How to Improve Cut Quality with a Test Cut – Silhouette America Blog

How to Improve Cut Quality with a Test Cut

Fairy in a Bottle - Test Cut Success

We’re going back to basics today, my friends. The Test Cut feature is a great tool to help fine tune your cut settings and improve your overall cut quality. With this handy-dandy feature you can find the right settings to cleanly cut all the different materials you want to try.

What is a Test Cut?
The Test Cut is an option in the Cut Settings panel. Once you have selected a material and adjusted your blade to the suggested depth for that material, you have the option to perform a Test Cut. Your Silhouette machine will cut a square with a triangle inside, using your chosen settings.

Cut Settings Window - Test Cut

You may need to click on the material and scroll down to see the “Test Cut” button below the cut settings of blade, speed, thickness, etc.

The purpose of a test cut is to check whether the settings you have chosen for a specific material are appropriate. If the test cut doesn’t cut all the way through or doesn’t cut cleanly, then you know you should alter the blade depth, thickness, or speed.

How do I move the Test Cut?

If you simply load your mat or material and click on the “Test Cut” button as shown above, the cut will be made at the upper left corner of your media, right where the blade is positioned.

But what if the test cut fails?

If it doesn’t cut all the way through or doesn’t cut cleanly, you need to adjust your settings and test cut again. Do not perform a test cut in the same place as before.

Depending on your machine, there are various ways to move the test cut. This will move the actual blade holder of your machine.

  • Use the arrows in the software, just to the left of the “Test Cut” button. This is the only way to move the test cut on the Portrait or Curio.

Note: See our tutorial on the deep cut blade for more helpful information on test cuts with Curio.

Test Cut Arrows - software

  • Use the arrows on the touchscreen of the CAMEO 2 or CAMEO 3. Unload the mat, then load again. You can press on the small arrows icon of the main screen to access the touchscreen arrows.

CAMEO 2 touchscreen arrows for test cut

  • Use the physical arrow buttons on the original CAMEO machine.

CAMEO 1 arrows for test cut

Where do I position a new Test Cut?

  • To find a clean spot for subsequent test cuts, simply reposition the blade so it is to the right of or below any other cutouts. (See photo below.)
  • The position of the blade will become the upper left corner of the test cut square. Technically, it will actually cut a millimeter or two further right and down of the exact blade position.
  • Be sure to position the test cut so it won’t interfere with the layout of your actual project. You don’t want little squares missing from your final design!
  • You will need about a half inch of clear space for the test cut.

For illustration purposes, I’ve used a sketch pen in the photos below. You can see I positioned my blade/pen to the right and underneath previous test cuts. The resulting test cut has plenty of room.

Position for Test Cut

Test Cut Results

Note: See our tutorial on the deep cut blade for more helpful information on test cuts with Curio.

Write down your successful Test Cut settings!

When you find a good setting combination for a certain material, record your successful result—record the blade depth, speed, thickness, and whether to use the double-cut feature or not.

A few helpful tips:

  • Use a sticky note and attach it to the pack of paper
  • Keep a spreadsheet of successful settings for your machine
  • Add a custom setting for new materials in the Cut Settings Window by clicking on the “+” sign, typing in the material type, and using your mouse to change blade/speed/thickness

How can Test Cuts help me?

If you are willing to do a little experimenting, you can really dial in great cut settings for materials that may not cut perfectly for you on the default settings.

Test it, tweak the settings, test again.

You can also gain confidence in trying new materials that are not in your default list. For example, look at my fairy project below; I used thin glitter cardstock, clear presentation covers, and holographic paper. Look at these intricate cuts!

Intricate Cuts Thanks to Test Cuts
Green fairy in a bottle (design ID #140636)

None of the materials mentioned above are in the Silhouette Studio® default list, and sometimes you might even find that the default settings don’t work for the specific materials you’re using. (For example, the default vellum settings were way off for me.) But multiple test cuts got my settings where they needed to be without wasting a lot of specialty paper.

