You’ve got your free shapes in your library and you’ve learned how to get around in the Silhouette Studio software. Let’s learn how you put those images on the page and start working with them. (If you need to start with Lesson 1 of the Software Basics series, go here). I’ll show you how to add a shape to the page, move it, resize it, rotate it, fill it with color and more.
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Step 1 — Start a new file
We want to start with a clean page. I find it easiest to start with a full 12×12 page, as it makes it easiest to design that way. I’ll remind you to check that before we send any projects to the machine in case you’re cutting with material of a different size. If you don’t remember how to start a new file and set the page size, see this lesson.
Step 2 — Open your library
Click on the library tab on the upper right to get into your library of images. Navigate to the Local User>Library>Recent Downloads folder. That’s where you’ll find those free shapes you got with your machine. If you haven’t done that yet, see this post.
Step 3 — Find a simple shape
Unless you’ve changed it, the images will be in alphabetical order. We want to start with a simple, solid shape. The shapes are different depending on which machine you have, so you may need to choose a different one. But here are some suggestions–
Start with the shape called “Whale.”
Find the one called “Butterfly.”
If you don’t have a Cameo 3 or 4, look for one that is a single, solid piece — no internal pieces. Hint: if it’s all 1 color, it probably fits the bill.
Step 4 — Add the shape to the page
Now that you see the shape, hover your mouse over it and double click on it quickly. That’s all it takes to put that shape onto your project page. You should now be back in your design area with the butterfly on the page.
If by any chance the double click isn’t working (sometimes it’s finicky), you can right click on the butterfly and choose Merge ‘butterfly’.
Step 5 — Examine the shape
If you have this same butterfly, you’ll notice it’s has a colored fill when it’s on your drawing area, just like in your library. This isn’t always going to be the case. Newer designs from the Silhouette Design Store will usually have that fill, but often the older shapes will come in with just a red line around the outside and no fill color. Here’s how the whale shape looks when it’s added to the page–
Notice that the butterfly has that red line also. The red line represents the cut line. It shows you the outer edge of the shape so you can see exactly how it will cut. Because you can cut it out of whatever you want, it won’t always be filled with a color. As we progress through the lessons, this will become harder. But for now we’re just starting with something really simple.
Step 6 — Change the color
I ALWAYS recommend having your shapes filled with color or pattern. It helps you organize them, visualize how they will cut, and it makes them easier to grab. Since not all the free shapes are filled, I’ll show you right away how to fill a shape with a color. It just makes life easier.
There are several ways to fill a shape with color. For now, look for the icon at the top of the screen that looks like 2 white squares surrounded by a dotted-line square. That’s “Select All.” When you click that, it will select every image on the page. Since there’s just 1 there, this’ll work. You’ll know the image is selected because you’ll see a box around it. We’ll talk about that more in the next step.
Where to pick a color
Since we just want to work simply, we’re going to pick a color the easiest way. Look in the upper left of your software to the Quick Access Toolbar.
The very first thing in that toolbar is the color fill. We’ll talk later about how to fill the color a different way, but for right now we’ll do it here. Make sure you’re looking at the first one and not the second one. That second one is for line color, which we’ll examine later.
If your shape is selected and already filled with a color, you’ll see that color here. My butterfly is selected, so see my green? If not, you will probably see what looks like a chain-link fence. That’s the symbol for “no” – no color, no printing, etc. Click the arrow next to the color or the gray hash marks. That opens up a drop down box that shows some generic colors.
Click on any one of those colors and your selected shape will fill with that color. I’m going to pick pink. Test a few out. If your shape doesn’t change color, that means it’s not selected. You have to select the shape to tell the software which shape it is you want to choose a color for. If you don’t, you’re doing something different that we’ll talk about when we start drawing our own shapes.
Step 7 — Move the shape around
Now that everyone’s shapes are filled with color, we can learn to move them around. Click off of the shape, somewhere in the area off the mat. Then start moving your mouse toward the shape. Notice that the cursor changes from an arrow to a hand when you get close. That hand is telling you that you are close enough to grab the shape. When you click now, the shape is selected.
Once a shape is selected, you can click outside of it to deselect it. Or, you can use the icon at the top of the screen. Remember how we did Select All? Once you do that, the icon just to the right of it becomes active. It looks like an “x” surrounded by the dotted-line square. That’s Deselect All. Play with that a bit. End with the shape deselected.
