Have you ever started a prescription medicine and found out it just didn’t work for you? While it may be a great product, it may not work well with your body’s chemistry. Or you may need to use a different dose than the recommended one due to your height and weight. That’s why your doctor has you try it and then checks to see how you’re doing with it. It’s also why medicines come with info about side effects that tell you to stop taking it. Test cuts in the Silhouette Studio software do the same thing — check to see if the recommended settings are going to work for your project and give you the opportunity to tweak the settings before sending your entire project to cut.
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In our Cut Doctor appointment today, I’m going to teach you how to use the built-in test cuts in the software. BUT — I’m also going to show you how to do test cuts differently and why I don’t use the one that’s in the Send area.
To start with Lesson 1 in this series, go here.
Test cuts in the software
In your Send area at the lower right, you’ll see a gray box with the word TEST in it. That’s for doing the test cut that’s built into the software.
The red and blue symbols to the left of the word are important as well.
–Immediately to the left of the word are 2 circles. That’s because the machine I’m using is a Cameo 3, which has 2 tool holders. The red circle is for testing the tool in the left holder, the blue one is for the right holder. It’s the same for a Curio. Notice in my pic the red circle is highlighted. To test the tool in the right holder, I’d highlight the blue circle instead. All the other machines have just 1 tool holder, so you won’t see the circles at all.
–4 blue arrows which you can use those arrows to move your test cut to a different location. I’ll show you more about that in the next section.
What the software’s test cuts do
The test cuts that are built into the software cut a small triangle inside a square in the upper left corner of your page. That’s the black set in this photo (I used sketch pens so it’s easier to see).
It does those 2 shapes because it’s checking several things:
- Will the settings will cut through the material?
- Can weed you easily? You check that by removing the square and seeing if the triangle stays in place.
- Are the settings going to pull the material at the corners? That’s why you’ve got some sharp turns.
Notice that I’ve got a second test — the red one. You wouldn’t want to keep testing in the same area because you wouldn’t be able to tell if 1 pass through the machine would cut successfully. So you can move the test cut over, which is what those blue arrows are for. Clicking those moves the motor box left and right, or moves the roller bars so that your material or mat goes in and out of the machine. You can keep moving the test spot and retesting as many times as you like.
Why I don’t use the built-in test cuts
I’m a HUGE fan of test cuts. I can’t emphasize enough how important they are! You save a great deal of time, money and frustration by taking a few moments and a small amount of your material to do them.
Having said that, I am NOT a fan of the built-in test cuts in the software for several reasons:
- When the test cut is done (unless you’ve moved it), it’s under the blade. That means that to check it you have to unload. That’s a waste of time. This is the #1 reason I don’t recommend the software’s test cuts.
- Often that built-in test cut isn’t going to test everything you need. I hear this countless times, “The test cut was fine, then when I sent the full project it wasn’t.” For example, you may use a font with thin ends to the letters. The built-in test cut isn’t going to help you know if the settings will work well on that.
- It’s very easy to forget to highlight the right tool holder on a Cameo 3 or Curio, so you might end up testing the wrong one.
- If you use the arrow keys to move the blade before you perform the test cut, you have to remember to move it back before you start. Your cut starts in the wrong place if you don’t. THIS IS CRUCIAL!
- Using the arrow keys it’s hard to get the blade right where you want it. It moves slowly at first, then more quickly. So you have to keep messing with it.
- Because you don’t see on your computer screen where the cut will happen, you might end up with it overlapping your design. It’s takes much longer to figure out right where to put the blade carriage.
What I do use for test cuts
Instead of using the built-in test cuts, I create my own with a few small shapes:
- A circle checks to see if the starting and ending points meet up. If they don’t, that means the force is probably too high, and maybe the blade number.
- A square or triangle tests sharp turns. That will tell you if you might get pulling at the corners. If you do, turn on line segment overcut.
- If I’m cutting vinyl or HTV, I put a smaller shape inside a larger one so I can check ease of weeding. That part of the built-in test cut makes sense.
- If I’m cutting text, I test a few letters in the font and size I’m using (unless it’s really large — then I just use simple shapes). I like a word such as “olive,” because it checks all the things I’ve talked about — sharp turns (letters “l” and “v”), weeding ability (letters “o” and “e”), starting and ending points (letter “o”), and small dots (letter “i”). If it’s a cursive font, the end of the letter “e” is normally pretty thin so you can check that. At the very minimum use 1 letter with internal pieces in the size you are cutting.
I do the test cut in the lower part of the page so I don’t have to unload to check it. That’s just simple logic.
I wrote an entire post about smarter test cuts. You can find that here.
If you’d like to see some of these tips in video form, check out my class When Good Cuts Go Bad on Terri Johnson Academy. It’s done in an older version of the software, but the concepts are the same.
You’re getting so smart in your quest for good cut health! Next time, we’ll go over some of the advanced settings. You may not even know they are there, but there could be something that will help you tremendously, particularly if you cut often without the mat.