When you start using a Silhouette machine, it’s easy to get confused with all the terms. This post will help you understand the terms regarding the names of the software, specifically the Silhouette Studio levels, types and versions.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
Things to Know
The same software, Silhouette Studio, runs all the cutting machines. It doesn’t matter if you have the very first Original Silhouette machine or the latest Cameo 4 or the Curio or the Portrait — they all use the same program. Here’s the beauty of that — if you get a newer machine, you don’t have to learn a new software. You may need to update your software, but you will usually only notice a few changes. There are different software types for the non-cutting machines which I’ll explain below.
Speaking of updates, the term “update” can be confusing. Many people use the terms “update” and “upgrade” interchangeably, but they are actually very different. Let’s think in terms of travelling on an airplane.
Updates to Silhouette Studio
Way back in the dark ages when I first started flying, planes didn’t have any type of entertainment system. Then airlines started adding a screen to show a movie to the entire cabin. Now planes have small screens at each seat where you can select from a variety of movies and games, or even connect on your own device like a tablet or smart phone. The airline replaces broken seats and updates worn or out-of-date fabric. All those are standard updates to the plane — adding new offerings, updating old equipment, fixing broken parts. Every passenger reaps the benefits of those without specifically paying for it since they are standard updates and repairs.
That is what happens with updates to the Silhouette Studio software. New things are added and bugs are repaired. Updates are always free for all users and are the same for all levels of the software. The updates are always recommended and sometimes required. For example, in order to use the new Cameo 4, you would need to use a version of the software released after the introduction of that machine.
Some folks don’t like to update because they get used to using what they have and don’t like to change. Or they hear horror stories of bugs in the software with the release of a new update. This is common in the world of any computer software program. It’s fine to wait a bit to update if you like. You obviously don’t want to do it right when you have a big deadline looming and need your machine. Just be aware that after a long time (typically several years), older versions of the software become unstable and are no longer supported.
To learn more about how to update your software, see this post.
Upgrades in Silhouette Studio
Once while flying back from Europe my husband and I got bumped up to First Class. Can you imagine — all the perks of First Class on a Trans-Atlantic flight? We had the cool seats that become beds, better meals, a little travel kit, very personalized service, shorter bathroom lines. It was amazing! Typically, you have to pay for all those extra features. Since my husband travels frequently for his job and has high level status on that airline, we didn’t have to pay but got upgraded to First Class.
Did you see the wording? Upgraded. This is what upgrades are like in the Silhouette Studio software. You get extra features by paying for them. Not everyone will have a need/desire for the features so only those who do pay for them. To upgrade, you pay a one-time fee and then input a special code number unique to you to add the extras. Software upgrades these days are all a digital download. That gives you instant access and you don’t pay for shipping.
Any higher level of the software will include all the features of lower levels. If you have a paid for an upgrade, then you can move up to the next level by just paying the difference. For example, if you have Designer and want to move up to Designer Plus, you don’t have to pay the full price for the latter. You just pay the difference in the prices by purchasing the Designer to Designer Plus license key.
To learn how to upgrade your software, see this post. For a 10% discount on software upgrades, click the Silhouette Elite button on this page (right column on a computer, bottom of the page on a mobile device). Sign into your account and use the code 10OFF.
Silhouette Studio levels bottom to top
Basic (Standard) Edition
This is the starting spot. It’s the free software that anyone can download from the Silhouette America website, even if they don’t own a machine. You can download this before purchasing a machine or while waiting for it to arrive so that you familiarize yourself with it. You can purchase an upgrade right away, or stay on this level until you decide you want one of the other features, or stay on this level forever. It won’t make a difference in how the machine runs.
To learn how to download and install the Basic Edition, see this post.
