How to Make a Template with Silhouette Studio

I’ve had a few requests on how to make a template for etching with the Silhouette Cameo.

So let’s jump right in.

Here’s a list of the things you’re going to need:

  • A set of calipers that measure in millimeters
  • the item you want to measure
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • your Silhouette Software

I got my calipers through Amazon. These calipers aren’t available anymore; but in all honesty, any will do; and they don’t have to be expensive.  They need to be digital; they need the  ability to go from inches to metric and they need a zero function for accuracy.  That’s really it.

The item that I used was a sublimation dog tag.  It’s basically a rounded rectangle.

To begin, take your calipers and make sure they’re starting at zero (in my case, I’d turn them on and tap the zero button).  Measure the item you need the template for in both the length and width (in my case, I suffer from CRS can’t remember stuff) so I have to write it down.  Then measure any actual holes you want to work around as well as the distance from the hole to the outer edge.

Now that you have the numbers; consider the SHAPE of the object.  For what I used as my example (a dog tag); it’s mostly circle AND rectangle.  So you could be fancy and use the modify window to make that exact shape; but in this case, really all you need is a basic shape to keep the item from wobbling as you work; and for that, a rectangle will do.

So, now we go to the software.  using the rectangle tool, draw out your rectangle.  With your rectangle selected, you should see the height and width in numbers listed in the ribbon.

Square & Coords

Enter the measurements you took earlier (the ones I would have had to write down).  That is the EXACT size of your blank.  Now to make it fit a template; you have to make it SLIGHTLY larger.  How much larger you ask?  Honestly a very tiny bit.  When I do it; I will increase my dimensions by .5 or less.  You want a tight fit but not too tight.  Yeah, I know it’s not an exact science.  In my case, my measurements were width – 25.5 x length of 51.  I would probably go to 29.75 x 51.25. So with the rectangle selected; I go to the ribbon and enter the new numbers.

I generally cut mine out on paper first to check the fit.  You want the item you’re going to etch to go into the hole you cut cleanly; with very little wiggle room.

Then once that’s done; I will cut the shape in chipboard and use that as my template.  I stick it down to the curio mat (I like using protectofilm on top of the regular sticky mat then sticking the chipboard to that and then using painter’s tape on top of that and using a rubber brayer to make everything stick as well as possible.

Now when I etch acrylic, I don’t even use a template to hold my acrylic in place.  I use the grids on the mat for placement, protectofilm and a LOT of painter’s tape.

For a circle that has a hole, I place the hole in the cross-hairs of where a horizontal and vertical line cross; carefully line up the bottom and then use the brayer to really press it to the protecto film.  then I tape it all around the top and very close the bottom on the sides and also around the edges; to the point that sucker is nailed down.

For squares I will find an alignment point and line it up on the mat tape it down like before; play Santa (check everything twice).  In the software, I’ll draw a rectangle or square; turn the color green; put my design inside the green square, center it; and when I etch; I choose to cut by color; I just don’t cut the green.

Another little tidbit… if you hold the shift key while drawing a shape it will keep it’s shape (it won’t elongate, etc).  If you’re drawing a line; the shift key will help you draw a straight line.