enough on your screen.)

cameo demo 1 copy

If you’re just cutting a shape out of colored cardstock, for example, you can just cut it without having to print anything.  You download the image from Silhouette (or any svg file), send it to the machine, and it does its thing.  In my case, I use the print-and-cut feature.  After importing the image into your library or dragging it in from elsewhere, you position and size it.

cameo demo 2 copy

The grid lines and red outside line don’t print; just your images and the registration marks.  Then, you feed the sheet into the machine, and its sensor reads the marks to orient itself so it will cut in the right places instead of, say, an inch too far to the left.

Once you add the sticker to the sheet, you can resize it, turn it, and then duplicate it all over the page if you like.

cameo demo 3 copy

The next step is paramount:  The machine will not automatically sense the edges of your stickers. You have to give it a cut line to go by.  There are several ways to create them: you can use regular shapes like rectangles and circles (as I do in this case); you can tell the software to trace around an irregular shape for you; or you an actually draw around the shape by hand.

cameo demo 4 copy

cameo demo 5 copy

When I first started using the Cameo I used boxes around each sticker and was happy if everything cut out.  Now that I know (better) what I’m doing, I’m trying to cut down on the amount of work and number of cuts the machine has to make.  That makes it more efficient, so it takes less time and creates less wear on the blade.  The blades do have be replaced periodically, as do the mats you stick your sticker sheets to to feed into the machine.

cameo demo 6 copy

As I said, there are several ways to create cut lines.  I use this one a lot – the trace function.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a godsend when you make stickers that aren’t all square.

cameo demo 8 copy

This is what my sticker sheets look like before they’re printed and cut.  The blue line won’t print or cut, because I told it not to; you can select different colors of lines to cut together or not at all.  I use the blue line to create 4×6″ sheets for my shop (so that everything will fit in the sticker albums I sell).  The only thing I don’t like about the system is the paper I waste; nothing can cut outside the red line, but sometimes I fill the space with stuff for myself that I don’t mind cutting out by hand later.  I also take those empty strips and use them for address labels.  I’ve tried making the area wider, but it screws with the sensor’s ability to read the registration marks, and that’s frustrating enough already (the sensor requires bright light to get an accurate read, so if it’s not bright enough in the room you’ll see me holding a lamp right over the machine and cursing at the damn thing to do its job).

cameo demo 9 copy

Making themes, whether for myself or for the shop, uses the space more efficiently.  I’ve learned how to fit things into one big rectangle if I can and then draw a grid of cut lines inside it.  You do have to be careful not to have dark colors too close to the registration marks; it gets all confused and freaks out.

cameo demo 10 copy

And here you have my Valentine’s week theme – Self-Love, including images from my wedding several years ago.  For the most part Valentine’s can kiss my single ass, but I figured since I love the colors, I could come at it from a direction I can agree with rather than Happy Compulsory Heteronormative Monogamy Day.

Obviously this wasn’t meant to be a full on tutorial, just a look at how the magic sort of happens.  I’m a tiny operation, so my methods are way less professional than a lot of the really big shops (I only have one machine, for example).  But I’m still playing with it, and my next step is to try and get more images onto a sheet whenever possible – I started out selling a specific number, but once I switched to 4×6″ sheets I realized just selling 20 of a sticker was a huge waste of space.  It’s an ever-evolving process.

I’ll post images of how the V-Day theme looks on my actual printer pages next week sometime; you can also see them if you follow my Instagram.


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