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Silhouette SD Digital Cutting System

{Reported by Bethany Kartchner}

I must admit, I never wanted a die-cut machine or any type of digital cutting machine. I found them fun to experiment with at LSS crops, but I never wanted to take one home. Their expense is a major road-block as has the fact that I would have to purchase oodles of images that I didn't really want just to get a few that I like. I was totally happy cutting out images that I wanted to use and never felt like I was missing a thing. When I was told that I'd be reviewing the Silhouette SD, I was neutral in my reaction. According to Silhouette America, the Silhouette SD "is a digital cutting tool for personal use. It connects to your computer just like a printer, but instead of printing designs it cuts them with a small blade. With the machine connected to your computer, you'll get access to all of the fonts on your PC plus the thousands of cuttable designs found on the Silhouette Online Store."

Before I received the Silhouette SD, the first thing I did was a little research on the Silhouette website. One of my stops was the What Can It Make? section. When I saw all the awesome things that the Silhouette SD could do, my heart started thumping wildly...Glass etching? I've always wanted to try that! Vinyl wall decor? I've been meaning to get a few flourishes to place about that framed print. Cutting paper? I've so wanted to make a bunch of dimensional flowers. Heat transfers for tee-shirts? How cool is that? I'll make some cute tops for the girls. Oh and my boys too, of course. Rhinestones? Holy Moly! I can do rhinestones?

That was the moment that I called my momma and my best friend, and my sisters...

Yet, despite my heart's excitement, my mind was still a bit reserved. Yes, according to the website, this machine can do everything except make dinner, but would it really work? Would doing all these things be majorly difficult? Would it actually measure up to my expectations? Would it be hard to install?

Finally, I picked up my box. (I had to wait an entire 24 hours. It was really tough, but I made it through.) In the box was the Silhouette SD, a USB cable, an AC Adaptor, a power cable, a $25.00 gift card for purchasing digital images in the Silhouette store, a cutting mat (for thin media), a blade and all the blade caps and 50 images. I was also given a Rhinestone Starter Kit that included everything I needed to do at least 3 major rhinestone projects as well as a few rolls of vinyl and transfer tape.

Initially, I tried to install the Silhouette SD onto my super-duper-mega-computer with Windows 7. It didn't work. Reluctantly, I moved over to my older computer with Windows XP and it installed properly. I emailed and called Silhouette asking them if there was a way to install on Windows 7, but they didn't respond. Bummer. However, after my initial installation disappointment, I got the Silhouette SD up and running within about an hour.

Next, I religiously read the fantastic Silhouette tutorial online that covers just about everything you'll need to know about this machine. If you purchase a Silhouette, I highly suggest becoming Silhouette Certified. I also suggest that you start following the Silhouette blog because each week they offer a free image along with loads of inspiration.

Once, I felt confident that I wouldn't totally screw something up, I made my first cuts. Holy Moly. That is when I fell head-over-heels-in-love with this machine. Since I only had the thin-media mat, I could only cut stuff like vinyl and copier paper. At first I was annoyed that I couldn't do cardstock. (I tried to cheat and cut cardstock with the thin-media mat with terrible results. No cheating people.) However, once I cut a few sheets of basic white copier paper, I saw how beautiful it could be and my annoyance melted like a summer popsicle in Arizona.

If you'd like to see first-hand how cool this machine is, just watch this video.

What I Liked:
1. The amazingly intricate images that are available. They are absolutely stunning and there are enough that you'll find something that will fit your style. Each image is sold separately for only $.99. No cartridges to buy. Everything is stored on your computer. Plus, if your system crashes, Silhouette has a back-up copy of all of your images that you can simply download once your system is back online. Also, Silhouette offers a subscription plan for all of you high-download image users. I think that this is a pretty cool idea.
2. How easy it is to use this machine. It is easy to put in the blade, load the paper, manipulate images and cut!
3. The range of projects that you can do with the Silhouette. It does vinyl, heat transfers (I wasn't able to review this, sorry!), rhinestones, paper, cardstock. The possibilities are really endless!