Put your cursor over the shape, so that it’s a hand. Then click and drag your mouse. That’s how you can select the the shape and move it. Move it all around the page.
Why we filled the shapes
Now let me show you why I recommend always working with filled shapes. Select your image and go back to that color fill in the Quick Access Toolbar. This time, choose that gray hash marked spot so that your shape isn’t filled with color. We need it to be clear, not white.
Now click off the shape and try to select it again by clicking right in the middle. Not so easy, huh? On a filled shape, you can click anywhere on the shape to grab it. On an unfilled shape, you have to get right on the line of the shape.
Move your mouse until that cursor becomes a hand again. That tells you you’re close enough to select. You have to get the finger of the hand right on the shape you want.
It’s pretty easy now, when we only have 1 shape on the page. But when you have multiple shapes on the page and their lines are close to one another, it can be much harder to get the one you want. Practice trying to grab and move the shape now.
Enough of that mess. Fill it with a color again so it’s easier.
Later, I’ll show you how to move the image by a specific amount or to a specific location (oooh, foreshadowing).
Step 8 — Resize the shape with boxes
Select your shape again and look at that box around it again. That’s the bounding box.
Let’s look at all the elements of the bounding box–
The lines show you the outer edge of the shape. Pretend the shape is glued to a sheet of paper and the lines are the edges of the paper.
The numbers on the left side and on the bottom are the dimensions (size) of the shape.
There’s a green circle at (usually) the top. That’s for rotating the shape. Move your mouse over the green dot and your cursor changes to a circling arrow. That tells you you’re able to rotate. Click and drag your mouse now to spin the shape around, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Later, I’ll show you how to rotate by specific amounts or to specific angles instead of freehanding it. Once you’ve played with it, use your undo button to get back to level again.
There are little white boxes at all corners and in the middle of each side. Those allow you to change the size of your shape. Hover your mouse over one of those and the cursor changes to a line with arrows shooting out.
If you click and drag a corner box, you change both the width and height at the same time proportionally. This is what you’ll normally want to do so your shape doesn’t get distorted.
If you click and drag the white box on the top or bottom line, you’ll make the shape taller or shorter without changing the width.
Conversely, if you click and drag the white box on one of the sides, you’ll change the width of the shape while leaving the height the same.
Play with all those. You can always use your Undo button to get back to normal.
Step 9 — Resize the shape with the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)
Using those corner and side boxes is a great way to change the size of your shape quickly. But what if you want it to be an exact size? One way to do that is in the QAT — Quick Access Toolbar.
When a shape is selected, its dimensions will show in the QAT. The section shows the scale icon, the width, the height and a lock.
Let’s look at that last one first.
If you want to set the height to a certain size and keep the width proportional, you want that lock closed. That’s called Lock Aspect Ratio, which is a fancy way of saying don’t distort the shape. Click the lock to open and close it. Then input a number in either the height or width and see how the lock aspect ratio affects it. Play around with this until you are comfortable.
Notice that there’s a little arrow in the corner by the scale icon in this section. Arrows like that always indicate there’s more to see. Hover over or click on the arrow and you’ll see some set numbers for resizing the shape – 33%, 50%, 100% (always grayed out, so kinda useless), 200% and 300%. Clicking one of those resizes the shape by that percentage. That’s easy to understand, so play with it a bit.
Step 10 — Resize the shape with the Scale feature
There’s one more way to resize your shape to a specific dimension. The QAT is just that – a quick way of doing things. The Scale feature in the Transform panel gives you a few more option.
Click the Transform icon on the right to open the panel, then click the second tab to get into the Scale options.
First, you’ll notice those same percentages. But you now have the option to choose a percentage other than those defaults. You can set that by moving the slider bar, using the arrows, or putting in a specific amount. Experiment with all 3.
Below you’ll see the option to specify the dimensions. This looks a lot the same as in the QAT, but you have the addition of the slider bar and arrow keys to change the size. Play with that some.
Once you gain experience, you’ll find the method you like best.
Step 10 — Add a grouped design to the page
Let’s add something else to the page. Go back to your library and look for the shape called “Eat” for a Cameo 4 or “Arrows” for a Cameo 3 (it’s the set of 3 red ones).
If you’re on a different machine, look for a simple design that has different colors to it. You may have to play around to find a good one.
Double click on it and notice that it’s added to the same page on top of your other shape.