What’s been your experience with using the Test Cut feature?

Kelly Wayment

Hi! I'm Kelly Wayment and am thrilled to continue on with Silhouette America's design team for a fourth term. I live in Utah with my husband of 17+ years and our four kids ranging from first-grader to teen. I work part-time as an auditor in an accounting firm, but I would always prefer to be crafting. I started scrapbooking and cardmaking in 1999, and that has spread into other crafts over the years. The Silhouette machine has literally changed the course of my life as it has turned my simple hobbies into ways to push the boundaries with my creativity, along with innumerable opportunities to teach and share that joy with others.

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17 comments

  1. I have been placing a note of various cut settings on the underside of the lid of my cameo. I use sticky notes, but tape in place.

    1. Linda, that’s a great place to keep them all where you need them most! 🙂

  2. Hi – I recently bought the new Cameo 3. Up to the time of writing I am very, very disappointed. I have wasted so much card with it. Every time I put in a download from Silhouette Store It never cuts in the right place. I have never had this trouble with all the previous Silhouette machines. Am I doing something wrong even though I always follow instructions to the letter

    1. Hi Shirley! I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve been having with the CAMEO 3. I’m not familiar with the software problem that you talked about. However, I’ve emailed our customer support with your information so that they can get back to you ASAP. Thank you for being patient! Please don’t hesitate to email me at lheperi@silhouetteamerica.com if the problem persists or if customer support takes longer than 3 days to get back to you!

    2. Shirley, something that gets me once in a while – I load my project on a mat – but forget to use the “Load Mat” option. If you use the “No Mat” option, your cuts will be off. Might not be your problem – but good to remember anyway! 😉

      1. I’m new to silhouette too, and my cameo 3 also seems to cut out of position – my test cut is always above the grid. On the cameo 3 there is no load mat option – it is just load media. You tell it you are using the mat in the software.

  3. Thank you Kelly! I’ve never used the Test Cut Feature. I guess I was too lazy to research it and uncertain how much of my paper/material it would cut up. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this! I did not know that you could add materials and the cutting information on your machine. Yikes I’ve learned so much! Thanks also for the tip for posting a note on cutting information also.

    1. Glad I could offer you some new and useful information, Marilyn!

  4. I’ve not used that feature before. But I wanted to say that keeping track of the settings for the current blade you are using may not help with future blades. I was saving custom settings for each of the media that I use and that had issues when I switched to a new blade. I find that different blades must be calibrated differently because it seems I have to adjust the settings for the same media that I’m using when I start using a new blade. So maybe I’ll try the test cut in the future so I don’t waste a whole sheet of paper to find out the blade is calibrated differently.

    1. Hi Melissa! I have found that there is the most difference when switching from an old and worn blade to a brand new blade. I often have to back off on the blade depth or thickness settings with a new blade, but do the opposite with an older blade that is about ready to be replaced. The test cut feature definitely comes in handy for those times you change to a different blade. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I always use the test cut feature. Even with the original Silhouette.
    The ladies on the message boards were adamant about using that feature!
    But that doesn’t mean that a clean test cut will result in a clean cut project.
    Too many times I end up with half cut images or ragged lines.

    1. I don’t use this test cut feature as my only option. You can also create a shape as your own test cut, where the shape is something representative of the full design you want to cut (like a leaf or a word or something like that). That can be a better indicator to see if that particular design will cut well from your chosen material.

  6. Tearing my hair out because of a glitter cardstock project for my son’s wedding next month – revisiting Silhouette blog posts to see what I forgot that might help. Yep, test cut, check! Fingers crossed for a clean cut on next pass.

    1. Good luck, Maria! That glitter cardstock can be a bit tricky.

  7. I have a problem with blades needing to be replaced frequently. I cut craft plastic that is .007 thickness. I have had to replace blades even after only cutting to projects. Please advise. Thanks

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