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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Cameo, my ARTist : How to draw sketches with the Silhouette Cameo

A sketch "is a rapidly executed freehand drawing", according to Wikipedia. It is "not usually intended as a finished work". I suppose that whoever wrote that definition has never seen the work of Douglas J. Larson. Mr. Larson, or Doug, as he is more commonly known, is the owner of Inspire Graphics. Most of us know that he is the founder of Lettering Delights but few are aware that he is also a multi-talented artist.

A few weeks ago, Doug told me about his new Thin Fonts. I have always thought of Doug as a font designer and so I was not surprised at all by his new idea. Then he showed me his sketch. I wondered if I should ask if he drew it but I was afraid of sounding stupid. Yet I managed to come up with something even dumber. 

"Was that drawn with a pen?"

OMG! As soon as I said that I wished I didn't! How stupid did I sound?!

"It was drawn with a Zing and a sketch I made....."

It took me a full minute to process those 11 words because it just didn't make any sense to me. An electronic cutter sketched that? Wait, but you said you did it. With what? A cutter? What pen? HOW??!!

I had nothing to lose. I already sounded so dumb I just continued asking. Doug not only answered every question, he gave me all the information that I needed to extend the capabilities of my Cameo beyond cutting. And I am going to tell you all about it.....


To bring out "the artist" in the Cameo (or any other electronic cutter), you have to first replace the blade with a pen holder attachment. Doug uses the Zing with the Zing pen attachment but I use a Silhouette Cameo. I was hoping to use the Chomas pen holder for my first sketch but it was too small to fit the pencil I was using . I ended up using the marker holder instead.

The secret to sketching with your electronic cutter lies in the type of pen or pencil. I was told that a new and juicy Micron pen will do well but I was more intrigued by the pencil that Doug had mentioned.

The Sharpie Liquid Pencil really is a pen with a liquid graphite "ink" (By the way, I did it again. I asked Doug where I can buy lead for the "mechanical pencil". What's wrong with me?! It's a P-E-N with a graphite "ink". DOH!). While this "pencil" doesn't work well when held by hand, it works beautifully when held upright. Perfect for "drawing" with the electronic cutter! The barrel of the pencil is too big to fit in the Chomas pen holder, so I made a slight modification with masking tape and used the Chomas MARKER holder instead.

Attaching the modified pencil and marker holder to the Cameo is similar to what I had described in THIS POST except for one important note: you have to hold down the pencil as you tighten the black screw or else the pencil will ride up and that will cause it to sit too high to draw on the paper.

There are 5 sketches in the Rustic Sketches Set and but I really wanted to draw the barn as it was the first that Doug had showed me. Since all the files in the Rustic Sketches Set are SVGs, I imported the barn onto the Make-the-Cut virtual mat. I positioned the sketch onto the center of the paper, and hit "CUT" to get the Cameo to start drawing on the preloaded cardstock.

By the way, to draw Doug's sketches, I used the preset Force and Speed settings for the Silhouette Sketch pens. The Sharpie Liquid Pencil worked great at Force 10, and Speed 10.

It took the Cameo less than 20 minutes to get from this:

to this:

I took many pictures of the Cameo sketching but I realize that there is nothing like watching the Cameo in action and so here's a video for you:

It took the Cameo 18mins to sketch out the barn (imported at actual size) but I was so fascinated that I got the cutter to sketch out all 5 of the Rustic Sketches

The time that it takes to finish a sketch may vary from one cutter to another, and may also depend on the software, and the processor speed of the computer. I used Make-the-Cut with my laptop (Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM) and this is how long it took my Cameo to sketch each design in the Rustic Sketches Set:

(Sketches were imported onto the Make-the-Cut virtual mat at actual size and 72 dpi)

Barn: 18 mins
Boots: 23 mins
Cow Skull: 8 mins
Rooster: 15 mins
Wheelbarrow: 15 mins

Some people may say that a sketch is an unfinished work but to me these are little masterpieces. I would be happy to put each one of these in a frame and display in my house! My Cameo has done the sketches and now I just need some frames. Any idea where I can get frames for these? :-)

Click HERE to get your Rustic Sketches Set.

You can draw the sketches with Silhouette Studio Designer Edition, click on the following link for more info:


  1. It's completely amazing Jini....i love your projects...I have the cameo and I didn't know it could be so versatile...But does it work only with the pen from you indicated? Wonderful

  2. Amazing!! I have the newest version of MTC, so I know that I can do this with my Cameo. Just wonder if you can also do it straight from the Silhouette Studio Designer edition (which I also have). I sort of believe in overkill as I want to be able to do everything. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow, that is amazing! I've got to try this! Thanks for sharing all your tips! It's been awhile - hope that you're doing well!

  4. I would tell you how incredibly amazing this is but I have to go order my pen holder now...

  5. that is amazaZing! you are so amazing and always willing to share tip and tricks!

  6. These are amazing! How would these print if you used the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Love these designs. I am not a fan of MTC, so I want to be sure if these fonts will indeed work with the Silhouette Studio software only.

  9. Will this work without the Designer edition? TIA

  10. you are amazing you now that i just think about this idea and i google it and here i'm find your amazing post but jin i want to buy silhoute cameo to use it to decorate cake can you make us a tutorial about this please :)

  11. I want to draw with the sketch pens phrases how can I do that only typing the text?

  12. Sheila October 14th 6.40pm

    I have the cameo silhouette and I would like to know what settings to use to draw the boots

  13. I've imported my own drawings into the Studio software, and I've been using it to sketch them. For some reason, it's drawing around the lines, instead of *on* them. How do I get it to stop doing that, please?

    1. It's drawing around the lines for me too, did you find a solution?

    2. I'm on a quest to get a sketch that is what I drew and not outlines of what I drew. If I sketch in Illustrator or Designer Edition it works but what an awkward way to sketch. Anybody have any solution??

    3. same for me how do u set the cameo to cutt/draw the actual lines and not the edge of the lines? something is kept a secret here :P

  14. Wow! Absolutely stunning work!

  15. I too want to sketch out my own drawings but as already mentioned Silhouetts draws the outline of the lines not the lines themselves. Has anyone been willing to say how it can be converted to sketch a single line?

  16. I too would like to be able to use my own sketches. Has there been any post which explains how to convert an SVG to a line image instead of selecting the edge of the line?

  17. thank you very much! i was literally scratching my head trying to figure out how to draw with a pencil in the cameo instead of sketch pens and voila! there you were. i ordered the sharpie liquid pencils, got them within 24 hrs and just tried it. simply fantastic!
    i had tried using a regular pencil in the pen holder but some of the drawings came out too faint so i'm very pleased with my new purchase.