What I Didn't Like:
1. I wish the Silhouette SD was compatible with my Windows 7. I know MAC users would probably love some MAC software. Right now, it is only somewhat compatible with MACs.
2. I really really wish that the maximum width was bigger. (It is 9 inches.) I'd love to do some 12x12 stuff. Or some bigger vinyl wall decor. (By the way, the length is up to 39 inches.) I'd also love to be able to cut stuff like grungeboard and chipboard. Once I got my thick-media mat, I tried to cut some ultra thick cardstock with some success, but it was obvious that I couldn't cut anything thicker unless I had a bigger blade.
3. I don't like the fact that I have to buy new mats. (The adhesive on the mats will eventually wear out.) I'd like Silhouette America to come out with some adhesive that you can apply when your mat gets too tired. I don't know how long the mats (or the blades) will last. I'm guessing based on my limited experience and the state of my mat after a few cuts that the thin-media mat will last me about 10 cuts. I could be totally wrong, however. Since both are somewhat expensive, I'm hoping that they last a long time. Perhaps a more experienced Silhouette user could leave a comment with the answer?

What I Made: I broke this section of my review down into media-type.
Paper Cutting

It is absolutely amazing how beautiful the images are. I'm totally in shock people. I used copier paper for all of my cuts on my projects. In order to dazzle up the cut copier paper, I spritzed it with Shimmerz Vibez and paints. Gorgeous. No need to buy any more flowers and leaves! I can make my own now!

Materials: Copier paper, Silhouette SD flower image and flourish, SRM sticker, lace and plastic heart "ribbon," Judikins stamp, StazOn ink, Shimmerz Vibez, Shimmerz Blingz, Fashion Jewel, muslin, black cardstock

On my layout, I used my cut images to make embellishment clusters. The flowers are crepe paper. My daughter is horrified that I'm publishing these pictures, by the way. Sometimes it stinks to have a public mother. (giggle)

Materials: copier paper; Silhouette SD tree, lace, leaves, bird images; Melissa Frances tinsel; plastic heart ribbon; ric-rack; Shimmerz paints and Spritz; ribbon; Bazzil cardstock; crepe paper; My Mind's Eye pattern paper; Gesso, machine and thread; Maya Road pin and flowers

The dress form on this mini-art quilt is copier paper cut with the Silhouette then doused with Shimmerz Vibez and sewn onto muslin.

Materials: Silhouette SD dress form image; muslin, Judikins stamp; StazOn ink; Shimmerz Vibez, and Spritz

Glass Etching

I've never etched glass before so I was a little nervous about this project, but it turned out beautifully! And on the very first try! I just followed the directions on the Silhouette site and made this project using a votive holder that was just chilling out at my house.

Vinyl Decor

I'd been wanting to get a few vinyl wall art, but hadn't quite gotten around to it. You can just imagine my excitement when I learned that the Silhouette SD I could cut vinyl! It was really easy to do and application was easy because of the transfer tape that Silhouette sells. I would highly recommend the transfer tape if you will be cutting large vinyl wall decor. It made the wall application so easy. On small stuff, you won't need the transfer tape.


Doing the rhinestones was probably my favorite project. My girls loved it too. There are simpler rhinestone patterns available on the Silhouette site, but this butterfly captured my heart. It was slightly tedious placing all the rhinestones, but since I'm a big fan of tedious work, I enjoyed it. The results are more than worth it anyway. After I finished this project, I ordered a bunch of plain shirts and rhinestones so I could make tee-shirts for all my favorite people. (FYI: My youngest daughter hasn't taken off her sparkly butterfly shirt for 2 days. She even slept in it. I love it!)

Where and How Much:
Product Name: Silhouette SD Digital Cutting System
Manufacturer: Silhouette America
MSRP: $299.00

Available at:;;;

In conclusion, I'm totally loving this machine. Now that I have it, I can't imagine living without it. (Kinda like getting a cell phone for the first time, huh?) It has totally changed the way I scrap and how I look at my projects. I feel like the paper world is at my fingertips now. I've already ordered the heat-transfer tape, more rhinestone tape, more rhinestones and...

What do YOU think? Do you have a digital cutting system? Have you worked with the Silhouette SD? I'd love to hear of your experiences! Also, what do you think of having videos to demonstrate the products? Was it helpful? Should we continue making videos?


Shelley Haganman said...

