How to Use a Cutting Mat with Heat Transfer Vinyl

In today's blog post we'll be talking about how to use a cutting mat to cut heat transfer vinyl in a Silhouette Cameo. This applies to other cutting machines too, so don't worry if you don't have a Cameo!

What is a cutting mat and why use it to cut HTV?

Most basically, a cutting mat is a lined piece of plastic that has one sticky side. The point of the sticky side is to let you stick your material (here, heat transfer vinyl) onto the mat, which holds it in place. You then load the cutting mat and your material into the cutting machine and VOILA--magic.

At this point you may be asking, "Why go through the trouble of putting the HTV on the cutting mat when you can just load the HTV into the machine directly?"

Good question! The answer is that even though you can load a piece of HTV directly into a Cameo, for example, when you do so there is a good risk that the piece of HTV will move around inside the machine during the cutting process. If that happens and the HTV shifts even a small amount, the entire cutting design will be ruined. 

So how does the mat help? Another great question, wow!

The mat helps because it's big and relatively thick, so the wheels inside the cutting machine grab the mat snugly and move it back and forth as intended. With the heat transfer vinyl firmly attached to the mat, the HTV stays where it's supposed to, which ensures even the most complicated design gets cut accurately.

Enough already, how do you use a cutting mat?

There are three main steps to using a cutting mat to cut heat transfer vinyl:

  1. Place the HTV onto the mat
  2. Load the mat into the cutting machine
  3. Configure the cutting software so it knows the locations of the mat and HTV

Let's take each step one at a time!

Place the HTV onto the mat

If you haven't already, begin by removing the liner that comes attached to the mat. This will reveal the mat's sticky surface. Make sure to put the liner back on the mat when you're done using it. This'll extend the mat's useful life.

Next, place the heat transfer vinyl (cut-side facing up) onto the mat so that the top-left corner of the vinyl sheet fits into the top-left corner of the grid on the mat. The HTV's top and left edges should run along the top and left edges of the grid on the mat, as shown in the picture below:

You can't really tell, but the edges of this sheet of Rozzy Crafts Aqua Glitter are flush with the outer edges of the grid. 

It's very important to make sure the sides of the heat transfer vinyl are as close to the edges of the grid as possible. Here's an example of a bad placement because there's a lot of distance between the grid edge and the sheet:

Once you have the heat transfer vinyl correctly placed onto the cutting mat, it's on to the next step!

Load the mat into the cutting machine

Now that your material is in place, the next step is to load the mat into your cutting machine. The key here is to place the left edge of the cutting mat right up against the blue line and arrows printed inside the Cameo machine. To be clear, you should not align either the HTV itself or the mat's grid with this blue line. You want to align the edge of the plastic mat:

With the mat in place in this manner, press the "Load cut mat" option on the Cameo screen:

At this point, you're locked and loaded! Only one more step until it's safe to send your design to your cutting machine!

Configure the cutting software

Before you send your design to the cutter, you need to make sure the Silhouette software is configured for your mat.

With your Silhouette Studio file open, navigate to the "Page Settings" menu either by (1) going to View>Show Design Page Settings,  (2) pressing the "Open the Design Page Settings Window" button (see below), or (3) pressing Ctrl and F1 at the same time on your keyboard.

You should now see the Page Settings options on the right side of your screen. The first setting you need to configure is the Page Size of your material. If you're using heat transfer vinyl by Rozzy Crafts, you'll want to enter a width of 10 inches and a height of 12 inches. If not, enter whatever dimensions match your HTV.

Next, make sure you've configured your Orientation setting to match the orientation of the material on the cutting mat. If you've followed the instructions in this post (with the HTV being placed with its long edge running down the left side of the cutting mat), you'll want to select the "Portrait" orientation. 

The next relevant setting to configure is to choose the correct size cutting mat that you're using. If you're using the mat that came with the Cameo, your mat will be "CAMEO 12 in x 12 in". If you're using a different mat, choose the appropriate option from the drop-down menu. 

Just below the mat size setting, there's an option to increase or decrease the mat's "Reveal." Changing this setting makes your computer-simulated HTV more or less see-through, which allows you to see the grid lines beneath. In the image below, the Reveal setting is set to 33% so the simulated HTV is 33% see-through.

If you're only cutting a single piece of HTV, this setting isn't all that useful. But if you want to cut multiple colors at the same time, you can put multiple pieces of HTV on the mat at once and you'll know where to place your designs (on the computer) by matching the grid lines on the screen to the grid lines on the mat.

The final useful setting to configure is the "Show Cut Border" option. This shows, in a red line, the border of the area in which cuts will be made. If any aspect of your design goes outside these borders, it will not be cut.

And that's it folks! Follow these steps and you'll greatly improve the likelihood that your design will come out perfectly cut the first time!

Got a question or know of a better way to do this? Let us hear it in the comments below!


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