Designer Edition (DE)
retail price $49.99*
Designer Edition adds extra designing capabilities. This is worth the price for pretty much any user. The extra features are–
- Open SVG and PDF file types
- Convert any image to a sketch or rhinestone design and adjust the look
- Advanced knife and eraser tools
- Shear tool (to slant text or designs)
- Rulers and guidelines
- Eyedropper tool to transfer all fill and line properties from one shape to another, or font attributes from one text box to another
- Pivot point is adjustable so that you can have an image rotate on a point other than the center of the design
- Add your own patterns from external sources to the Pattern Fill window
- Shadow tool
- Trace by color and magnet trace
- Glyph support for fonts with fancy extras options — you can see and choose the options right in the software rather than having to work through a character map
- Ability to sort fonts purchased from the Silhouette Design Store into categories
- Basic warp for shapes
- Warp templates
- Advanced pop-up creator options (standard edition has basic options)
- Nesting (to fit images within the smallest area for best use of material)
- Lasso tool for selecting shapes
Designer Plus (DE+
retail price $74.99*, Designer to Designer Plus $25*
This level of the software adds a few specialized features–
- Open PES, DST, EXP, JEF, XXX file types (best use is in using the placement stitch of applique embroidery files as a cut line, or using embroidery lines as sketch lines)
- Puzzle generator
- Create custom rhinestone shapes
- View rhinestone designs with realistic looking stones
- Combine multiple rhinestone shapes and colors
- Adjust spacing and orientation of rhinestones
- Advanced Warp options (conical, perspective)
Business Edition (BE)
retail price $99.99*, Designer to Business $50*, Designer Plus to Business $25*
Business Edition does not add any design features, but rather time-saving features for someone running a business using their machine. Any thing you can do in BE you can do in Designer Plus. It just takes longer because it is not automated. Features include–
- Run multiple machines at the same time
- Open Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and EPS files directly
- Save files as SVG, PDF, PNG or JPG instead of just .studio3, as long as the file does not contain any elements from the Silhouette Design Store (to protect copyright for the artists)
- Font Creator to make your own fonts, either from a scanned page or created within the software
- Advanced Nesting
- Barcode option for print and cut on Cameo 3 and 4 only (allows you to print many pages at the same time with the barcode and then cut the project without needing to open the file)
- Multiple undo/redo (undo or redo a number of actions at the same time rather than one at a time)
- Auto-generated weed lines
- Tiling (to take a large design and break it apart into pieces that will fit your machine without altering the original design)
- Matrix copy (cut multiple copies of the same design on the material without moving/replicating the original design)
- Media Layout View (incorporating matrix copy, tiling, weed lines, etc.). In Media Layout View, you can see how your design would cut on your defined media without changing the original design. You see both the original design and the media layout at the same time.
- Toggle between different software levels (useful for teaching)
Other software you may see on the website or other places
Beta and Legacy Versions
Beta versions are software releases that are still in testing phase. You may download and test these if desired. If you do, then it’s helpful to pass along your impressions to Silhouette America.
Legacy versions are older releases of the Silhouette Studio software. Occasionally, the newest updates of the software may not be compatible with your computer and you may need to run a lower version.
You may sometimes be directed to use a Beta or Legacy version by Silhouette’s Customer Support department to assist with specific issues you have running the software on your computer.
This is the software for use with the Silhouette Alta 3D printer.
This is the software used to run the Mint machine, which makes custom stamps. It is similar to Silhouette Studio so is not difficult to learn for one who is already familiar with the software.
Silhouette Go is the app for smart phones and tablets. Look for it in the app store for your device. It is not the full software. You can cut from it, but cannot design in it. I’ve got a full posts on it here and here.
This software can be used with Cameo, Portrait or Curio machines. It helps you create a 3d image and then turn it into a flat shape. The flat shape is printed on your home printer (optional), cut with the machine and then glued together to form the 3d shape. You can download the software for free to try it out, but to save, export or open files you must purchase a license key. If you do not input a license key, then after 15 minutes the changes are discarded and the software restarts.
This is not actually a software but is rather a plug-in for those who already use Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. The price does NOT include Ai or CDr. Silhouette Connect is used to cut directly from those programs rather than saving and cutting as an SVG in DE or DE+ or using Business Edition to open an Ai or CDr file directly. It acts as a translator between those programs and the machine, with the program seeing it like a printer.
And there you have it — all the info you need on Silhouette Studio levels, types and versions.
*To get a 10% discount, look for the Silhouette Elite button on this page (right column on a computer, bottom of the page on a mobile device). Click that link and use the coupon code 10OFF. You will have to be signed in to your account in order to see the place to enter a coupon code in the cart.
Sooooo, you want me to purchase a membership BEFORE you show me that you can answer my question.
Ya, that’s gonna happen!!!
Cindy Eckhoff says
Thank you for your comment. This website is my business. People who write tutorials such as this on blogs typically make money in 2 ways — 1) advertisements and 2) affiliate links. You’ll notice that here on my site you aren’t constantly scrolling past pop-up ads. That’s by design because most people find that very annoying. Instead, I have memberships for those people who want information without all the ads. I do also use affiliate links, but they don’t overpower the site. If you’d like to see an example of my tutorials, check out the “About” page where I have links to sample lessons without a membership. I hope this helps explain why I charge for my content.