Try moving the new design around. This is a set of 3 pieces, but you can only move or resize them together. That’s because they are grouped together.
Step 11 — Ungroup a set of images
There are 2 ways of combining separate shapes in Silhouette Studio – groupings and compound paths. Once you’ve learned the basics, I’ll give you a sure-fire way of understanding the difference. For now, let’s keep it simple.
The set of shapes is grouped, which means it’s 3 separate images that are temporarily tied together. Let’s say we just want to cut 1. How do we do that? We ungroup them.
There are several methods for ungrouping. I’ll show you each one, then you can decide which one you like as you gain experience. Just remember that you’ll need to have your image selected first.
Icon in the QAT
We’ve already looked at the QAT for the fill color and scale. Hover over any icon and you’ll see the description pop up. The ungroup one looks like this:
Just click on that to ungroup a selected set of shapes.
Object drop down menu
Right click Menu
- CTRL+SHIFT+g (Windows)
- CMD+SHIFT+g (Mac)
When you ungroup you’ll see that there are more lines than just the bounding box. The outer bounding box is still there showing you the edges and dimensions of the whole set, but there are also lines showing the edges of each shape.
Click off the set and then back onto 1 of the arrows, and you’ll see the dimensions of just that one piece.
You can now move and resize it independently of the other 2 shapes.
Step 12 — Change the order of shapes
When images are on your design area, they are stacked up like a plate of pancakes – with some above and some below. Move one of your arrows or eating utensils over your butterfly or whale and you’ll see all of the second shape you added but only part of the first one. Because you added the arrows/utensils last, they are on top or in front.
Change the colors of 2 of your arrows/utensils. You’ll now have 4 independent shapes on the page with 4 different colors. Move the shapes around until they are all stacked up. Notice which piece is on top, which 2 are in the middle and that your butterfly or whale is still on the bottom.
Let’s mix that order up a little. As with anything, there are several ways to do this. Play with all of them, then decide which one you like best.
Select your butterfly or whale. Look in the QAT for the set of icons dealing with order.
1) Bring to Front – brings the image to the top of the pile
2) Send to Back – sends the image to the bottom.
3) Bring Forward – brings the image up one in the order.
4) Send Backward – sends the image down one in the order.
Play with all of those to put your butterfly/whale in different positions. Because all your shapes are filled with color, it’s very easy to see the order. Here my butterfly is in front.
Other ways to change the order
- Object>Arrange drop down menu
- Right click menu
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Bring to Front CTRL+SHIFT+] (Windows) or CMD+SHIFT+] (Mac)
- Send to Back CTRL+SHIFT+[ (Windows) or CMD+SHIFT+[ (Mac)
- Bring Forward CTRL+] (Windows) or CMD+] (Mac)
- Send Backward CTRL+[ (Windows) or CMD+[ (Mac)
Step 13 — Select and manipulate multiple shapes
You can select more than 1 image at a time. Now that we’ve got 4 things on the page, let’s try that. As always, there are several ways to do it.
Click and drag
Click your mouse outside of your shapes on the upper left. Then click and drag the box down at to the right, outside of all the shapes. This will grab multiple shapes so that you can work with them together. Notice that your selection box as you drag it out is a dotted-line square. That correlates to the icons in the QAT.
Deselect your images by clicking in a blank area of your page.
Select All icon
You can also select multiple images using the Select All icon at the top of the screen. We’ve already talked about this one, but do it now and see how it works now with multiple images.
Drop down menu
- CTRL+a (Windows) or CMD+a (Mac) for Select all
- CTRL+SHIFT+a (Windows) or CMD+SHIFT+a (Mac) for Deselect all
Hold your SHIFT key as you individually select pieces. This is an easy way to get some, not all, of your shapes quite easily. When multiple images are selected, notice that the bounding box shows you the dimensions of the entire set.
After you’ve selected some or all of your images, move them around your drawing area and rotate them as a group.
Next, resize them together. Notice that when multiple shapes are selected, they all resize at the same time. I’ll show you in the next step why this is important.
Let’s keep those shapes, but move them off the mat area on the page.
Step 14 — Add a layered image to the page
So far we’ve been looking at very simple, solid shapes. Let’s go a step further at a more interesting design. Go back to your library and add “Rainbow” (Cameo 3) or “Crown” (Cameo 4) to the page. If you’re on another model, look again for a design with various colors.
