My First Silhouette Project

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m feeling like one today.  I made this…yes, I did!  Now, this might not sound like a huge deal, but I’m going to tell you why it’s such a huge deal to me.  Bear with me, because this gets a little long-winded – but for once, I actually remembered to photo-document the process, step by step.
You see, it all started last summer, when I went to visit my family in New Mexico, when my mom was having knee surgery.  My sister lives in a super, duper, duper old land grant, about an hour outside of Albuquerque.  In her home, she has this really old Borax shipping crate lid, that she found inside the tumble-down house that is attached to the backside of their house.  I absolutely loved it and took it outside to photograph it on their adobe wall.
I wanted to try to create one to look like it, so I made this photocopy to take home.  I really dislike tracing letters and the steady-handed, long process of hand painting them for signs, so I just held on to the copy, hoping someday I’d be able to get a Silhouette to create my sign.
Well, that day finally came this month, when I purchased a new Silhouette Cameo affiliate).  What you need to know about me, is when I get a new “toy”, I’m a little like a guy with a sports car – I want to get in, start it up, and see how quickly I can hit 90.  I do not want to read the owner’s manual first.  Knowing that, imagine my frustration when I’m all ready to create my amazing “antique” sign, and the machine can’t read my mind and figure out all by itself that I only want the letters cut out – not every single shade of the wood grain!  Most people create something simple when they first get a Silhouette, but no…not me.  I couldn’t just use the letters in the program, or buy a cute little shape from their store and make a card or something…I had to make something difficult for my first project.
I stayed up until 3am.  I Googled, and I Googled, and I Googled…hoping someone out there would have a tutorial for creating a sign like this, using their own really rough image, preferrably someone who’d found an easy way to do it.  Not the case.  I got up this morning and sent off an email to Silhouette, hoping there was an easy answer to my problem.  I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be, so while I waited, I moved the image over to Photoshop, where I started the tedious process of removing all the wood grain background.  When I say tedious, I don’t mean a little bit tedious, I mean massively tedious – practically pixel by pixel.
Silhouette did respond promptly to my email and basically said that I was going to have to do exactly what I was already doing, so I was glad I was on the right track.  HOURS later, I had the background fairly cleaned up and the text darkened up.  My middle son even “spotted” me for awhile, and worked on it too.
Here’s the completed image.  You can still see a little of the wood grain in the letters, but that wouldn’t matter, because I needed it to be a stencil, not a copy.

Feeling like a stinkin’ genius at this point, I opened up the image with the Silhouette software, only to discover it was going to cut this image to bits and there wouldn’t be much of a stencil left – there was still too much detail.  I’d already wasted half the night and day on it, so I wasn’t about to throw in the towel yet.  I opted to just have the Silhouette trace the outsides of the of the letters and forgo the cutouts inside the letters.   I felt it would still look good.
I watched the machine work its magic and could feel my pulse rising, as I was about ready to see if my months-long vision was going to pan out.  I’m hoping I can lift and remove all the leftover letters from the cutting sheet, so I can attempt a reverse painting on another piece.  I’ll let you know how that works out later.
I had the perfect piece of wood that I’d been saving for this project.
It was an antique shipping lid, complete with an old paper lining on the underside, that I’ve been holding onto for several years.  I added the old metal hinges, to help stabilize the broken piece at the top.
I cut out the image on adhesive shelf paper.  Getting all those detailed cut lines separated from the backing paper without the whole thing getting stuck together was a challenge though.  I held one corner with one hand, and the other corner with my teeth, while I pulled with my other hand, but I finally got it off and positioned it on a trial piece of wood, since I didn’t want to risk my really old piece before I knew if it would work.  This is a deeply grained piece of pressed wood siding.  I did a quick spray paint over the stencil, holding my breath.  Since this is very grooved wood, there were some gaps between the vinyl and the wood, making a little of the spray paint go underneath, but I was thrilled with the results.

I ran some sandpaper over it, and loved how the wood grain show through, really making it look authentically old and worn.

I cut another piece of vinyl to make my sign and made sure to really press all the edges down well, and held the can straight on, not at an angle, so I wouldn’t get that underspray again.  Crisp and clean edges and looking good!
A little distressing and I’m in love (although I think I may distress it a bit more)!!  I do wish I could have gotten rid of all the circles inside the letters, so it would look just like the original shipping crate lid, but I still love it.  When I feel motivated enough, I may tweak the design some more to try to add them back in, but my brain needs a rest for now.

I feel like I learned a lot about using the Silhouette, that may have otherwise taken me multiple projects to learn and I’m excited to start working on the next sign I have planned.  We’re nearing completion of our laundry room, so most of my personal projects are for that room.