Great,great review Bethany! I really appreciated the video tutorial!! I think this is something I would just love!! Especially if you can use fonts from your own stash!!!

kmassman said...

I don't have a digital cutting system nor have I tried one. I think it would be pretty cool, but the cost keeps me away!

rebecca_geile said...

Love the video. I have a cricut, which I love because I can do 12 x 12 cuts, but it looks like the silhouette can do more intricate cuts with more variety since it hooks to your computer. Thanks for the review.

PamS said...

I am like how you were...I can cut what I need out. Then I bought into the QuickKutz system but only because of the price of the electronic systems. Now I realize that I t would have been lots cheaper to go electronic. I feel now that I have so much invested into the dies of QuicKutz that I can't change to electronic. I do think that storage would also be a plus to go electronic.

Diana said...

Hi Bethany, I have the original Silhouette and I love it too!!!

I need to play with it a bit more and experiment more with vinyl and try etching and so on.

But I did want to say it is possible to load it on to Windows 7. I am sorry to hear that Silhouette help did not get back to you, but they were very prompt and patient with responding to my requests for assistance with W7.

Basically I downloaded the software for the Vista version online and had to do a bit of tweeking when installing it as a printer. (I had to install it as a USB printer). If you are interested in having the instructions, I can forward them to you!

Sue McRae said...

I have heard great things about the Silhouette and have always been on the fence about it but your review on it has made me want to buy it! I really appreciated all the tidbits of info you discovered and shared, thanks so much!

Savannah O'Gwynn said...

I have a does alright...I have wanted a Silhouette...but I can't afford both! I would love to win one...but I also am afraid of using things that I have no clue how to use. I don't use my cricut because there are so many things I could do but don't have a clue on how to do

THANKS for the review;)

Steff said...

I, too, have the original Silhouette and love it! I am using Windows 7 and my wonderful husband got it to work perfectly. I have had it for just over a year with what I would call moderate use and just had to purchase a new blade and mat. My old mat is still sticky enough that I still use it. I purchased the new thick media mat and find that it's actually too sticky!
I do find it somewhat tricky to determine what cap to use. I usually leave the pink one on all the time and just adjust the depth of cut when I set the controller. When the blade is sharp, this machine is incredible. The intricacy of the cuts is amazing! Replace the blade sooner rather than later. I find the blades to be very expensive to replace. And given how often you should replace it, I wish there was a discount for multiples. Love the variety of downloads from the site and the new low price is icing on the cake! And they do a freebie download each week!
I do sometimes wish I could cut to a 12x12, but those times are rare. I haven't tried the etching or rhinestones. Overall, very happy!

marla said...

I own the Slice die-cutting machine. I have been tempted by the Silhouette but not sure that I want this one. Seems to complicated. I love the videos. I am wanting the new ecraft machine.

Anonymous said...

I have only a Slice which fits into my small studio space easily. I think I would find a space for this if it were totally Mac compatible. But until it is, I don't have any interest in it.

kgscrapper said...

I have a Cricut, the original one. I love it. I often wonder if I choose the "right" system for me. So far I think I did. I like that I don't HAVE to connect it to my computer to use it. With the addition of Design Studio I CAN use my computer if I choose. I also have SCAL so I can cut "non-cricut" stuff with my Cricut also.

I LOVE the videos...keep 'em coming!!choice for me.

Donna E. said...

wow love your review... been thinking of buying a digital cutting machine and i'm still contemplating which one to get. thanks for this really helpful! :)

GrannyCharlotte said...

I have the older model of the silhouette. It is a very nice piece of equipment, but like you, I prefer the wider pages for scrapbooking. I don't use the silhouette as much as I do my Cricut Expression. I saw an article on using Stick and Spray from to use the mats longer. The Q&A part of support suggested that most Windows 7 computers are 64 bit and gave a list of manually installing the drivers. Did you find that are on the web site when you were trying to install? Thanks for sharing your testing of the Silhouette with us. I am enjoying this site very much.

Majic Scrapbooker said...