Whoa! This is the first design where what we see on the drawing area doesn’t look the same as what we see in the library. This is a layered design. That means we would cut it out of different colors and then lay them on top of one another on our project.
First, we need to ungroup the pieces. Do that now with whatever method you prefer and if the pieces are not filled, fill them with different colors.
Pull the blue on top of the red and line it up. That’s exactly what you’ll do when you put the project together. You cut the pieces from different colors and then layer them up together.
Let’s say we want 3 colors for our rainbow. I can ungroup the blue set and recolor one of the pieces yellow.
Some of your free shapes, especially on the Cameo 4, will come already filled with different colors and layered on top of one another. Sometimes, but not always, there will also be a set of unfilled pieces. That’s how the crown is.
Why fill the shapes?
Now, will it matter which colors I have in my shapes? Can’t I cut out of any color of material I want? Unless you are doing a print and cut, which we’ll talk about MUCH later, it doesn’t matter which colors you choose — only what material you load into your machine. But if you’ll fill your pieces with color or pattern, it reminds you which pieces of your design you want to cut out of which pieces of material. Right now that isn’t a big deal. But when you start working with designs with 20+, it definitely keeps the confusion level down.
Getting pieces the right size
Say you want to cut this rainbow, but make it smaller. You need to select and resize all your pieces at the same time, either before you ungroup or by selecting them all at the same time. If the pieces aren’t lined up on top of one another, it’s hard to see the overall size. So layer them up, resize, then separate again before you cut. I’ll teach you how to cut just one color at a time.
Play around with some more layered images – Birthday Cake, Bee, Cactus, Frame, Party Hat for the Cameo 3, or Bee, Donut, Palm Tree, Mod Flower for the Cameo 4. When you open a file from your library, it’s going to go right in the middle of the page you’re working on. So either start a new file, or pull some of your pieces off the side. Or, delete them by selecting and using one of the following:
- Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard
- Cut icon
- Edit drop down menu
- Right click menu
- Keyboard Shortcut CTRL+x (Windows) or CMD+x (Mac)
Practice layering the pieces, resizing, recoloring. Then clean up your workspace, keeping the butterfly or whale, and get ready for the next step.
Step 15 — Shapes in a compound path
Put the design “Stop Sign” (Cameo 3) or “Castle” (Cameo 4) on your design area. If you’re on a different machine, look for one that appears to have white on it.
Notice that this seems to have 2 colors – red or orange and white – but when you ungroup it doesn’t make the letters or windows into separate pieces. (Sometimes a design is “grouped” with an invisible outer box as these 2 designs are. That’s why Ungroup is an option, but it still doesn’t separate the pieces). This design is a compound path – our second way of combining elements.
Pull the stop sign or castle off to the side of your mat and notice that the letters are now gray. Or put it over your butterfly/whale and they are the color of the butterfly/whale. You didn’t change the color of the letters, so how did that happen?
Those letters aren’t separate pieces layered on top of the sign. They only looked white because they were on the white background of the mat. They are holes in the sign – you can see right through them. That’s what a compound path is – a single design with holes in the middle. Even though the lines of the letters are not touching the lines of the outside shape, that are all considered a single line.
This won’t make a ton of sense right now, but that’s okay. Here’s the bottom line – a grouping is like a stack of pancakes – separate, solid images sitting on top of one another. A compound path is like a donut – a single piece with a hole in the middle that you can see through. The circle that’s the middle isn’t a separate piece – it’s an edge of the single design.
How to separate pieces in a compound path
So how would you separate these pieces if you did want to cut a solid red sign/castle and then individual letters/windows out of white? You release the compound path, which turns the donut into pancakes (magic!). You can release a compound path using:
- Modify panel
- Object drop down menu
- Right click menu
- Keyboard shortcuts
- CTRL+SHIFT+e (Windows) or CMD+SHIFT+e (Mac)
Try that with your stop sign or castle. Because of what I explained earlier, you will have to ungroup before you can release the compound path. You know you’ve done it when the letters/windows turn the color of the sign. You can you can now move the letters/windows. Notice that when I move the “O” or “P,” it doesn’t get the inside of the letter. Releasing the compound path makes those separate pieces as well.
I think that’s enough for this lesson! I hope you’re now comfortable with some basic shape manipulation. Keep playing around with some of your shapes. Next time we’ll talk about the basics of text. After that, we’ll be ready to make the first cut!
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