  1. Angie, What a great job (even though it was so tedious!)! You found the perfect wood to put it on too! Your long hours and searching really paid off!

  2. I just got a Silhouette Cameo too and spent 8 hours trying to make a custom design of my own. I do love the thing but like you I didn’t just want letters I wanted a fabulous first project. Yours did turn out awesome good job girl!

  3. Angie that is a really really cool sign! I love it! And I’m so jealous you got a Silhouette! I’ve wanted one for years. Sigh. maybe one day!

  4. Angie…you are my hero! Anything that involves computers is a big challenge for me. You persevered and did a great job on the re-make of the Borax sign. Thanks for sharing how you figured everything out.

  5. Your hard work paid off, Angie…because this turned out wonderfully! Have fun with your new toy!

  6. I love this project! I need to use my cameo more!

  7. Super cool. I’m with ya about new toys/tools, lol:)

  8. Amazingly Cool. Great Job!
    Chris =]

  9. What a fantastic sign!!!
    Need to get a cameo 🙂

  10. Wow that came out great, always wanted Cameo but they seem complex, before I get one I’m gonna read all the tutorials for them so I don’t get frustrated.

  11. Angie it came out awesome! I have to say that I have not bought a silhouette myself because I am just that way, I don’t read directions and I’m afraid it would be too hard… I can’t even work photoshop so you’re ahead of me right there. The wood you used is awesome and the rusty hinges you added only made it better. Great job on figuring all of this out, now you are an expert and can make 100 more signs! Thanks for all the info! Your trouble was way worth it!

  12. You’re one up on me Angie, the whole reason I bought a Cameo was so I could upload any image or font I have on my computer and every time I try it, it shoots me down. Grant it, I don’t have Photoshop, but what type of file did you put your image in that even allowed you do do that? You’re one up on me. I bought the Sihlouette so I could make signs too but have totally not been impressed with their vinyl, I need a better source for that. I use contact paper too, but they really vary and when I’m doing a large project for a customer, I really would like to have some quality vinyl.

  13. btw ~ your sign turned out awesome!!!

  14. Don’t let anyone tell you different, you are a genius for doing this on your first try! I LOVE your sign!

  15. I am so impressed, Angie!! Your inspiration piece was wonderful and you recreated it all. By. Yourself!!! Well done.

    I do the same thing. Jump right in and expect everything to work perfectly without reading those silly directions. 🙂

  16. I don’t have to humor you, me and my Cameo had the same encounter when it came out of the box. But you are ahead of me, so you are a genius. I have yet to take an already designed-design and cut it out. I have had to go from scratch, but I promise you it does get faster.

    And of course I’m pinning this because heck you just made a design I can copy!


  17. I loved your spunk and determination. Great read and great project!

  18. Angie, you are awesome. Great job. I look forward to seeing more of your creations. Peace

  19. Maybe not a rocket scientist, but how about a ROCK STAR!! I made the mistake of buying the Cricut instead of the Silhouette, when all along the Silhouette was probably what I wanted for just this reason. I’ve only used my Cricut twice.

  20. This is gorgeous! Great job! I also have a Silhouette and I struggle a little also because I’m not using it often enough so it’s a learning process every time! I don’t lack for ideas, though, just time!!

  21. Angie, I LOVE this! Having a Cameo myself, I can appreciate the hard work that went into this. You rocked it! And you’ve inspired me to try something similar. Thanks for sharing! ~Rachel @ The Olde Farmhouse on Windmill Hill

  22. Wow, you did a great job, especialy for your first Silhouette project. I just got a Cameo, and it looks quite pretty sitting on my desk. I’m a bit apprehensive to begin trying to understand it. I’m afraid that once I start, nothing else will get done! Thanks for inspiring me. And I love your humor.

  23. !Angie for President! With so much perseverance and ‘can do’ attitude you will single handedly conquer a nation!

    I love the sign, your vision turned out great!:)


  24. Wow what an amazing piece!!it does stink when stuff has to be so darn hard but man, I hope you feel like it was worth it!! what a wonderful piece. I will be pinning this idea for sure… one day when we buy a home I want to fill it with amazing items like this. I hope you treated yourself to something AWESOME for finishing this amazing piece.

  25. I sure do admire your stick-to-it attitude. What a labor of love and well worth every frustrating moment. I love my Silhouette, but have yet to do anything like this. Awesome project!

  26. Wow you sure did do a good job, I also admire your stick to it attitude, I bought a Silhouette in December, opened it up, hubs set it up, and I haven’t done a darn thing with it. Learning new things like a computer in not easy for me. So there it sits. You’re pretty impressive for your first time project.