I bought my Silhouette at Christmas (it's actually the Craft Robo which is exactly the same machine). I was able to download the Silhouette software free so I have access to the online shop, etc. I had a problem accessing the shop, and I also had a problem with the My Library bit of the software. Both times I received replies to my emails within 24 hours with solutions. I was very impressed with their customer service. I love my Silhouette and now I've started using it, I'm trying to come up with excuses to use it all the time, lol! I haven't tried anything complicated yet, but for the basics like cutting a sheet of butterflies, for example, I've found it pretty easy and intuitive.

Gabi said...

I have a Gypsy (that I won in a online chat), and I have the original Cricut, and I love them both. I didn't really have a desire to buy the Gypsy, but I won it in a contest, like you said earlier I don't know how I lived without it. I love my die-cutting machine. It does the trick every time. I know that Oh My Crafts sells a spray on adhesive that makes the Cricut mats last for a little while longer. I've heard good things about it, but I've never tried it myself. I wonder if something like this might work for your cutting mats in the future.

Have I told you yet that I love my Cricut? It was a Christmas gift from my parents, and they bought for a very reasonable price on Black Friday a whopping $65! Plus I always buy my carts on Ebay for cheap, cheap or I get them on Black Friday or at places like Big Lots and online scrap forums like Two Peas For Sale/Trade areas. These are the best places to find new and gently used carts for cheap!

I eventually will delve out in to the SCAL area, but I'm still learning about my Cricut and all the cool things I can make with it.

If you need some insight and ideas about what to make with your Cricut machine there are several blogs dedicated to the art of the Cricut!

Thanks for the super review and great video!

-Gabi from Savannah, TX

Anne Thompson said...

Great review. I do not have a product like this. I have been reluctant to spend that much money. Anne, yourmainestamper

Stephanie Zito said...

I have the original Silhouette (the 1st one they came out with) and LOVE it! Mine came with the original mat for cutting thicker projects and was unaware that they have a mat for thin projects. I recently purchased a new computer with Windows 7 and uploaded the compatible driver from the Silhouette website and haven't had any problems. I also signed up for a special that I pay only $14.99 per month and get unlimited downloads which is a fantastic deal because they release new images every week! Silhouette runs these specials frequently. I do agree that I wish it would cut 12 x 12 but I love everything I have created so far with it. My favourite would have to be using the fonts from my computer for my layout titles and you can use your Silhouette to weld your letters together. I already have all of the digital die cutting machines, cricut expression, slice, etc. but probably use my Silhouette the most. Thanks for your video and inspiring projects!

Natalie said...

I had no idea that the Silhouette could do so many things. This was a very informative review... very thorough and honest. Thanks!

Lisa Cutler said...

This was very timely as I have the SD machine. As previously stated, it can be used with Win 7 no problem, You just had to go to their website for FAQs and search on Win 7. Step by step directions are right there.

Also, can't believe that their customer service didn't provide you with excellent c/s. They are normally OUTSTANDING - I get a response usually within an hour of sending an email, many times by phone.

There is a yahoo group for silhouette (search on silhouetteusers) and that is an UNBELIEVABLE resource - they know so much and are so patient even with the most newbie of newbies.

Mary F said...

I know I'm serveral days late anwering this-I got my Sil for my birthday last summer-I had never really thought I'd use it but esp for cutting multiples etc-it has MORE than paid for itself-I've used the vinyl for everything from taging my cube drawers in my scrapbook room for finding things easily-to signs to wording for wall art-I'm just about to starting playing around with the rhinestone kit.

I am still using the mat that came with the machine-what I do is use "sticky dots" dotto by Herma repositionable-I just put some on the back side edges of the paper I'll be using and if it's really thin a small line in the middle of the paper-I can rub the dots off the back when I'm done if needed and it works like a breeze-For those worried about price I've seen it on some places such as on their deal of the day for less than $200-you just have to shop around :-) I'm loving all the new designers they've added too!

Robbie said...

I'm way behind on leaving a comment for this, but I wanted to tell everyone which adhesive that I use. You can re-spray your mats to make them sticky again. Just use the Krylon Re-positionable Adhesive that you can find at any craft store. Spray your mats and wait about 20 minutes then you're good to go. Make SURE that you buy the re-positionable because if it is the permanent, it will ruin your mat. Yes, I speak from experience! lol I have a Wishblade not a Silhouette but they are the same basic machine.