  27. Angie, The sign turned out wonderful! I have had a Silhouette for two years and I have made ONE thing. It is a lot more difficult than I thought and mine just chews up the vinyl. I admire your determination!

  28. Well you’r the rocket scientist and I still back in pre school LOL

    I can’t even change my header picture on my blog in blogger

    Your first project with the Silhouette turned out perfect

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  30. Sorry, I’ll try again! I’m lovin’ this. Full of rustic goodness and just my style!
    Farmhouse hugs,

  31. oh Angie … I just love it. You do such good work and always willing to share. Your hard labor is really appreciated. I have saved this and I lots of old wood laying around.

    I have been researching Silhouette Cameo for about two months and Bliss over at Bliss Ranch has been so encouraging, but I have yet to take the step to get one. I am afraid I will be like a lot of others to just let it sit on the desk because it is complicated. You have given my courage, so may just ordering one soon.
    Blessings to you Angie.
    Audrey Z.
    Timeless Treasures

  32. This is awesome! I love my Sihouette Cameo. It has opened up so many possibilities. I’d love it if you linked this to my new linky party, “What We’ve Accomplished Wednesdays.”

    Have a great weekend!

  33. I am so glad you did not give up…Goodness, I would have, but in the end, it was perfect, maybe it is like childbirth?


  34. Oh man I am feeling really stupid now! I recently got a Silhouette too and am having a dickens of a time figuring it out! Making little pillow box Valentines for Hospice workers and volunteers and won’t tell you how long I have been working on them!

    Love your sign!

  35. oh Angie that is just amazing!!!!!! love love love it! xx Rani

  36. Thanks for boot scootin’ on over to join in the fun at the Old Time Party!
    Farmhouse hugs,

  37. This looks great! Very authentic and rustic!

  38. I love this! I’ve never heard of a cameo – what is this and where do i get it??

  39. Angie I love it! I thing I absolutely want to “copy” your sign for my laundry room if ya don’t mind! Thanks for linking up! Clydia @ Three Mango Seeds

  40. Geez, I would have given up 10 times over (no patience), but it was sooooo worth the effort! I won a Cricut that my Grandkids just love and I still don’t know how to run…they have NO fear of trying new things! I would love a Silhouette in that you can do so much without having to purchase cartridges!!!!!!!! Way to go girl!

  41. What an awesome sign! Love it and now I want a Silhouette MORE THAN EVER!

  42. First project- you already look like a pro! This is so beautiful! The wood and the lettering- stunning! Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!

  43. AWESOME!! Dare I tell you I have one of those “fancy” machines in the box from 2 Christmas’ ago!! Need to get it out 🙂

  44. I should have known that this was yours. It’s gorgeous! But wow, what a lot of work!! It reminds me of our son who once said, when listening to Joshua Bell play a violin concerto, “I’d do ANYTHING to be able to play violin like that!…except practice.” In other words, better you than me, Rocket Scientist! 🙂

  45. Wow! It looks fantastic! I don’t have a Silhouette {yet} so I’m sure I would be in the same boat! It turned out great 😉
    Jamie ~ Better With Age

  46. Angie,
    You did a wonderful job on your first piece…hope i can get one of these machines sometime soon.


  47. I wanted to let you know that I featured your project at this week’s linky party ~ I am no longer cohosting with Clydia or Cheri {It’s Party Time} but would love for you to stop by and link up at my new party, Project Inspire{d}, which is live tonight!

    I’m pretty sure Clydia will have her party up and running tomorrow unless there has been a change in plans but while you’re over there check out the new party button she made~ she is so talented. I’m not sure if Cheri will be hosting this week but you can check with her as well.

    Thanks so much and I hope to see you soon.

    Mary Beth

  48. Love this! I am debating on wether or not to get the Silhouette Portrait.

  49. Ok, I tried to use the trace option on part of a sign I wanted to make a stencil out of but the trace lines came out pretty thick so that the silhouette, double cut the edge of the letters. The letters should have been big like 5 inches tall and the machine wanted to cut both sides of the tracing line? Does that make sense, sorry can you help? Beautiful sign by the way! I love it on the wood.

  50. I just did this today~ Thanks to you and your instructions.
    Thanks for sharing~ MJ. Est.1964

  51. Loved the tut…I have a silhouette… and I love it….I have started cutting stenciles on Overhead prjector rolls or sheets depending on the size I need…..You can buy a 10inch by 50 foot roll on ebay for around 9.99…no peeling contact paper and it is reusable.Thank again…

  52. I’m pretty sure you can add a Multiply filter or similar to the image in Photoshop to ascertain the wood background does not print.

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